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Urgent Interventions

Series of harsh, disproportionate and unfair sentences against professionals for standing by human rights victims


BAHRAIN:Series of harsh, disproportionate and unfair sentences against professionalsfor standing by human rights victims

Paris-Geneva, September 30, 2011. The InternationalFederation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, express their utmost concern following aseries of harsh criminal sentences targeting civil society leaders for theirinvolvement in the popular protest movement that started on February 14, 2011,and for denouncing human rights violations committed by the authorities duringits repression. Such decisions demonstrate that the authorities continue tostifle civil society, notably human rights defenders in Bahrain, throughcriminalisation and de-legitimation of their role.

On September 29, 2011, Bahrain National Safety Courtsentenced 20 doctors and medical workers whoprovided medical assistance to demonstrators injured during thecrackdown on demonstrationsto heavy prison sentences ranging from five to 15 years on charges of“possession of unlicensed weapons”, occupying Salmanya Medical Complex”,“calling for the overthrow of the regime”, “seizing medical equipment” and“spreading false information”[1].

On September 25, the same court had already sentencedtwo heads of the Teachers’ Association of Bahrain, Mr. Mahdi Abu Deeb,President, and Ms. Jalila Salman, Vice-President, to respectively tenand three years in prison on charges of “disrupting schooling”, “broadcastingfalse news” and “threatening national security” for expressing solidarity withthe popular protest movement in Bahrain and for denouncing human rightsviolations committed during its repression. Several of them were reportedlytortured during pre-trial detention and deprived from access to their lawyerand family over long periods of time. Mr. Mahdi Abu Deeb is detained in Gurainmilitary prison, while an arrest warrant was issued against Ms. Jalila Salman,who was in provisional release at the time of the verdict.

On September 28, 14 opposition leaders and humanrights defenders were also sentenced in appeal to heavy prison terms, includinglife imprisonment for Messrs. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former President ofthe Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and former Middle East RegionCoordinator for Front Line Defenders, and Abduljalil al-Sengais, incharge of the Human Rights Unit of Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy. Both are currently detained in Gurainmilitary prison and have 30 days to appeal before the Court of Cassation.

The Observatory recalls that the National SecurityCourt, presided over by a military judge, was created on March 15, 2011 underthe law establishing the state of emergency and with no respect for guaranteesof a fair trial, to try those suspected of having supported, organised or takenpart in the protest movement.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about thesentences against the above-mentioned human rights defenders as it considers that they seem to merely aim atsanctioning their human rights activities and that their right to a fair trialhas been disregarded. Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to guaranteein all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity, to immediately and unconditionally releasethose detained and to put an end toall acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against all humanrights defenders.

For further information, please contact:

· FIDH:Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

· OMCT:Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39

[1] The doctors Messrs. Ali Al-Ekri, AliAlsadady, Nader Al-Diwani, Ahmed Omran, MahmoodAsghar, Ebrahim Al-Demestany, Abdulkhaleq Al-Oraiby, GhassanDhaif, Basem Daif, Sayed Marhoon Al-Weda'y, Qasem Omran,Ms. Rula Al-Saffar,President of the Bahrain Nursing Society (BNS), and Ms. Nada Dhaif were sentenced to 15 yearsin prison; Messrs. Hassan Al-Tublani and Saeed Al-Samaheejy toten years; Ms. Fatima Hajji, Ms. Dia Ebrahim Abuldris,Ms. Najah Khalil Al-Haddad, Ms. Zahra Al-Sammak andMr. Mohamed Al-Shehab to five years. The convicts, who were allin provisional release at the time of the verdict, have the right to appealwithin 15 days the sentences before the Criminal Supreme Appeal Court (ordinarycourt) according to Decree by Law (28), 2011 and will have to report to prisonwithin that time to be allowed to lodge their appeal. The 20 were originallypart of a group of 48 medical workers charged on May 3, 2011, which was splitinto two groups, one of 20 accused of “felonies” and the other 28 accused of “misdemeanours”,or less serious offences. All those accused of misdemeanours were released onbail by the end of June. Their case will resume on October 24 before anordinary court. The group of 20 was released on bail between June and September7. See Observatory Urgent Appeal BHR 005 / 0511 / OBS 073.

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