…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
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Bahrain: Human Price of Freedom and Justice

[cb editor: It is of great importance to change the narrative that most elected officials follow regarding Bahrain. For many of them it is purely out of ignorance and they simply parrot the webpage rhetoric from the CIA fact-book and State Department country profiles. I urge you to print copies of the report HERE and linked below, add a cover letter to your Senators, Congressional Representatives, University Middle East Studies Groups and local Mosques and mail it to them.

It would be huge if you find the courage and conviction to organize a study group and discuss the document. Iinvite your Congressional Representatives or someone from their office, they will likely attend your meeting and gladly. Show the Bahrain Videos listed in the sidebar on, The Crooked Bough or find other videos that are meaningful to you. It is probably no accident the BICI report is being released so it will be eclipsed by the renewed demonstration in Egypt’s ongoing Revolution. Bahrain’s future hangs in the balance and all you do to Break the Silence regarding Bahrain, helps advance the cause for Human Rights and Democracy. ]

Bahrain: Human Price of Freedom and Justice
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS)
Manama, London – 22nd November 2011

As Bahrain awaits the outcome of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report, Bahraini human rights groups have released their own report documenting the brutal crushing of the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain.

This report documents the violations in Bahrain since February 14th, although crucial to note that due to lack of funding and manpower it was difficult to document all the cases that have occurred. This 87 page report gives background to the situation, then identifies and document all the types of violations that took place, with the aim of putting out recommendations to the Bahraini government, as well as the EU, US, UN OHCHR and the ICC. These recommendations are crucial to start a process of reconciliation and to stop the ongoing violence, including loss of civilian lives, taking place.

(For the entire report, kindly find PDF document attached HERE)

This Joint Report represents a concerted effort on the part of every human rights organization operating in Bahrain, various opposition parties, and those citizens in which this report gives a voice. The collection of personal testimonies, governmental orders and documentation, and video and hardcopy evidence, amongst others, has been an ongoing project since before the February 2011 protests erupted. Nevertheless, while the work of this Joint Report is representative of almost a yearlong research study, much more needs to be done, largely because the conflict continues to rage and violations of international human rights law are reported everyday.

The evidence contained in this report is accurate considering the reliability of the sources used and the length of time spent in collecting and addressing various data. It is therefore the opinion of this joint report that the violations of international human rights law that are addressed herein are credible and sufficient in quality and quantity to illicit immediate action by the international community and the government of Bahrain. Prior to and after the February 2011 protests, the international media has produced several reports pertaining to the events. Moreover, videos and still pictures have been given to members of the Bahrain human rights community by various individuals fearful of coming forward to the Government supported BICI Report. This video and photographic evidence has been surmised in relation to their validity and proven credible.

The current state of affairs must be appraised in regard to the regime’s reign since the 18th century, and specifically, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa succession in 1999, as noted in Section II. (Background). The 2002 Constitution reinforced the absolute powers of the king, and diminished the powers of the appointed legislature. This Constitutional Crisis also negated the actions of the National Action Charter, enabling the King to increase the number of security agencies, with the creation of the National Security Agency, to control the judiciary, and to enforce a process of naturalization. The NSA is known to be behind numerous human rights violations and largely uses non-Bahraini mercenaries. In 2010, BCHR reported that “the NSA has become a security institute that is completely independent of the Public Security and Defense; however, it benefits from double jurisdictions that combine the domains of the Public Security Forces and the Judicial Authority.”# This is a development which has severely negative effects in the observance of justice and further encourages impunity for torturers. These political maneuvers by the King provided the framework for the February 2011 protests, but more importantly, not only allowed the government to perpetrate human rights abuses but suffer the consequences of them as well under national and international law.

Bahrain’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech (Article 23), the press (Article 24), communication (Article 26), association, including the right to form trade unions on a national basis (Article 27), and assembly (Article 28). In many cases, however, the 1976 Penal Code effectively nullifies those rights, particularly in the following articles: 134A, 163, 164, 165, 168, 169, 178, and 222. Therefore, Bahraini citizens do not in fact hold any basic human rights, according to Bahraini domestic code. For instance Article 178 under the 1976 Penal Code proscribes any assembly of five or more persons “aimed at undermining public security, even though for the realization of a legitimate objective”# as illegal which is against Article 28 of the constitution – right to assembly. Every human right noted in the Constitution is in fact negated by another law code. Subsequently, when Bahraini citizens chose to practice their basic human rights of protest in February 2011, under the King’s decree, such human rights were non-existent.

