Posted on 2009/03/02

Human rights defenders in Bahrain are facing increasing repression. The authorities have sought to target independent human rights defenders and their organisations and restrict human rights activities.

Human Rights defenders have been subjected to intimidation, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, fabricated judicial proceedings, threats and harassment. In 2009 Human rights defenders in Bahrain are clearly facing a series of severe violations of their legitimate rights to promote, protect, and defend human rights in Bahrain.

Further Information On the 10th of February, the name of human rights defender Abbass Abdulaziz Al-Omran, board member of BCHR, was included in the indictment that Bahrain's Public Prosecutor sent to the Grand Criminal Court in connection with case number 1403/2008 which deals with the alleged “terror plot”.

Al-Omran has been a member of BCHR since 2002 and became a board member of the BCHR in 2008. He is heavily involved in the activities of the Committee of Unemployed and Low-waged Workers, the Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture, and the Committee of Families of Detainees.

On the 11th of February 2009 human rights defender Sayed Sharaf S.Ahmed was arbitrarily arrested and taken from his house. Ahmed is an elected board member of the National Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture in Bahrain. He also participated in and organised many peaceful demonstrations in his home city, Sitra, to support the rights of prisoners. No arrest warrant was shown and no reasons were given for his arrest. Since his arrest, he has not been allowed to communicate with his family or lawyer.

On the 4th of February 2009, at approximately 2.45 a.m., the houses of both human rights defender Ali Hassan Salman and human rights defender Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim were raided by security forces. Ali Hassan Salman was arrested and beaten in front of his family during the raid, causing his mother to faint. His glasses were also broken. Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim, who lives in the same area, was arrested within 15 minutes. No arrest warrant was shown and no reasons were given for either of the arrests.

Since their arrest, Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim have not been allowed to communicate with their families or lawyers. Both human rights defenders have worked for the Committee of Activists and Prisoners of Conscience since December 2007 and have helped to organise peaceful marches and protests for the rights of detainees.

In the light of these well-documented violations and increasing repression, on 13th of February eight prominent figures in Bahrain,including human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Kawaja, former president of the BCHR and Dr Abduljalil Al Singace, head of the human rights unit of the Haq Movement of Liberties and Democracy in Bahrain, started a hunger strike demanding the release of prisoners of conscience. The hunger strike attracted several thousand supporters who visited Nuwaidrat, where the strike was being held, a village South West of the capital Manama. The participants in the hunger strike announced on Sunday the 22th of February that they intended to end their hunger strike on the 24th of February 2009.

Front Line believes strongly that human rights defenders in Bahrain are being targeted because of their legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights, in particular their exercise of the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Front Line calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:

1. Guarantee the safety and freedom of movement of all human rights defenders in Bahrain.

2. Put an end to all forms of discrimination and repression against human rights defenders or their organizations and adopt, with the utmost urgency, every possible step to effectively help non-governmental human rights organisations to function freely in the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights.

3. To abide by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other international standards ratified by Bahrain.