Political and human rights activists discussed the recent attacks by the Government of Bahrain on public liberties, the arrest of human rights activists, the resumption of torture at an unprecedented scale and the implementation of genocidal policies.

Video: PressTV Photos: bahrainrights.org/flickr

Bahrain press conference 11.00 Tuesday September 7, 10.30 at Abbey Gardens

Quick Links: - LORD AVEBURY Introductory remarks - SAEED SHEHABI: Bahrain Freedom Movement - MARYAM AL KHAWAJA, Bahrain Center for Human Rights - PETER WEATHERBY, Bar Human Rights Committee - HANEEFA SARWAR, Islamic Human Rights Commission

LORD AVEBURY, Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group:

We’re holding this press conference to highlight the sharp deterioration in human rights that has occurred in recent weeks on Bahrain, and particularly the torture being inflicted on detainees when they are held incommunicado for 15 days before they are allowed to see a lawyer. Some have then managed to speak about their treatment and it appears that most of the estimated 200 detainees are being subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Dr Abduljalil al-Singace, head of human rights for the opposition Haq movement, was arrested on August 15 as he got off the plane from London where he had been speaking at a meeting chaired by my colleague Baroness Falkner. When he finally got to say what had been happening to him 12 days later, he told the attorney-general that he had been held in solitary confinement; he had been handcuffed and blindfolded for the whole time; extensively beaten on his fingers and slapped everywhere; refused access to the shower and the toilet, and deprived of sleep. His nipples and ears were pulled and twisted with tongs. Dr al-Singace is disabled, having suffered from polio. Officials took his crutches and wheelchair away at the moment of his arrest, and he was forced to crawl whenever he left his cell for any reason. He was forced to stand for long periods of time, and was compelled to sign documents without being given a chance to read them.

A day later, August 28, according to Human Rights Watch, three other well-known human rights activists, Abd-al Ghani al-Khanjar, Sheikh Said al-Nuri and Sheikh Muhammad Habib al-Moqdad related similar experiences, adding that they had been hung from their handcuffed wrists while being beaten, and witnesses confirmed that there were marks on their hands and feet that were consistent with their evidence. Abd-al Ghani al-Khanjar is spokesperson for the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture, and another regular and welcome contributor to the human rights seminars on Bahrain we hold in the House of Lords, including the one chaired by Baroness Falkner on August 5. It begins to look as though anybody who criticises the al-Khalifa regime or their human rights record at our seminars is treated automatically as attempting to overthrow the government, a charge now made against Mr al-Singace.

At the same time, huge advertisements have been appearing all over the capital saying that the detainees are guilty, obviously funded by the regime, in breach of Article 14 of the ICCPR, which provides that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”

The state-controlled media, including the radio and TV, are also campaigning to persuade the public that the detainees are guilty. The Minister of Justice, a member of the ruling family needless to say, is pressing leading political, religious and social figures including the heads of political societies, to come out with statements supporting the arrests. And of course, there is no way the opposition can express itself but on the streets. There are nightly demonstrations but as the Financial Times reported last Wednesday, anybody who takes part runs a high risk of a beating or disappearance.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on international human rights organisations to demand that systematic torture be ended and the National Security Apparatus be dissolved. Detainees should be allowed family visits, and private meeting with their lawyers. Human rights activists, who are only doing their job, should be released unconditionally. The Anti-Terrorist Law, which allows the arbitrary arrest and detention and unfair trials of peaceful political activists must be repealed. I would add to the BCHR list, that the UN Rapporteur on Torture should be invited to nominate an independent physician who would be allowed access to the detainees, to report on their allegations of torture, and if they are found to have substance, that there should be a further inquiry by an independent lawyer, to ascertain who was responsible.

