To the Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council
RE: Bahrain: Call for individual delegations to demonstrate commitment to ensuring that the situation in Bahrain is brought before the Human Rights Council within Item 4 statements
Geneva, 10th June 2011
As civil society organizations from around the world, we urge your delegation to make a strong statement and condemn the grave and deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain at the UN Human Rights Council (Council/HRC) under Agenda Item 4 (“Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention”) that will take place at the HRC next week, the 15th of June.
The gross violations of human rights taking place in Bahrain, many of which constitute crimes under international law, urgently require the attention of the Council. Over the last four months, many human rights non-governmental organizations from around the world have repeatedly called on the Council urgently take up this issue. Despite these calls, Council member states of the Council have consistently turned a blind eye at the Council to the violations committed in Bahrain, and refused to put forward a resolution, convene a Special Session, or otherwise seize the Council on the matter of Bahrain.
The current silence that has characterized the Council’s response to the grave rights situation in Bahrain is indefensible. We urge your delegation to commit to delivering a statement on Bahrain under Item 4. We believe this to be an opportunity for your government to demonstrate its individual commitment to ensuring that the situation in Bahrain is addressed by the Council, and that victims of rights violations in Bahrain are given a voice within the HRC.
Such a statement is the minimum that your delegation can do within the HRC in the face of the total and unprecedented crackdown occurring in Bahrain.
In this respect we ask you to consider reflecting the following observations within an Item 4 statement:
- The human rights crisis in Bahrain has grown increasingly grave since mid-March 2011, when the government violently put down pro-democracy and anti-government street protests. Government authorities have launched an unrelenting campaign of punitive retribution against individuals, most of which are among the Shia’a majority population, who supported or participated in pro-democracy protests that began in mid-February, including targeting demonstrators, opposition leaders, peaceful critics, rights activists, journalists, doctors, labour unions and students. Despite numerous allegations of grave rights violations committed by state actors, no independent investigations into these allegations have been conducted by the government. The government set up an inquiry to look at the events of February and March. The investigative committee tasked to carry out such enquiry, is led by a deputy prime minister and, will reportedly submit its finding to the King by 10 August. However, no information is available as to whether the committee is looking at all human rights violations that have been taking place and the terms of reference are not known.
- Since March 15th 2011, there have been hundreds of arrests. At least 60 civilians were convicted and sentenced by special military courts to imprisonment ranging from one year to life. Two have been sentenced to death. These trials, still on-going despite the lifting of the State of National Safety (emergency state), violate fundamental “fair trial” standards and must end.
- Since June 1st, the people of Bahrain have buried two more people. This brings the total of confirmed deaths to 33, including 29 during the violent crackdown on protests, and 4 who died in prison after having apparently been subject to torture.
- In mid-March, security forces seized the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama; reportedly beating doctors and other members of staff, and preventing the treatment of demonstrators. They proceeded to deny relatives of the victim’s, members of staff, medics and ambulances from entering or leaving the hospital, having encircled the hospital with tanks and troops. Forty-eight medical staff are currently being tried in a special military court apparently because they provided medical care to protesters injured by state security forces, criticized the government in international media outlets, or showed sympathy for the protesters’ political demands.
- Over the last several months there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment being used against detained opposition leaders, protesters, and others who spoke out against the government participated or were actively supporting protests in the country. Many international and local human rights organizations have documented recent cases of torture in Bahrain.
- According to the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, at least 1700 people have been fired or suspended from their jobs, most from the private sector but some from the public sector as well. The livelihoods of these people and many of their families have been severely damaged. These dismissals appear to be arbitrary and politically motivated in most instances. More than 260 students have been expelled from university, and there is a constant targeting of human rights defenders through imprisonment, torture, harassment, defamation campaigns and travel bans. Nabeel Rajab, the Director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been banned from traveling outside the country and has also been interrogated by a military prosecutor in connections with interviews he gave to the international media.
- This week there were widespread attacks on several villages around Bahrain during religious Shiaa proceedings.
- Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, political activist and former regional director for Frontline Defenders and an internationally prominent human rights defender, was beaten unconscious in front of his family while being arbitrary arrested on April 9, 2011. He claims he has been subjected to severe physical and psychological torture, including sexual harassment and threats of sexual assaults. He is now being tried in a special military court. A verdict is expected to be issued on 22 of June after his defense witnesses were prevented from testifying in court. Twenty other prominent political figures and rights activists are also being tried alongside Mr. Alkhawaja, seven of whom are being tried in absentia.
- Ayat Al-Qormezi, a 20 year old poet and student at the Faculty of Teachers, was arrested on 30th March. She has been detained for reciting a poem on the 23rd of February in Pearl Square Roundabout, which was critical of the King of Bahrain. Al-Qormezi has allegedly been subjected to harassments, intimidation and threats of rape and death by police and gangs loyal to the regime. She has also been dismissed from university. During her first court hearing she recounted to her family the kind of torture she had been subjected to while in detention. After only two short court sessions the military court is expected to give its verdict in her case on 12 June.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. We remain committed to ensuring the situation in Bahrain is addressed by the HRC in the coming period.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Asian Legal Resource Centre
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales(CELS)- Argentina
CIVICUS (World Alliance for Citizen Participation)
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
Conectas Direitos Humanos- Brazil
Democracy Coalition Project (DCP)
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Partnership for Justice and Human Rights Agenda- Nigeria