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THE CASE OF AHMED HUMAIDAN
Mid-February, 2011 - Inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and frustrated with persistent discrimination, Shi'a underclass youth regularly clash with police. Seven protesters are killed during the unrest. Al Wefaq (the largest opposition group in Bahrain) resigns from its 18 seats in the Bahraini parliament in protest at the crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.
Mid-March, 2011 – New clashes break out in three areas of Manama. A three-month state of emergency is declared. A violent crackdown on protesters ensues (at least six are killed) and six opposition leaders are arrested. National Safety Courts - courts composed of military prosecutors and civilian and military judges - are instituted.
Bahrain has restricted critical reporting and independent news coverage since the 2011 uprising, and there has been an assault on the opposition media since then too.
Early June, 2011 - Emergency law is lifted in Bahrain.
12th June, 2011 - New charges are laid against two moderate, leading opposition politicians - Jawad Fairooz and Mattar Ebrahim Mattar - who have been in custody since 2nd May, after resigning their seats in parliament in protest at the government crackdown. They are now charged with inciting hatred against the regime and speaking to the news media.
17th January, 2013 - the European Parliament passes a strongly worded resolution on Bahrain that calls for targeted EU sanctions against human rights violators, the restricting of trade and the export of crowd-control arms such as tear gas. It supports the imposing of visa restrictions and asset freezes of those responsible for human rights violations, as documented by the BICI, in what is the first case of an international body making such calls with regards to Bahrain. The motion puts forward 20 conclusions/demands in total that include the release of political prisoners, reversal of the revoked citizenships, permitting freedom of expression and assembly and more. The motion is put forward by a number of MEP’s from different member states, including those who recently visited Bahrain. The effort is led by Dutch Member of the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake, who was denied entry into Bahrain in December. The European Union is now facing increasing pressure from its democratic institutions to push for reform in Bahrain. The Parliament has consistently called for the respect for human rights in Bahrain, but this latest move is the strongest example to date of clear condemnation and a call to action.
23rd January, 2013 - the Appeal Court in Bahrain upholds the death sentence meted out to a Bahraini youth, Ali al-Tawil, and the life sentence to Ali al-Shamlool. The harsh sentences relate to the popular pro-democracy protests of February, 2011.
6th February, 2013 - twenty incidents of Bahraini deaths among 28 cases have been documented in a Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, but they have not been referred to the courts, according to lawyers and the victims’ families in a survey conducted by Al-Wasat.
April, 2013 Against the backdrop of Bahrain's Formula One race, several thousand protesters demonstrate against human rights violations by the government.
24th September, 2013 - The authorities continue to crack down on freedom of expression in Bahrain - recently they arrested Khalil Al-Marzooq, who is the political assistant to the secretary general of Al Wefaq. He is to be held in detention for 30 days and investigated on allegations of incitement to commit terrorist crimes. With regard to the judicial system in Bahrain, the BCHR released a report on the Fourth Criminal Court, which has tried many of the cases involving political and human rights activists. The report concludes that in 95% of the examined cases, the defendants were denied access to a lawyer for all or part of their trial. In addition, the court refused to investigate serious allegations of torture. | Read more:
January, 2014 The Bahraini authorities have taken several steps against journalists in recent months in order to suppress coverage of the protests. In fact, a journalist and the editor of a newspaper were killed. Furthermore, currently there are eight photographers in jail in Bahrain, including Ahmed Huamaidan:
- Hassan Matooq, a photographer. In March, 2011, he was sentenced to three years in prison for publishing false and malicious news and statements, inciting public contempt and hatred of the regime, participating in an illegal gathering, taking photographs of the protesters at Pearl Roundabout and delivering them to the media tent. He is expected to be released in March, 2014.
- Mahmood Abdul Saleb, photographer, was charged the same offences as Hassan Matooq above. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison in March, 2011, and will also be out in March.
- Hussain Hubail, a freelance photographer, 21 years old, photographs opposition protests in Bahrain. In May, independent newspaper Al-Wasat awarded him a photography prize for his picture of protesters shrouded in tear gas. He is accused of being part of 14th February media network, calling for and participating in unauthorized demonstrations, inciting regime hatred and having connections with some Bahraini opposition members living in exile. He was abused during interrogation and denied medical attention when he needed it.
- Qassim Zain Aldeen, a 25-year-old, freelance cameraman who films opposition protests in Bahrain, and has had his work published by local websites and blogs. He is accused of participating in illegal gatherings and of vandalism in prison.
- Abdulla Al Jerdabi, photographer, accused of participating in an illegal gathering and of being in possession of iron bars with the intention to attack the police. He still suffers from the beating he received from the police on the way to the police station. He was arrested on 13th September, 2013, and was sentenced on 22nd January, 2014, to six months in prison for illegal assembly and the misuse of social networking.
- Jassim Alnuiami, online activist, scriptwriter and producer of videos. After his arrest on 31st July, 2013, he was blindfolded and beaten on his head, kidneys, and private parts; tortured; threatened and insulted. His abusers threatened to rape his mother and sisters if he failed to confess. He is accused of participating in an illegal gathering, publishing false news, using social media to incite hatred against the regime, etc.
- Ahmed AlFardan, photographer, 23 years old, arrested without an arrest warrant on 26th December, 2013. About 16 police cars surrounded his house at around 3 a.m., before some ten masked policemen in civilian clothes raided his home and confiscated his cameras and laptop. Previously he had been arrested on 8th August, 2013, by two plain-clothed policemen who brandished a pistol and punched, beat and choked him. He and his family were threatened with arrest and imprisonment for years unless he cooperated in providing information about the Tamarod rallies, media and journalists, and agreed to photograph clashes and protests for the police. He is now in Dry Dock prison and is being denied the medical attention he needs and access to a lawyer.