None of the reforms that are necessary will happen unless Bahrain’s allies join the international human rights NGOs in expressing their concerns. The UK in particular has a role to play, because one of the torture victims, Jaffar al-Hasabi, is a British national. Like the four main activists, he was hung from his wrists, beaten all over, and deprived of sleep. We haven’t forgotten that under the previous Ruler, the torture machine was under the command of a Brit, Ian Henderson, who was never punished for his crimes against humanity. If he had ever been brought to trial, he might have been able to show that he was acting under orders from higher up, and the best way to demonstrate that what is happening in the torture chambers today is not authorised from the top would be to charge the torturers and release the victims. That is what the Foreign Secretary should be demanding in the case of our own citizen.

SAEED SHEHABI: Bahrain Freedom Movement:

I am speaking on my behalf and on behalf of Mr Hassan Mushama, the chairman of the Haq Movement. He is the second, number two defendant or accused, I am the third, Dr Al Singace who was here a month ago is the first accused. What for? What are we accused of? Of trying to overthrow the government, of planning secretly to overthrow the government.

I was implicated in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2007, 2009 and this time. So a person who has been working for the past 30 years, an opponent of the regime must not be called, or must not be accused of being secretly working to overthrow the government. I have called for an end to this era for the past 30 years, openly strongly, without hesitation without fear.

When you see a regime that is a military dictatorship, that destroys all the fabrics of society, that denies the people the right to all sorts of freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of ideology. This regime not suitable to remain. I have called for the removal of the regime.

I have to justify what I am saying. I am talking about the constitution. I am not talking about the royal family. I am calling for the constitution which is oppressive. The royal family’s role we can accommodate in accordance with a written and contractual constitution.

At the moment the regime as it stands is not worth keeping because it does not respect the basic values of international conventions and international ideologies or faiths. This time, prior to the latest attack on civil liberties, we know the regime has been planning it for some time, we know they have been recruiting agents inside and outside, some in this room.

For years we know that they are planning to undermine our cause. Lord Avebury has been a good friend of Bahrain for the past almost 20 years and we have been doing our activities openly, actively, directly without any clandestine operations and we will continue to challenge the government that there is clandestine work, or a terrorist network or any means of terror. When they arrest almost 200 people, they charge only 23 and they can’t produce one gun, where is the terrorism? If they can’t produce one explosive material where is the terrorism.

That is why the ruler said yesterday that there is something that could be viewed as a kind of terrorism, as if he is retracting from the accusation of terrorism - ‘what could be described as terrorism – because he know there is no terrorism. We have not killed a single member of the royal family for the past 200 years. So terrorism against whom? If we are not conducting terrorism against the royal family against whom?

We haven’t had any car bomb or shooting incident. The last one was in 1968 against three British by some leftist movement during the first days of Ian Henderson. Terrorism did not exist in Bahrain and it does not exist. It is only in the minds of the royal family because they believe that opposing the regime is terrorism. Terrorism is when you speak your mind and oppose the regime. According to an understanding between the people of Bahrain and royal family in 1971 following the withdrawal of the British from the Gulf we agreed that we would establish an independent Arab state based on understanding and a contractual constitution which we had in 1973. The royal family did not tolerate late and it lasted for only two years before they abandoned it. And 25 years we suffered immensely under the state security court and state security law. And in 2000 this man came and promised he would create a Plato’s republic in Bahrain and now we can only see a hell on earth, nothing to do with paradise.

Now the good thing this time is that they removed the Iranian element. For the past 30 years we have always been accused that Iran is pushing us. It is an Iranian plot to undermine and to overthrow the government. This time it was noted explicitly by the National Security Agency about then days ago. They said this latest secret organization does not have a link either with Iran or what they called the sleeping cells ready to attack the British and American interests in case Iran was attacked by Israel. So at least they said this time it is not linked to Iran so thanks God, it is bounty to them this time.

So where does that leave us if we are not linked to Iran and if we are not linked to Israel or to America or to Britain? They agreed that we are locally born, home grown opposition that has been there for the past 30 years – in fact since 1922 calling for the same thing. Since they didn’t produce the smoking gun it means that terrorism doesn’t exist and anyone who repeats it is only fooling himself.

