Bahrain gags press as it cracks down on opposition
New York, August 31, 2010--Bahrainian prosecutors have banned journalists from reporting on the detentions of dozens of opposition activists, according to news accounts. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to lift the censorship order immediately.
Authorities detained Shiite opposition activists in a series of arrests that began on August 13, according to Bloomberg and other news reports. The New York Times reported Thursday that as many as 159 people had been detained, and that later detainees included people not known as activists.
In an order announced on Friday, Public Prosecutor Ali Al-Buainain barred all news outlets from reporting on the crackdown, which comes ahead of October parliamentary elections, The Associated Press reported. The detainees include Abduljalil Alsingace, a blogger who has been critical of the government and who tracks human rights issues for the opposition Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy.
In a statement published Friday in all Bahraini newspapers, Al-Buainain banned "print, radio, TV, Internet, and other media from publishing or broadcasting any news related to the case" of Alsingace and the other detainees. The statement said "ongoing investigations require secrecy in order to uncover the truth and preserve public order." Violations are subject to penalties of one year in prison, the statement said.
Mansoor Al-Jamri, editor-in-chief of the Arabic-language daily Alwasat, told CPJ that editors received the official order via e-mail and fax.
"The authorities in Bahrain cannot cite operational secrecy as pretext for barring domestic coverage of a crackdown that has already been widely reported by the foreign media," said Robert Mahoney, deputy director of CPJ. "The people of Bahrain have a right to know if their government is detaining scores of their fellow citizens and the media have a duty to report it. This gag order must be lifted immediately."
Mohamed Ahmed, Alsingace's lawyer, told CPJ that the order allows authorities to issue official statements about the case. These official statements can be covered by the press, effectively allowing the government to label the detainees "terrorists" without any balancing, independent coverage, he said.
One journalist faces charges for violating an earlier gag order issued by Bahraini authorities. Reporter Mohamed al-Sawad was charged in July with violating a gag ordered concerning a corruption case against former Minister of State Mansour bin Rajab.
Bahrain: Crackdown on Shi’a Political Opposition
August 20th, 2010 by Jennifer
Lawyer Mohammed al-Tajir reported earlier this week that Bahraini security forces had detained 6 more Shi’a opposition members, bringing the total number of human rights defenders, political activists, and clerics arrested to 10, in a crackdown on the majority Shi’a in the country in advance of upcoming October elections. Of those detained, 8 are prominent figures of the political opposition. Al-Tajir said that the individuals detained have not been charged and that their current location is unknown. Meanwhile, when the tally of those detained reached 8, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director at Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, issued comments stating that “the Bahraini authorities must make it clear why these eight men have been arrested, and either release them or charge them with recognizable criminal offences. It is unacceptable for them to be held merely because of their human rights activism, non-violent political activities or criticism of the government.” Amnesty International has also noted that “many of the men have now been held for more than 48 hours without having been presented to the Public Prosecutor as required under the Bahraini law.”
Update: The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies has issued a statement (Arabic version here) signed by 26 human rights organizations, expressing “their grave concern for the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain.” The statement argues that the Bahraini government’s recent actions represent “intimidation of political and rights activists and a denial of freedom of expression, including of opinion critical of the government,” adding that “this turn of events is also a significant milestone on the path to the total political marginalization of the Shiite majority and will tighten state control over the electoral process in the parliamentary and municipal elections scheduled for the last week of October 2010.” Additionally, Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch, voiced criticism of the Bahraini regime, stating, “A country that respects human rights, as Bahrain claims to do, does not arrest people just because they harshly criticize the government.”
Meanwhile, an anonymous Bahraini security official stated that the individuals arrested are suspected of attempting to carry out “illegal practices and other acts that would harm the stability of the kingdom of Bahrain and its civil peace, as well as endangering lives and properties.” Reports indicated that the arrests have already sparked domestic tension and incited protests, with Shi’a activists blocking roads near the capital earlier this week and setting fires to trash cans.
Bahrain: Opposition Leader Charged With Trying to Overthrow Government
By THANASSIS CAMBANIS
Published: August 30, 2010
The Shiite opposition leader Abduljalil al-Singace was charged on Monday with attempting to overthrow the government. Mr. Singace was arrested on Aug. 13 in a sweep that the Sunni minority government described as an ongoing counterterrorism operation, but that Shiite leaders and human rights groups call a crackdown on political dissent in which an estimated 230 people have been detained. This weekend the government issued a gag order on local media reporting about the wave of arrests or the charges against Mr. Singace and other detained Shiite leaders.
Title: Call for Urgent Action for Detained Mechanical Engineering Professor Abdul Jalil Al-Singace of Bahrain
Publication: SAR Press Release
Author: Scholars at Risk
August 27, 2010
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is gravely concerned about the arrest and detention of Professor Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, a mechanical engineer at University of Bahrain in Isa Town. SAR asks for letters, faxes and emails urging authorities to explain publicly the reasons for Prof. Al-Singace’s detention, disclose the whereabouts of Prof. Al-Singace and ensure his access to medical care, family and legal counsel.