1st January to 10th February, 2014 - a total of 146 individuals were arrested and are currently being held in prison, i.e. police conducted 192 arrests and made 46 releases. Thus, during this period the government of Bahrain arrested - on average - almost five individuals per day. Furthermore, the Bahraini judicial system postponed the trials of several detained news and information providers who had been arrested after they covered the anti-government street protests.
Late February, 2014 - the government continues to use excessive force across Bahrain. Brutal injuries caused by shotgun pellets and teargas are seen, particularly in the village of Saar, as the police attack the funeral procession of Ali Musawi. In February there were 216 arbitrary arrests - an average of almost eight a day. At least 3,849 individuals remain in prison as a consequence of such arrests.
10th March, 2014 - some 3,878 individuals remain in detention as a result of arbitrary arrests. An increased number of checkpoints were suddenly installed across Bahrain the previous week, delaying traffic, including ambulances and school buses. A large number of individuals reported being subjected to sectarian harassment from the police at these checkpoints. Six NGOs published a joint statement expressing strong concern over the escalation in violence in Bahrain against peaceful protesters. Amnesty International calls on the authorities not to use the death of a police officer as an excuse to further restrict freedoms.
3rd May, 2014 - The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) releases a report for World Press Freedom Day, out of serious concern for degenerating freedom of expression and opinion afforded to members of the media. The government of Bahrain has continued to target local independent journalists and photographers with arrest and detention in order to obscure any evidence of the ongoing human rights violations. The BCHR has documented at least twelve cases of imprisoned journalists — the majority of whom are photographers — and at least seven reported cases of torture in the last year.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS (ICCPR)
Bahrain ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 20th Sep. 2006. The ICCPR sets out fair trial rights in some detail. There is a dire need for the International Bar Association, OHCHR and/or International Commission of Jurists to observe and monitor trials in Bahrain in order to help press for compliance with ICCPR fair trial criteria. However, in the recent past the Bahraini authorities acted to thwart international monitoring of trials.
BRIEF BACKGROUND TO THE AHMED HUMAIDAN CASE
Ahmed Humaidan is a 25-year-old from the small village of Mehaza. His passion for photography began in April, 2011 - two months after the first mass protests of the Pearl Revolution.
As a freelance photographer, he covered those protests. His photographs exposing police attacks on protesters during demonstrations, were published by local opposition sites, including the online news magazine Alhadath and the online news site Alrasid.
Ahmed Humaidan posted his pictures without hiding his identity. He also joined international photography organisations and his pictures won competitions and prizes. By December 2012, he had been honoured in 143 of those competitions, including those of the International Federation of Photographic Art and the Photographic Society of America.
Since April, 2013 Ahmed Humaidan parents' house has been invaded at least five times; other relatives’ houses on four occasions.
29th December, 2012 Ahmed Humaidan is arrested/abducted by 15 plainclothes police/security officers in a shopping mall. He is forced to stand blindfolded for hours holding a package he is told is a bomb, and is tortured. He is then charged with "demonstrating illegally" and "using violence to assault police and damage public properties" (i.e. attacking a police station on 8th April, 2012) during the demonstrations on the island of Sitra.
15th May, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan appears before Judge Ibrahim Al Zayed, who orders that he remain in custody until 29th January, 2014.
2nd July, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan attends court. The prosecution's case collapses when witnesses contradict themselves.
23rd July, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan's defence was to be presented, but the court session is cancelled.
4th August, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan's defence was to be presented, but the court session is cancelled.
4th September, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan's defence was to be presented, but the court session is cancelled.
9th October, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan's defence was to be presented, but the court session is cancelled.
19th November, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan's defence was to be presented, but the court session is cancelled.
19th December, 2013 - Ahmed Humaidan's defence was to be presented, but the court session is cancelled.
29th January, 2014 - Ahmed Humaidan is due to appear before the High Criminal Court of Al-Wasta province; but this session is cancelled.
26th March, 2014 - despite a lack of evidence, conflicting statements from witnesses (who could not place him at the scene of the attack on Sitra police station) Ahmed Humaidan is sentenced to 10 years in jail. The appeal against this decision is to be heard on 25th May 2014.
30th April, 2014 - a solidarity event is held for Ahmed Humaidan
6th May, 2014 - Ahmed Humaidan has been on hunger strike in Jaw Prison for more than 10 days, after prisoners were subjected to ill treatment from prison guards. Last week he was visited by an OHCHR representative, to whom he provided details of his case and the hunger strike in which 100 prisoners are participating.
July, 2014 Ahmed Humaidan is awarded the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award “in absentia” in Washington, DC, having demonstrated, through his work, the principles of press freedom and open government. ADHRB - Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain - Freedom House, Human Rights First, Just Foreign Policy, POMED - Project on Middle East Democracy - and Reporters Without Borders call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmed Humaidan and all the other news providers who are being held in connection with their work in Bahrain. Ahmed Humaidan's appeal is to be heard on 25th August, 2014.
Because Ahmed Humaidan has documented official abuses by Bahraini police against protesters, there is concern that he is being targeted to suppress such coverage. It is feared that he may be subjected to revenge and mistreatment because of his role in exposing human rights violations.
Detainees in Bahrain often report that they are subjected to maltreatment, humiliation and violence, and that they experience severe forms of psychological and physical abuse during interrogation. They state they are coerced into making false confessions, some of which are filmed by the authorities and believe that the aim is to punish, intimidate and degrade them during their detention.
Send letters/emails of concern to: His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice & Islamic Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain, Diplomatic Area, Manama, P.O.Box 450, Kingdom of Bahrain.