Rihana al Mousawi
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THE CASE OF RIHANA AL MOUSAWI
FEATURES & CONSEQUENCES
Protesters Arrested and Feared Tortured, Charged Under Terrorism Law, Special Rapporteur on Torture Denied Access
Rihana Al-Mosawi, a full time mother with three children, worked peacefully with the Salvation Army ambulance, helping the injured during the demonstrations in Bahrain.
In April, 2013, Rihana Al-Mosawi, like various nurses and doctors before her, is charged under terrorism legislation with attempting to detonate a bomb at the Formula One race. More formally, she is accused of: (1) joining an illegal group aimed at overthrowing the Constitution, and using terrorism as the means to achieve this objective; and (2) of being aware of a terrorist plot while failing to inform the authorities.
The official Ministry of Interior statement about the arrest states: “On the second day of the Grand Prix, police assigned to the BIC gate stopped two girls who were acting suspiciously. After searching them, it was found that one of them was carrying a pillow stuffed under her dress. The girl told police she was testing the security procedures as part of a recce for a terrorist act. The girls were referred to the Public Prosecutor.”
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believe that the decision to charge Rihana Al-Mosawi and Nafeesa Al-Asfoor as terrorists is intended to send a clear message to other peaceful protesters that there will be severe consequences for speaking up for human rights.
The BCHR has received reports that the women were forced to provide names of other individuals, and implicate them in illegal activities. The BCHR has documented a pattern of behavior by the authorities to use torture to extract false confession from human rights activists and pro-democracy protesters.
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. Bahrain restricts critical reporting and independent news coverage and commences an assault on opposition media.
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.
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.
November 2012 - a report by the Project on Middle East Democracy found that only three of the twenty-six recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry had been fully implemented. In this same month, Amnesty International released a report describing the human rights situation in Bahrain as, “Reform shelved, repression unleashed”. The situation in Bahrain has not improved since 2012; but is getting worse.
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.
February 2013 - Human Rights Watch visited Bahrain and found there to be “no progress on reform”. In the same month, police killed two protesters.
March, 2013 - UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Juan Mendez, is denied access to Bahrain.
April, 2013 Against the backdrop of Bahrain's Formula One race, several thousand protesters demonstrate against human rights violations by the government.
22nd April, 2013 - the U.N. Office of the Special Rapporteur on Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment announces that it would, at the request of the Bahraini authorities, again delay its visit to Bahrain.
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.
COMPLIANCE FAILURE - 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.
The Bahraini government continues to commit gross human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests to torture. Bahrain’s jails contain hundreds of political prisoners, police use excessive force with impunity and opposition members have been stripped of their citizenship.
20th April, 2013 - Rihana Al-Mosawi is arrested and sent to Zallaq police station, with Nafeesa Al-Asfoor, after peacefully protesting at the Formula One race against the imprisonment of human rights activist, Zainab Al-Khawaja, and photographer, Ahmed Humaidan. Rihana Al-Mosawi's husband is also arrested and interrogated, but released.
22nd April, 2013 - In Riffa Police Station, Rihana Al-Mosawi is tortured. Her clothes are ripped off her and she is left standing for two hours in a room with the door open so that lots of passing men can ogle her. An attempt is made to rape her while she was blindfolded.
- Rihana Al-Mosawi is accused of trying to take a pillow into the F.I. Stadium as a dry run for a bomb attack. She is beaten for two days in order to make her sign a confession stating that she was carrying a bomb and that she belonged to the 14th February Coalition. Her 16-year-old son is also threatened.
- Later she is transferred to Adleeya, which is under the control of the central intelligence agency. There, it is well known that the “Falaqa” method is used to torture and extract confessions.
- A few days later she is transferred into the 'care' of the public prosecutor, where she has no access to lawyers. She suffers three hours of interrogation by the Attorney General Fahe Albuain. Seven masked men interrogate her about photos of Naji Al Fateel, Deputy President of the BYSHR and Hisham al Sabbagh, from Al Wefaq, both of whom were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Rihanna is accused of going to the Lebanon for weapons training and being a member of the 14th February Coalition, which campaigned through the media for change.
- She is detained for 60 days without access to lawyers. Her family is allowed to visit her after almost three weeks. She is found to be very ill and terrified enough to confess to anything.
- She is treated harshly to intimidate other women from protesting.
First hearing: - she speaks of her torture, but Judge Ali Al Deraini simply laughs. Judge Ali Al Deraini allows the prosecution to make its case, but not the defence to put theirs. The defence lawyers try to get Duraini removed for bias, but fail as the decision is in the hands of a member of the ruling Khalifa family. Rihanna al Mousawi's lawyers request an investigation into the abuse and she is sent to the Special Investigation Unit, which does not raise the issue of torture.
5th September - Rihana Al-Mosawi is sentenced to five years in prison for membership of the 14th February Coalition and another five years for preparing a bomb attack.
29th December, 2013 - first hearing of Rihana Al-Mosawi's appeal against her sentence.
January, 2014 - Rihana Al-Mosawi remains in Isa Town Women's Prison and is ill with cancer; but not receiving any medical attention.
26th January, 2014 - today’s court hearing regarding Rihana Al-Mosawi's appeal against her conviction for membership of the 14th February Coalition, is postponed until 27th February, when interrogators will be called. The defendants were not allowed to speak or have their torture acknowledged. Rihana Al-Mosawi's appeal against her conviction for preparing to detonate a bomb, is postponed until the 16th February, 2014.
16th April 2014 Rihana Al-Mosawi's defence lawyers demand that Rihana’s torture claims should be investigated, but the demand is dismissed. Her sentence for membership of the 14th February Coalition is reduced to three years. Thus, she now faces eight years in the terrible, overcrowded and insanitary Bahrain Prison system, where abuse is systemic.
29th June, 2014 Rihana's appeal on the “bomb charge” was postponed until 31st August, when the final verdict will be announced.
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.
The U.K. and US Governments support the Khalifa regime. The U.K. is trying to ensure that there will be no critical Resolution passed at the UNHCR Conference at Geneva. Although the Bahraini Government has signed all the necessary international Human Rights Protocols, the dreadful situation for the prisoners has not improved.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is using its financial clout to try to suppress the expression of dissent by E.U. governments condemning Bahrain's human rights record. Reportedly it cancelled an upcoming meeting with EU counterparts, in protest at all 28 member states having signed a statement at the UN Human Rights Council on 10th June, expressing “serious concern” at the human rights situation in Bahrain. The statement criticised “increases in long [prison] sentences for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association”. The signatories (47 in all) said they were “troubled by continuing reports of ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities”, and urge a “thorough and impartial investigation” into allegations of mistreatment.
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.