Scholars at Risk is an international network of universities and colleges dedicated to promoting academic freedom and to defending the human rights of scholars worldwide. Scholars at Risk invites interventions on behalf of scholars suffering the most serious threats to their academic freedom or their exercise of their fundamental human rights including, as in this case, detention without charge and incarceration in an undisclosed location.
Professor Al-Singace is a scholar of mechanical engineering who has worked at University of Bahrain since 1995. He is also the Director of the Human Rights Bureau of the Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy, an opposition political movement. Scholars at Risk has learned that Professor Al-Singace was arrested on August 13, 2010 at Bahrain International Airport, upon his return from the United Kingdom, and taken to an undisclosed location. This followed his address on August 5 to the British House of Lords during which he reported on Bahrain’s human rights situation. Reports also indicate that Professor Al-Singace has not been permitted regular visits with his family or lawyer; indeed we understand that his lawyer was able to see him for the first time only recently. Although Bahraini law dictates that detainees are brought before the public prosecutor or formally charged with an offense within 48 hours, Professor Al-Singace has yet to be formally charged. Furthermore, Scholars at Risk understands that Professor Al-Singace suffers from poliomyelitis. In light of this, his prolonged detention without regular access to counsel, family or adequate medical support would appear to constitute a reckless disregard of his health and well-being.
This disregard, coupled with the suddenness and lack of any clear basis for his arrest, raises concerns that this case appears to involve retaliation against one scholar’s peaceful exercise of fundamental rights, which are guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party.
Scholars at Risk therefore joins with the many national and international academic associations, human rights organizations and individual scholars that respectfully urge that the government of Bahrain examine the circumstances of Professor Al-Singace’s detention and to disclose his location. SAR urges authorities to intervene to ensure his well-being including ensuring immediate and regular access to legal counsel of his choosing, to family and to any necessary medical treatment. Given the public reports surrounding Professor Al-Singace’s detention, we further urge you to explain publicly the reasons for his detention or absent this, to arrange for his earliest release.
Scholars at Risk invites letters, emails and faxes be sent:
-respectfully calling on the authorities to examine the circumstances of Professor Al-Singace’s detention and to disclose his location;
-respectfully calling on authorities to intervene to ensure his well-being including ensuring immediate and regular access to legal counsel of his choosing, to family and to any necessary medical treatment; and
-given the public reports surrounding Professor Al-Singace’s detention, respectfully urging authorities to explain publicly the reasons for his detention or absent this, to arrange for his earliest release.
PLEASE WRITE TO:
His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
P.O. Box 547
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 17536343
His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Office of His Majesty the King
P. O. Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: + 973 17668884
Her Excellency Ms. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008 USA
Fax: +1 202 362-2192
His Excellency Dr. Majid Bin Ali Al Nuaimi
Minister of Education
Ministry of Education Building
Al Istiklal Street
P.O. Box 43
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 1768 7866
The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520 USA
His Excellency J. Adam Ereli
Ambassador of the United States to the Kingdom of Bahrain
Embassy of the United States of America
Bldg 979, Road 3119, Block 331, Zinj
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 1727 0547
Scholars at Risk
New York University
194 Mercer St., 4th floor
New York, NY 10012 USA
Fax: +1 212 995-4402
To view a copy of SAR’s letter of appeal, please visit our website: www.scholarsatrisk.org.
Bahrain Shiite Activist Charged With Seeking to Overthrow Sunni Government
By Henry Meyer - Aug 31, 2010 11:33 AM GMT+0100
Bahrain’s authorities charged a Shiite Muslim opposition activist with seeking to overthrow the government, his lawyer said.
Abduljalil al-Singace, the head of the human rights section of the opposition Haq movement, potentially faces the death penalty, lawyer Mohammad al-Tajer said by telephone from the capital, Manama. He was arrested on Aug. 13 as he flew back to Bahrain from London.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has faced riots since authorities rounded up scores of Shiite opposition activists in a series of arrests that began in mid-August. The government says the detainees had been planning to carry out acts of terrorism and violence, while Bahraini human rights groups have described the arrests as a crackdown aimed at cementing control before October parliamentary elections.
Al-Singace had been in London to testify about the human rights situation in Bahrain to a meeting at the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the U.K. parliament. The majority Shiites complain of discrimination by Sunni Muslims, who make up 30 percent of Bahrain’s citizens.
The number of arrests has now reached about 230, said al- Tajer. Three other Shiite activists whom he is representing face the same charges as al-Singace, he said.
The island kingdom is a close ally of neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s largest oil exporter and a regional rival of Shiite-ruled Iran. Many among Bahrain’s poor, mostly Shiite communities retain family and cultural ties to Iran.
Like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni royal family, headed by Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The lower chamber of parliament, which has been elected since 2002, has limited authority and is dominated by Sunnis.
London-based Amnesty International criticized the arrests in an Aug. 18 statement that said the activists may be “prisoners of conscience.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Dubai at email@example.com.