Appeals Postponed, Defenders Harassed as Bahrain Crackdown Continues
Washington, DC – Human rights defenders, medics, students and others targeted by the Bahraini government in its crackdown on pro-democracy efforts continue to face detention and harassment despite growing calls for their release. On Dec. 21, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for the unconditional release of all Bahraini detainees imprisoned after a military trial. Human Rights First notes that the Bahraini government has failed to comply with that request and, in fact, is taking steps to delay the appeals of those accused. “Yesterday, a group of students from the University of Bahrain who were sentenced to 15 years each by the military court had their appeal hearing postponed until March. Five of them remain in Bahrain’s Jaw Prison,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Their case and others like it make clear that Bahrain’s leaders are ignoring key calls for reform issued by Commissioner Pillay and even the Kingdon’s own Bassiouni Commission.” In addition to the students, the Bahrain regime continues to contest the appeals of others sentenced by the military court, including 20 medics who appear to have been prosecuted for treating injured protestors and telling the media about the nature and extent of injuries. Dr. Nada Dhaif is one of the medics sentenced to 15 years after an unfair trial in military court. Though she is out of detention while she awaits her next court hearing on January 9, Dr. Dhaif was summoned by the police for a four-hour interrogation on December 25. During that interrogation, she was warned to keep a low profile, an apparent government response to her decision to speak with the media and human rights organizations about how she and others were tortured in detention. Dr. Dhaif told Dooley, “I am being targeted for telling the world the continuing truth about Bahrain. Members of my family are also being harassed by the regime. I have only ever advocated peaceful reform but am being threatened for my human rights advocacy.” Local human rights activists also report ongoing concerns about treatment in custody. Hassan Oun, aged 18, was rearrested today after speaking to a local human rights organization. During previous interrogations, Oun said he was raped by a security officer. That officer later called Oun after his release and threatened to rearrest him and rape him until he died. According to Maryam Al Khawaja of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Oun was recently arrested again in what seems to be revenge against him for speaking to their center.