29 Mar, 2014

Dissident says taking Formula One to Bahrain increases human rights abuses

Jean Todt, the FIA president.

A leading Bahraini dissident, whose father was imprisoned for life for his role in pro-democracy protests, has claimed that taking Formula One to the country increases the number of human-rights abuses.

Maryam al-Khawaja has renewed calls for the Formula One chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, and the FIA president, Jean Todt, to remove the Bahrain race from the Formula One calendar, believing it legitimises a regime that has been heavily criticised by human-rights organisations and campaigners for press freedom.

The race was added to the schedule in 2004 although it was cancelled in 2011 at the height of sometimes violent protests against the government by pro-democracy campaigners.

"When we first started talking about this we would be told that you shouldn't mix sport and politics. In Bahrain, it's not just that the human-rights situation is bad and therefore Formula One shouldn't come to Bahrain. But having Formula One in Bahrain specifically causes human-rights violations," said al-Khawaja, who was raised in Denmark and returned to Bahrain in 2001 with her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

"The amount of arrests that happen before, during and after Formula One definitely accelerates. We've had women arrested, we've had children arrested."


Continue reading on http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/mar/27/formula-one-bahrain-grand-prix-human-rights-abuses 

25 Mar, 2014

Bahrain: Proposed Arab Court of Human Rights: Rewind the process and get it right

During the Arab League's summit, which is being held today and tomorrow in Kuwait, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights joined sixteen other institutions in calling for greater incusion in the talks surrounding drafting a statute for the Arab Court of Human Rights. The full text of the statement is below.


March 20, 2014

Ahead of the Arab League’s summit to be held in Kuwait on 25 and 26 March, national and global human rights organizations today called upon the Arab League’s member States to suspend efforts to adopt a draft statute of the Arab Court of Human Rights (the Arab Court) until broad discussions and consultations have taken place with all interested stakeholders, who must be permitted to participate meaningfully in all stages of the process of establishing the Arab Court.

Our organizations have closely followed the initiatives of the League of Arab States (LAS) aimed at reforming the LAS system since popular uprisings erupted in several Middle East and North Africa countries in 2011. While our organizations welcome efforts to strengthen the LAS human rights system, including by establishing an Arab Court, we are concerned that the entire process of reform over the past three years has been conducted behind closed doors and through opaque procedures that contravene basic principles of inclusive participation and transparency. Consultations should include not only representatives from the LAS member States but also national and global civil society organizations, members of the bar and judiciary, academic and independent experts and other interested stakeholders.

Our organizations are concerned that establishing the Arab Court in a rushed and non-inclusive manner would be detrimental to the efficacy of the Court. We are further concerned that the draft statute, elaborated by the expert legal committee and expected to be submitted for approval at the LAS’s summit, falls short of international, including regional, human rights standards. Areas of particular concern include the means of selection of judges, the independence of the Arab Court, the applicable law and jurisdiction of the Court, the admissibility of cases, and access to the Court.

Our organizations call on the on the member States of the LAS, LAS Summit, and Secretariat to amend the draft statute in order to:

  • Ensure that the nomination of candidates and election of judges is based on transparent and non-discriminatory procedures that protect against undue, inappropriate and unwarranted interference, and that take full account of appropriate personal and legal qualifications, gender balance and a fair representation of different legal systems;


  • Ensure that judges sit in their individual capacity, not as representatives of their national State, and serve for a single, lengthy term;


  • Ensure that judges can only be suspended or removed from office for reasons of incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to discharge their duties, following an appropriate procedure, established in advance, that guarantees the rights of the concerned judge to a fair hearing incorporating all due process guarantees;


  • Provide that the jurisdiction of the Arab Court extends to violations arising out of breaches of the Arab Charter and that the Court must interpret the Charter in a manner consistent with the State’s other international human rights obligations;


  • Ensure that the requirement of exhaustion of local remedies does not have the effect of preventing rights holders from accessing the Arab Court, and that only claims brought by the same applicant on the same subject matter before another regional human rights court are precluded from the Arab Court’s jurisdiction;


