HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AT RISK
NABEEL RAJAB - IMPRISONEDNabeel Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. On Saturday, 5 May he was arrested upon arrival at the Bahrain International Airport and taken to prison. The next day his remand was extended for a week, after he was charged with using Twitter to 'defame' and 'humiliate' the Bahraini public security forces. Following a conviction by a Bahraini court, Nabeel was taken to prison for 3 months on 9 July. On 16 August, Rajab was sentenced to one year in prison on each of three charges for a total of three years. Since early 2011, Nabeel has been the target of an ongoing campaign of intimidation, judicial harassment and defamation, including arbitrary arrest and detention. He has been physically abused by the security forces. Nabeel is also the Deputy Secretary-General for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Front Line Defenders provided a security grant to Nabeel to install security cameras at his home after it was attacked by security forces.
ALI ABDELEMAM - ESCAPEDAli Abdelemam is a blogger and free speech activist who has been targeted by the Bahraini authorities since he started 'Bahrain Online' - the first online forum for Bahrainis to express their opinions freely. Ali Abdelemam's whereabouts are unknown. On 23 February 2011, he was released from prison as a result of an international campaign for his freedom together with the demands of the protesters in Pearl Square. In prison, he suffered torture and beatings. When he learned that the authorities were rounding up other activists, he went into hiding. Ali had been missing since April 2011, and was charged in absentia to 15 years in prison as part of a group of defendants that included Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. In May 2013 he escaped from Bahrain and is safe in the United Kingdom.
NAJI FATEEL - INJUREDNaji Fateel is a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and attended the Front Line Defenders 2010 Dublin Platform. On 15 February Naji was subjected to an hour long interrogation by Bahraini prosecutors following his arrest the previous day. He was detained without further charge for many weeks. Naji has been the subject of relentless persecution including detention, torture and death threats for several years. In 2007 he was tortured and ill-treated while held incommunicado in prison after protesting for the rights of unemployed. He still suffers injuries from the torture he experienced, which included electric shocks, beating with sticks on the soles of his feet, kicking, punching and shackling. While filming security forces raiding a village in 2011, Naji was chased and fell off a roof, suffering injuries to his back and legs, and was unable to seek medical attention for fear of being arrested again.
ZAYNAB AL-KHAWAJA - JUDICIAL HARASSMENT & IMPRISONMENTZaynab Al-Khawaja is Bahraini social media activist and human rights defender. She has drawn worldwide attention to the peaceful protests in Bahrain through her Twitter postings and other online media platforms. On 21 April, 2012 Zaynab was arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest against the continuing detention of her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. She was unable to see her family for more than a week. Since 1 May 1012, Zaynab has been brought to court at least 3 times for hearings and new charges to be filed against her, and bail has been denied. On 1 March, 2013, Zaynab was sentenced to prison for 3 months on a charge for which she had previously been acquitted on appeal, and in January 2014, she was sentenced to an additional 4 months in prison for tearing up a picture of the King. Zaynab has been repeatedly detained, threatened and abused by Bahraini security forces. In addition to being a leader in the peaceful protests in Bahrain since 14 February 2011, Zaynab has also been on the front lines of documenting the human rights abuses of the Bahraini security forces, including documenting the widespread use of tear gas, bird shot and midnight raids on villages.
MAHDI ABU DEEB - IMPRISONEDMahdi Abu Deeb is the President of the Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA), an independent union of teachers from across Bahrain. After organizing teachers to join the peaceful protests at Pearl Roundabout, Mahdi was one of the people sought in the subsequent crackdown by the authorities. Security forces first came to his home to arrest him on 20 March 2011, but he was already in hiding. On 6 April he was detained, and was beaten on the spot as well as in the police car transporting him to jail. Mahdi was ultimately sentenced by the National Safety Court to ten years in prison, which he is currently appealing. His daughter Maryam spoke to Front Line Defenders about her father in the video here.
When protesters in Bahrain were met with violence and repression starting in February 2011, doctors, nurses, EMTs and other medical professionals did what they were trained to do, as well as what they were obligated to do - treat the injured. Both in hospital and in field clinics, Bahraini medical workers tended to those in need. In an unprecedented step, however, the government sent security forces and ultimately the military into the hospitals to detain the injured, while also shutting down medical facilities and targeting the medics. The Geneva Conventions provide for protection of medical workers under the principle of medical neutrality.
Among a widespread pattern of repression, Bahraini security forces entered and took over medical care facilities - both public and private; interrogated, detained, beat and tortured medical personnel; stole ambulances and posed as medics; established checkpoints outside medical facilities; and abducted medical professionals providing services at field clinics.
In the most egregious case affecting the medical community, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ali Al-Akri was abducted from the operating room at Salmaniya Hospital while performing surgery on March 17.
On 29 September, 20 Bahraini medical professionals were sentenced by a security court. The sentences ranged from five to fifteen years on a range of spurious charges ranging from inciting hatred of the regime to possessing weapons.
UPDATESince the initial verdicts the medics cases have been going through months of appeals and review. On 28 March convictions against most of the medics charged with misdemeanors were acquitted. Earlier, other medics facing more serious charges had their sentences reduced or were also acquitted. However, most of the medical professionals who were arrested during the wave of suppression by the government have yet to be reinstated to their jobs.