Human rights situation deteriorates as Bahrain's Prince meets President Trump over business deals

Association

Human rights organisations have called again for the release of human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for his human rights-related efforts. Al-Khawaja is the founder and former president of both the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), as well as the former MENA protection coordinator for Front Line Defenders. He has been held in Bahrain's Jaw Prison, since his sentencing in 2011, along with other human rights defenders and activists, including blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singaca. Collectively, the imprisoned activists make up the Bahrain 13. In the past year, Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience have repeatedly protested against the deteriorating conditions in the prison, which mimic the general deterioration of conditions in Bahrain for human rights defenders and civil society. Prisoners have been denied access to news, pens, paper, books, and had family visits and calls shortened. They continue to be denied proper access to medical care and medicine.

Bahrain's authorities have also targeted family members of human rights defenders. On 20th December 2017, three-year prison sentences were upheld against three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights and Democracy (BIRD). According to BIRD, Alwadaei’s mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor, brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei  and maternal cousin Mahmood Marzooq were reportedly tortured until they signed false confessions.

In addition, travel bans remain in effect for human rights defenders, including  Nedal Al-Salman, who was again prevented from traveling in November 2017. Nedal leads the Women & Children's Rights Advocacy efforts at BCHR. 

Peaceful Assembly

According to a report released on 12th December 2017 by Salam Organisation for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, no one has been held accountable for serious human rights abuses committed against peaceful protesters in Duraz earlier this year, as previously reported on the Monitor. The civil society groups, therefore, call for an independent and transparent investigation into allegations of the use of excessive force during the 23rd May 2017 protests, which led to the death of five protesters, more than 90 injured and 326 arrested.

Expression

While Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa was meeting in the United States with President Donald Trump in November to discuss business deals, including the sale of fighter jets to Bahrain, the human rights situation in Bahrain continued to deteriorate. According to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Trump's failure to publicly address the human rights situation has further emboldened Bahrain's authorities and prolonged their flagrant human rights abuses.

On 22nd November 2017, an appeals court in Bahrain upheld the two-year prison sentence handed down against Nabeel Rajab for talking with various media outlets about human rights issues. Given this sentence, he will remain in jail until December 2018, even though he has now already been in jail for over 18 months. Rajab has also had multiple hearings for his case related to tweeting about conditions in Jaw Prison and Bahrain’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition attacks on Yemen. That case has been postponed till January 2018.

On 30th October 2017, a Bahrain court convicted 19 individuals on terror charges after a mass trial that was reported to be unfair. Among those convicted are former Al-Wasat journalist Mahmood Al-Jazeeri and Husain Abdulwahab Husain, son of imprisoned opposition leader Abdulwahab Husain.