The nullification of basic human rights by opposing law codes within Bahrain enabled the regime, which also includes all government ministers, to violently oppose any protest, ultimately committing multiple national and international violations and thereby proving the systematic nature of such violations as noted below:

The Bahrain constitution states that the only person who can order the use of the army inside the country is the King, and is thereby responsible for its actions. Following this order, Abdul Ridha Buhmaid was killed by the army.#

On February 17, 2011, hours following the 3am raid on Manama’s Pearl Square, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa visited the Bahrain Defence Force General Command to meet with commanders and address troops, where he noted, “You are the guardians of the nation who defend the motherland in all situations.” The regime went on to later say, “We have widened the scope for peaceful and legal freedom of expression to be exercised within the framework of laws, regulations and guarantees warranted in the constitution and the National Action Charter.” Three protesters were killed and 231 injured following this raid.#

Head of the Bahraini Defense Force, Marshal Khalifa Bin Ahmed, spoke to protesters, in response to GCC Peninsula Forces enforcing “National Security” in Bahrain that, “if you are back we will be back harsher than before.” In this quote Marshal Khalifa Bin Ahmed is already taking responsibility as a military governor of all security forces, for whom the King is in charge, and is thereby equally responsible for any deaths under Marshal Khalifa.#

President of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sport and Bahrain Olympic Committee President Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa who is one of Sheikh Hamad Bin Issa Al-Khalifa sons, made a phone call on Bahrain TV threatening to prosecute all those who participated in the protests who will not be able to escape from punishment because Bahrain is a small Island. He further noted that everyone who called for the overthrow of the regime, a “wall” will fall on his head.#

As noted in Religious Discrimination, Justice Minister Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, who does not deny ordering the destruction of mosques, only debating the legality of the order# points to the fact that these orders were carried out by Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force, Sheikh Khalifa Ahmed Al-Khalifa and Commander of Peninsula Shield Forces, Maj. Gen. Mutlaq Salem Alazimaa, who are thereby under the control of the King.

While these five points provide further evidence of the systematic attack issued by the government against the Bahraini civilian population, it provides a mere glimpse into the total responsibility the regime holds in the death and destruction of the Bahraini fabric of life. As a result of systematically taking control of every facet of the government and society, such as the judiciary, military, and cultural ministries through the creation of the 2002 Constitution, Penal Codes, and National Action Charter, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is ultimately responsible for every illegal trial, case of torture, religious offense, injury, sacking, and death during the 2011 protests because of the perpetuation of his authoritarian regime.

VI. Recommendations

A. For the Bahraini Government

The Bahraini human rights groups call on the Government of Bahrain:

To immediately end ongoing human rights violations

To immediately end the violent repression of protests; to completely cease use of birdshot and excessive tear gas; and to recognise the fundamental right to associate.

Unconditionally release political prisoners and end torture, arbitrary detention, and incommunicado detention;

To reduce the security level in the country and to ease tension by removing checkpoints from villages, hospitals and schools.

Take measures to ensure the reinstatement of all workers and employees who were dismissed from their workplace for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, political opinion, and assembly;

To immediately reinstate all students, faculty, and staff who were dismissed solely for expressing opinions critical of the government and ruling family or attending overwhelmingly peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.

To end the harrassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, political activists and journalists

Allow access by local and international journalists to activists, protest sites, hospitals and other public institutions.

To immediately withdraw all factions of the army from Salmaniya Medical Complex, and allow people access to medical care.

Accountability & ending the culture of impunity

To put on trial all those accused of killing and wounding protesters and torturing detainees as well as those who ordered and authorised such acts. BCHR has produced a report with four members of the royal family accused of personally torturing detainees. These are names that victims were able to identify directly. The full list however includes the names of over 50 officers.

To put on trial those ministers responsible for crimes against humanity and the head of state who has complete control of all government operations, and would have authorised, and condoned human rights abuses. Such widespread and systematic policies may amount to crimes against humanity and that command responsibility reaches at least ministerial level and head of state. It would be difficult to reject the prima facie case here. Not only are implicated ministers, such as the Minister of Interior, the head of the National Security Apparatus, head of BDF, the IAA, the Social Development Minister, the labour Minister and the Labour Ministry directly responsible for one or more of the violations listed, they should be put on trial for ordering, or becoming accessory to such crimes.

To end the impunity of those in government and those in power. The failure to seriously investigate or to convict a single official or security officer for the grave abuses that have taken place. In fact the government and its news agency spends more time trying to fabricate stories, excuses to deny and distract than than seriously addressing the issue. This time around, it will be very difficult to forsake justice for reconciliation, since neither is on the table.

Dissolve the National Security Apparatus and the Special Security Apparatus and return their jurisdictions to the regular security apparatuses.

To sign the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in order to strengthen legal accountability for torturers.

Redress & reparation for victims

To grant reparations to the families of those killed or left disabled by serious injuries.

To initiate a rehabilitation center for victims of torture.

To rebuild a new independent justice system

Create a judicial system that operates independently, both financially and administratively, and is impartial and transparent in its proceedings; to make sure it is never again used as a political tool of the state

To put the Minister of Justice on trial for perverting the course of justice by denying justice and violating due process.

To put the head of the infamous National Security Apparatus on trial for crimes of torture committed by his apparatus.

