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Following the eruption of protests in February 2011 against government corruption and discrimination of the Shi'a majority population, the situation for human rights defenders in Bahrain became even more dangerous and difficult. Faced with widespread protests and unrest, the authorities responded with harsh measures and a crackdown on protesters, civil society leaders, human rights defenders and pro democracy activists. Human rights defenders were tried in military courts, often charged with fabricated crimes, and given hugely disproportionate sentences. Furthermore many have been ill-treated and tortured in detention, have been held incommunicado and denied access to family and lawyers, while confessions made under duress have been admitted as evidence in court in contravention of international law.
Anti-terrorism legislation has been used by the regime to vilify and persecute activists and human rights defenders. Also before the 2011 protests, a number of prominent human rights defenders were accused of belonging to terrorist networks and plotting to overthrow the government because of the peaceful human rights work.
Freedom of assembly is limited. The law prohibits unauthorised public gatherings of more than five persons and public gatherings need to be notified to the Ministry of the Interior twenty four hours previously. There have been regular reports over the years of the use of excessive force by security forces when dispersing demonstrations. The situation precipitated during the 2011 events, and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association expressed serious concern about the situation in the country.
Freedom of expression is also severely restricted. Most media outlets are directly or indirectly controlled by the government, and often attack and criticise human rights organisations and their members. Several websites have been forcibly shut down or banned, including the Bahrain Online forum, a pro-democracy site founded by human rights defender and blogger Ali Abdulemam. The government warned that they will use the 2002 Press and Publications Law to prescribe prison sentences for those who criticise the regime and the Public Prosecutor invoked Article 246 of the Penal Code to prevent media reporting on a spate of arrests. Illustrative of the severe repression against human rights defenders is the case of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, prominent HRD and former Front Line protection coordinator. He was arrested in 2011, despite not participating in the protests. In a gross miscarriage of justice, he was sentenced to life-imprisonment by a military court. He, like many others was beaten and tortured in police custody, and had to undergo a four hour surgery in a military hospital as a result.
Law 21/1989, which regulates the establishment and functioning of civil society organisations, restricts freedom of association. The authorities unreasonably delay registration, which may take up to several years, or refuse it without providing any reasonable grounds. There are several examples of organisations that have not been granted registration, despite having submitted the documentation required up to five years earlier. Members of unregistered organisations and committees are often harassed and their events disrupted on the grounds that the organisation is unregistered. However, the Government has also increasingly targeted registered human rights groups.
29 November 2013
27 November 2013
15 November 2013
11 November 2013
08 November 2013
04 September 2012
16 August 2012
14 June 2012
26 April 2012
23 April 2012
Bahrain: End unfair imprisonment of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, eligible for early release
Bahrain: Ongoing campaign against human rights defender, Mohammed Al-Maskati, following visit to United Nations in Geneva
Bahrain : Torture and incommunicado detention of Mr Mohamed Hassan and detention of his lawyer Mr Abdul Aziz Moussa
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