Bahrain: "648 home raids, 208 arrests and 774 protests during July"

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Bahrain
Thursday, 15 August 2013

mapSayed Hadi Al Musawi, the Head of Liberties and Human Rights Department (LHRD) in Al Wefaq National Islamic Society said 208 citizens, including one female and 19 children, were arrested during the month of July alone. He said the LHRD documented 648 home raids and 170 cases of injuries, some highly critical.

Meanwhile, 18 cases of cruel and degrading treatment were documented during the month as well as 26 cases of vandalism of private property by the regime forces.

The number of protests during the month totalled to 774 with 401 cases of residential areas being subjected to collective punishment.

Al Musawi said the big numbers of protests prove that a political problem exists.

Ramadan: The month of home raids

Al Musawi described the holy month of Ramadan in Bahrain as the month of home raids, revealing that violations, especially house raids, during the holy month, increased dramatically.

“We are hearing horrifying stories from detainees, and in some stories we get the names of torturers”, he said. “Detainees are very often kept in prison for 60 or 45 days and then freed, and this in itself is a violation”.

Arresting journalists to restrict freedom of opinion

Al Musawi also mentioned that three citizen journalists, Mohammed Sdeif and two photographers, Hussain Hubail and Qassim Zeinaldeen, were arrested. Bahrain was widely criticized for such arrests following its crackdown on the 2011 pro-democracy protests. The arrests, believed to restrict freedom of opinion, came in line with the Government’s closing of websites.

Fabricated stories with fragile scenarios

“The Authority’s attempts to create a counter-revolution in media have become very clear to the public. We have seen an increase in numbers of so-called terror plots with fragile scenarios”, he said. Al Musawi added that the suspects in the “14 February Plot” have testified before the judge that they had been subjected to torture. He said the Judicial Commission did not record the detainees’ complaints or the lawyers’ memorial of the court’s procedures. Al Musawi said defendants were not given the right of defence and the judge was from the royal family, and both are considered a violation of judicial freedom.

Restrictions of freedom

Al Musawi outlined the official campaign to restrict freedom of expression, demonstration and assembly. He also mentioned that more suspects are being denied their right to a lawyer and more citizens are complaining of being banned from entering other Gulf countries.

Al Musawi criticized the National Assembly’s recommendation issued on 28th July 2013 to ban protests in the capital and elsewhere for being unconstitutional and against international law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Al Musawi said the Authority has not respected the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in many articles and recommendations. The Commission had stated that the Terror Law contains articles of tough punishment that contradict with the freedom of expression. However, the law has been amended to be even tougher.

Below are paragraphs from the BICI report:

1280. In the light of the way that these provisions have been applied in Bahrain, the Commission has a number of concerns about their conformity with international human rights law and with the Constitution of Bahrain.

1281. Article 165 of the Penal Code was applied in a way that infringes upon the freedoms of opinion and expression by excluding from the public debate opinions that express opposition to the existing system of government in Bahrain, as well as opinions that call for any peaceful change in the structure or system of government or for regime change.

1282. Paragraph 1 of article 168 places broad restrictions on the exercise of freedoms of opinion and expression by criminalising “any false or malicious news reports, statements or rumours or spreads adverse publicity”. The absence of clear thresholds governing the application of this provision, and the ambiguity of notions such as “malicious news reports”, “rumours” and “adverse publicity”, raise concerns about the overly broad restrictions imposed by this article. These concerns are heightened by the manner in which the provision was applied in connection with the events of February/March 2011.

1283. Paragraph 2 of article 168 criminalises the possession in any way or form of material proscribed by paragraph 1. This has been applied so as to restrict the freedoms of opinion and expression by infringing the right to seek, receive and impart information.

1284. Articles 165, 168 and 169 of the Penal Code also restrict opinion and expression by criminalising incitement to hatred towards the regime or damaging public interest, without requiring any material act that causes social or individual harm. They have been applied to repress legitimate criticism of the GoB.

1285. The Commission communicated these views to the GoB, and on 11 November 2011 the Commission received an official response from the GoB indicating that a number of legislative amendments had been sent from the GoB to the Council of Representatives. These include amendments to articles 168 and 169 of the Penal Code, intended to bring them into conformity with the ICCPR and the Arab Charter.629 They also include amendments to 20 articles of the Constitution as well as several amendments to Law No. 26 of 2005 on Political Societies, which regulates the establishment and operation of political societies in Bahrain.

1288. Finally, the Commission considers that the GoB’s record in the cases outlined above demonstrates substantial inconsistency. Upon inquiry by Commission investigators, the Attorney General has not provided a reasonable explanation for this disparity in treatment and unequal application of the law. This raises the issue of whether the law has been applied fairly to all persons charged with crimes that fall within the protected area of freedom of opinion, speech and expression.

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