  • Ensure that all individuals within the territory of a State party, or subject to its jurisdiction, can have access to the Arab Court when they claim to be a victim of a violation, by any of the State parties, that falls under the jurisdiction of the Court; and that States do not hinder access to the Court, in particular by providing for the effective protection of victims and other participants in the proceedings and by ensuring that they are not subjected to any form of pressure or reprisals as a result of their participation in proceedings before the court;


  • Remove any obstacles that may limit NGO access to the Arab Court, and ensure that any NGO, not only those accredited in a respondent State, can bring a complaint before the Court; accordingly, the statute should also provide for other avenues to access the Court, including for individuals or NGOs to join proceedings as interested parties or to submit information as amicus curiae or through expert opinions;


  • Provide for an independent and effective monitoring mechanism that supervises the execution of the Arab Court’s judgments, and provide that the Court is competent to prescribe specific measures to be adopted by member States in order to execute the Court’s judgements; and


  • Ensure that the Arab Court is competent to prescribe interim measures, which may be granted prior to the issuance of a final judgment, to enable the Arab Court to intervene in cases where the applicant might face an imminent risk of a serious, irreversible or irreparable harm.


This statement is supported by:

  1. International Commission of Jurists
  2. International Federation for Human Rights
  3. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  4. Al Haq
  5. Human Rights Watch
  6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  7. Human Rights Information Training Center
  8. Gulf Center for Human Rights
  9. Human Rights Organization for the Documentation of War Crimes in Libya
  10. Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies
  11. Mauritanian Association for Human Right
  12. Open Society Foundations - Arab Regional Office
  13. Arab Women Organization of Jordan
  14. African Center for Justice and Peace Studies
  15. Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  16. The Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms - Aden
  17. Legal Agenda- Lebanon





21 Mar, 2014

Bahrain: Torture Continues In Bahrain, Sadiq Al-Shabani Reportedly Another Victim

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern for the Bahraini authories' persistence in reportedly adopting mental and physical torture as the means to extract confessions from detainees. The BCHR received information that the detained actor Sadiq Jaffar Al-Shabani (31 years old) was subjected to torture in the Criminal Investigation building in Adliya. Al-Shabani had been arrested by the Omani Intelligence on Monday 27 January 2014 when he was in Oman. The Omani authorities had handed Sadiq over to the Bahraini authorities and he was in an enforced disappearance for more than 10 days.[1]

Al-Shabani informed his family that he was able to identify one of the people who tortured him and he is the lieutenant Fawaz Al-Sameem, however he was unable to identify the rest. Al-Shabani had stated that the one interrogating him had asked him, ‘Do you want us to treat you as a human or as an animal?’ The questions then followed, in order to force him to confess to joining the ‘Tamarud’ (rebellion) movement – and which is a movement that runs peaceful anti-government activities – however Al-Shabani denied his relationship with the Movement, and by that they handcuffed him from behind and told him that they will treat him like an animal. Sadiq said that Al-Sameem and the rest of the interrogators stripped him fully off his clothes, and sexually assaulted him by inserting a rod in his anus, and then they showed him private photos of him with his wife which they had obtained when they raided their house during the ‘National Safety’ period and they threatened to rape her. Al-Sameem misled him to believe that his wife was in the next room, and they made Al-Shabani hear the voice of a girl screaming as if there was someone raping her. They also brought to Al-Shabani photos of girls from his family and they threatened to rape them all if he did not confess. His penis was pulled with a string and cold and hot water was poured on him. Al-Shabani added that he was electrocuted in his anus, and he was given a hard slap on his face and ears which caused his face to swell and his anus to bleed; this is in addition to the physical and mental pain he still suffers from. Amid the investigation, Al-Shabani was asked to determine the nature of his relationship with Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda – Vice-president of the BCHR – and they threatened to arrest and rape him as well.

Lieutenant Fawaz Al-Sameem

This is not the first time that the BCHR receives statements from detainees about being subjected to torture by the lieutenant Fawaz Al-Sameem, among the activists who st