To ensure the independence of judges in civilian courts in all hearings. Those who have been arrested and convicted in a military court should be immediately released and have their convictions expunged.

To bring laws into conformity with international standards of freedom of expression and association.

To address and reform the Penal Code and laws that are not currently up to international standards.

To address the Law against Terrorism which has been heavily criticized by international human rights organizations as being too vague and could include anything as an act of terrorism.

Institutionalizing human rights and ending sectarian discrimination

The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation based on political opinions that are different than others; and

A security apparatus respectful of human rights and subject to independent review with equal opportunity for all and ending the use of foreign mercenaries that serve as an anti-thesis to community policing.

Protect Shi’a places of worship and religious buildings, rebuild destroyed mosques, and end systematic discrimination in political representation, government recruitment, employment, and naturalization policies;

To allow independent oversight by an international body at the beginning, such Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FIDH and OHCHR to ensure these changes are implemented.

To institutionalize human rights in order to ensure that these breaches do not happen again. Addressing the root causes of the problem.

Political reconciliation in the form of democratic transition

To recognize that human rights are best protected in a democratic political system where there is accountability and transparency.

To include in any plans for reconciliation, the 21 opposition leaders who have paid the highest price in terms of freedom in their struggle for democracy.

To draw a road map for democratic transition including a new constitution that represents the will of the people.

Universal and equal suffrage, including in the designation of electoral districts

B. For the EU and US

To end arms deals with the Bahraini regime

Because of the likely use of US-origin military equipment by the BDF against protesters marching to the Pearl Roundabout on February 18, 2011 and by Saudi troops who entered Bahrain to crush the movement, the EU and US should cease military sales to Bahrain that could be used to repress the Bahraini people.

There should be an international moratorioum on the use of birdshot against civilians if not a ban of sales of such weaponary to governments, like the Bahraini government that have fatally used them against their own people.

Surveillance technologies

1-To stop the sale of surveillance technologies to the government of Bahrain from European companies. Export controls should target specific technologies, such as content filters and spyware, that serve the primary purpose of limiting flows of online information or monitoring private digital communications.

2-To hold technologies companies accountable for their corporate social responsibility toward protection of human rights. Involvement in sale of technologies to government with bad human rights records and where reports of ill-use of these technologies should be addressed in the laws of the EU countries and the United States. They should be required to report the to publicly disclose what products and services they provide to countries with extensive internet restrictions.

TV Satellite broadcasting

3-To suspend operation of the new channel on hot bird. Bahrain has announced plans to start a new TV channel on Hot bird Satellite, which is operated by Eutelsat. With the current record of the national television with violations of human rights (as described in the previous chapter), it’s recommended that unless the government provides guarantees that the above mentioned violations will not occur, Bahrain should:

a. Investigate the violations that happened on the current state television channel and hold the responsible officials accountable.

b. Immediately discontinue the shows that aim to spread hate, sectarianism and defamation against individuals are are being aired on state televsion BahrainTV.

c. Extend an official apology to all those who were harmed because of the mentioned shows.

Protect right to anonymity

4-To enable greater anonymity online for the protection of activists and users in countries where they are facing harsh punishment for online posts. Google said it’s reconsidering the policy of real name, while Facebook has not shown any sign of modifying this policy.

Challenge restrictive internet laws and practices

5-To provide and enforce greater human rights laws for online users and activists in order to avoid unlawful arrests, detention and imprisonment on the grounds of ambiguous charges. #

6-To address online freedom of speech and its international law components and regulations.The laws that are used to restrict their freedom to speech online need to be publicly challenged, as they are filled with ambiguous terms which can make them easily used to hinder net freedom rather than protect it.# Unfortunately, because the parliament does not to the most part represent the people of Bahrain, and has very little power when it comes to legalisation, they cannot be depended on to stop such restrictive laws.

Address internet censorship as a barrier to free trade:

7-For the European Union and the United States to challenge censorship practices under bilateral trade agreements with Bahrain and present a case against internet censorship before the World Trade Organization, because the potential loss of trade will provide a strong incentive for Bahrain to cut back on their censorship of online content and services.

Issue public statements about the violations in Bahrain:

8-To issue topic specific statements strongly condemning the human rights violations committed by the government of Bahrain, which will then allow for follow up on the specific violations raised within these topics. As with many cases in the past, it was direct public pressure on certain cases that caused the government of Bahrain to respond quickly and address the case. For example in the case of the medics the government went as far as to dropping several charges against the doctors to relieve the international pressure exerted due to that case.

C. For the UN OHCHR and ICC

To send an urgent mission to Bahrain to investigate the deaths of at least 4 protesters killed since BICI closed its doors on September 30 and have not been included in its investigation. The risk of further deaths is still high if not increasing. The ICC needs to investigate the evidence presented of crimes against humanity and to bring the perpetrators to justice at the Hague, in the absence of an independent legal system in Bahrain. …source