Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2004 - Bahrain

Repression of the BCHR

Arbitrary Arrest of and legal proceedings against Mr. Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja42

On 24 September 2004, Mr. Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, executive director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), criticised the government's policy during a symposium on "poverty and economic and social rights in Bahrain", held at the Al-Oruba Club. He also called for the resignation of the Prime Minister, who has been in power for over 25 years.

On 26 September 2004, Mr. Al-Khawaja was arrested and charged with "encouraging hate of the State" and "disseminating false news and rumours" on the basis of Articles 165 and 168 of the Bahraini Criminal Code. He was immediately placed in custody in the Howdh Aljaf detention centre and held there for 45 days.

His trial began on 16 October 2004, before the third chamber of the Lower Criminal Court that refused to release him on bail on the same day.

On 28 October 2004, Mr. Abdul Rawf Al-Shayeb, spokesman of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture in Bahrain, and Mr. Mahmud Ramadan, a board member of the Committee, were arrested by the anti-riot police, together with several dozens demonstrators during a protest march organised by the Committee, in order to call for the release of Mr. Al-Khawaja.

On the same day, Mr. Al-Khawaja's wife received a telephone call summoning her to appear at the police department under threat of arrest.

On 21 November 2004, Mr. Al-Khawaja, who had been on a hunger strike since 14 November 2004, was sentenced to one year imprisonment by the Lower Criminal Court. Later at night, His Majesty King Hamad ben Issa Al-Khalifa issued a decree granting pardon to Mr. Al-Khawaja and ordered his release. Mr. Al-Shayeb and Mr. Mahmud Ramadan, who too had been on hunger strikes since 15 November, were also granted pardon and consequently released, together with 11 other protesters detained since the parade on 28 October 2004.

On 6 January 2005, the Al-Oruba Club, which had been closed down by the government for 45 days for hosting the BCHR symposium on 24 September, was allowed to resume its activities.

Closure of the BCHR43

In October 2003 and June 2004, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Mr. Majeed Al-Alawi, addressed some letters to the BCHR, threatening them to withdraw the Centre's operating license if they continued their "political activities", as they would contradict Law No. 21 of 1989 on Societies.

On 30 June 2004, in the course of an interview broadcast by Arabiya TV Channel, the Minister threatened to permanently close down the BCHR because of its alleged "political activities". He described the BCHR as a "political opposition body with a political agenda"; he severely criticised the organisation's use of demonstrations as well as articles and letters to defend and protect human rights in Bahrain.

On 26 September 2004, after Mr. Al-Khawaja44 had been arrested, Mr. Majeed Al-Alawi set up a committee comprised of members from different government institutions for the purpose of taking punitive measures and adopting legal sanctions against BCHR.

On 29 September 2004, Mr. Al-Alawi published a press release announcing that he issued an order providing for the dissolution of the BCHR the night before, the order coming into force that same day under the pretext that the BCHR violated Law No. 21 of 1989 on Societies, without any other precision.

On 30 September 2004, in another statement published in the Al-Wasat newspaper, Mr. Majeed Al-Alawi threatened the BCHR and its members, especially its president, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, to take punitive actions against the board members of the organisation, if they were to keep trying to breach the Ministry's order of dissolution, campaigning for the BCHR rehabilitation and the release of its executive director, Mr. Al-khawaja, detained since 26 September 2004.

On 12 October 2004, the BCHR initiated civil action against the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, filing the case with the High Civil Court; the first hearing took place on 23 October 2004. By late 2004, the proceedings were still underway and a further hearing was scheduled for 16 January 2005.

On 6 January 2005, the BCHR announced that it would resume its activities despite the decision by the authorities to dissolve the Centre.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

42. See Press Release, 27 September 2004 and Urgent Appeals BHR 001/0704/OBS 054, 054.1, 054.2, 054.3, 054.4 and 054.5.

43. Idem.

44. See above.


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