Bahrain: Alarming Deterioration in Human Rights Situation:

Detaining Two Prominent Activists while Releasing a Third on Bail and Ban of Travel Interrogation Issues: Internet Articles, Speeches, Assembly and Association Charges Based on Terrorism Law punishable up to Life Imprisonment

Assaulting relatives of the detainees at the General Prosecution Office Fear of Casualties and More Arrests Following Protests in Many Villages Abbas Al-Murshed, a Columnist, Hit by a Rubber Bullet in the Eye

January 28, 2009

The Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BHRS), the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) are alarmed for the recent escalation of human rights violations in Bahrain.

The BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR, have learnt that after 24 hours of arrest and interrogations, the Public Prosecutors Office ordered the release on bail and travel ban of Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace and the extending in the detention of the other two activists; Mr. Hassan Mushaima, and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad for undefined period pending further investigations. The three activists were arrested between 2-3am on January 26, 2008 and were held in solitary detention at the Dry-Dock "Temporary Detention Centre" from time of arrest until showing up at the prosecution at 5:30pm on the same day.

Dr. Abdul-Jalil Abdulla Alsingace, (47 years) resident of Karbabad area, a professor at Bahrain University and the head of the Human Rights Committee of the Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy Movement (HAQ). HAQ Movement is an unregistered grassroots organization established in November 2005, which has been campaigning for democratic reforms and human rights. Dr. Alsingace is a blogger and known for his frequent articles critique of the government. He was subjected to a smear media campaign after participating in seminar on religious freedoms at the US congress last October .

Mr. Hassan Ali Mushaima, (61 years) from Jidhafs area, a retired teacher, previous vice president of Al-Wefaq political society, current president of the HAQ Movement and an activist who has been campaigning for democratic reforms and human rights for more than fifteen years resulting in his detention many times through that period. Early this year, Mr. Mushaima was subjected to physical assault by the Special Forces at Bahrain Airport upon his arrival from the UK after participating in a seminar at the British House of Lords focusing on reforms in Bahrain. For three weeks on a row before his arrest , armed Special Forces were deployed to prevent Mr Mushaima from addressing public through his weekly speeches at Al-Sadeque Mosque.

Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad, (47 years) from Bilad Al-Qadeem, a Shia scholar and social activist, is known to be outspoken delivering speeches in Shia community centers "Matams" in deferent areas of Bahrain raising public issues such as poverty, corruption, sectarian discrimination, arbitrary detention and torture. He is the head of Al-Zahra Charity Institution for Orphans.

Mr. Hassan Mushaima, and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad are still in solitary confinement. They have been denied any contact with family and proper legal consultations. Lawyers had attended the interrogation sessions at the General Persecution Office as observers.

The BSHR, the BCHR and the BYSHR are concerned for the health condition of Mr. Hassan Mushaima. His health deteriorated during the long hours of arrest and interrogations. According to his family, Mr. Hassan Mushaima suffers of high blood pressure, Diabetes mellitus and Gout.

Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace told BCHR, shortly after his release, that he was interrogated mainly on; his articles on "sensitive" issues published on the internet, his activity in unregistered organization namely HAQ movement, his role in organizing and leading public protests and unauthorized gatherings and his travels to the USA and the United kingdom including his participation and role in seminars organized there.

According to lawyers; Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace could be charged with "joining a society which aimed at de-activating the constitution, changing the regime and instigating hatred against it. Charges against Mr. Hassan Mushaima may include: "Illegally organizing and managing a group of people and using terrorist means to promote the changing of the political system". While charges against Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad may include "Joining a group and supporting it financially to prevent authorities from implementing laws in addition to abusing personal freedom of citizens through acts of terror" and "trying to subvert the political system and instigating hatred against the Ruling Family".

The charges, punishable up to life imprisonment, are based on the restrictive 1976 Penal Code and the 2006 Counter Terrorism (CT) Law which prosecutes on intentions and upgrades punishments mentioned in any law when the criminating act was related to "Terrorism". The two codes have been internationally denounced for violating basic rights. The CT law was particularly denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism , the International Commission of Jurists , Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch and many other human rights organizations.

The BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR, are further concerned for the escalation of violations post the detention of the three activists. On the early morning of January 26, 2008, the Security Special Forces was reported to have physically assaulted relatives, mostly women, of the three detained activists who gathered near the General Prosecution Office to inquire about the whereabouts of the three detainees. Mr. Mohammed Mushima, 21 years, Ms. Fatima Altaitoon, Miss Najat Alsingace and Ms Zainab Alghaffas, were forcibly pushed and beaten by batons on the face and body.

Furthermore, the arrest of the three activists sparked a wave of unrest in many of the predominantly Shia villages. In the last two days, heavily armed Special Forces have been deployed to besiege villages and showered them with chemical tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress angry demonstrators who responded by hurling stones on Security Forces, blocking roads by bricks and setting blaze to rubber tires and garbage canisters. Abbas Mirza Al-Murshed, 35 years, columnist, was hit by a rubber bullet in the right eye (Photos Attached). The BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR fear more casualties and new wave of arbitrary arrests.

Conclusion and recommendations:

Based on many previous cases, the escalating hostile attitude of the authorities against dissidents and human rights defenders and by examining the nature of work and speeches of the three activists, the BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR, have strong grounds to believe that the detention as well as the charges against the three activist are related to their performance of legitimate peaceful activities related to democratic reforms, promotion of human rights, and the practice of basic rights specially freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Therefore, The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BHRS) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), call upon the Bahrain Authorities and all concerned actors to do what ever required to;

1. secure the immediate release of Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad. 2. Drop the charges, and any reprisals related to their legitimate and peaceful activities, against the three activists which include lifting the travel ban against Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, 3. secure the rights of Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad while in detention, including the instant rights to family call and visits, legal counseling and proper health care, 4. abolish the 2006 Counter Terrorism Law and to amend the 1976 Penal Cod to be in conformity with international human rights conventions specially in relation to the practice of basic human rights and freedoms, 5. put an end to the use of excessive force, arbitrary detention and unfair trials, and 6. put an end to targeting human rights defenders and provide a legalized protection for them.