We are, and Mr Mushaima has said it himself, that he is adopting a civil resistance movement. He said it openly in Bahrain and openly and outside. He has distributed books and delivered lectures on the tactics of civil resistance and disobedience. But civil resistance is not terrorism but because it undermines the status quo and the viability of the regime we will continue to be called and named terrorists. It is fashionable to call people terrorists. But I know for a fact that charges that have been made against those innocent people cannot stand in a court of law. It simply doesn’t stand.

Further more I hope that in the next few weeks, hopefully in the near future, we will turn the tables on the regime and start accusing them and with the help of good people we will bring them to justice in the international courts because they are torturers, they are criminals, they are adopting genocide against the natives of Bahrain. And we have a lot of evidence to support us. We have testimonies that can stand in a court of law against them as being war mongers and carrying out war against humanity because torture is bad, torture is illegal and the extent of torture this time has surpassed any level before when you have a crippled man like Dr Singace with his crutches removed for two weeks and made to crawl from his cell to the toilet that is a crime against humanity.

When you have a man like Jaffar Al Hasabi a UK national being hung from his hands and his feet in two separate ways that is a crime. When you leave Mr Al Hasabi blindfolded in his cell for two weeks with his hands handcuffed behind his back and deprived of sleep because they bring other detainees and torture them next door and make him hear the cries of these people all night, these are crimes.

Burning a tire in the street is not terrorism. There have been riots in every country, in France. Some years ago after a policeman was released after being accused of killing an Irish demonstrator he was released before he ended his term, there were major riots and 200 cars were burned in one night. We do not have that sort of thing in Bahrain. The most we have is a tire burned in the street. If that is terrorism I think we have to redefine international concepts and values.

Jaffar Al Hasabi is a British national, he deserves to be protected by the state. The British ambassador in Bahrain is urged to take action to bring him out. He is innocent. He has not carried out anything. Any activity he has carried out was here. He only goes to Bahrain for two or three weeks with his family and he comes back. And he has no activity whatsoever in Bahrain. He would be here with us today filming this event and just distributing leaflets like any ordinary young activist. If that makes him a criminal then we have to review the whole human values. Jaffar Al Hasabi is an innocent prisoner of conscience that deserves the help and support of everyone of you. If there is a degree of humanity inside us we have to do something. We have to call on the ambassador to intervene and to bring him out. I believe that if the British ambassador in Manama wants him released he can bring him out today. I know that. And if he doesn’t bring him out today we have to question how much defense we get for our people here when we get into trouble.

Just to show the extent of the inhumanity of our regime they have said that Hassan Mushaima has run away. He was sent by the Ministry of Health for cancer treatment two months ago. He came officially as a patient at the Royal Marsden. After three doses of chemotherapy - he had to six doses - he received a phone call from the Ministry of Health that they would not be paying his expenses and he has to return to Bahrain immediately. This morning he went to the hospital which showed him a letter which said that from tomorrow the payment to Mr Hassan Mushaima will cease. So for the past two weeks he has been here without being paid for treatment. He consulted the doctor about returning and the doctor said that he cannot fly. If he flies he will get a stroke. That is also documented. It is up to you to decide what sort of a regime you are talking about.

Hassan Mushaima:

When I came here the king himself sent me thousands of pounds just to stop my activities. I refused that money. So now I became a terrorist. When I came I was a citizen. Then I commented about what is happening in Bahrain on tv.

Saeed Shehabi:

So three weeks ago he deserved to be paid money and a month later he became a terrorist.

Lord Avebury:

In any country in the world which professes to be a democracy it is possible for the people to change their government. Bahrain is unique in the sense that although they have elections the government remains the same. You get the same Al Khalifa's in charge of the families. Something like two-thirds of them come from the royal family and are not elected in any way. The voters in the October elections which are coming up no will be able to alter that system. These people are appointed by the ruler. You can't call that a democracy. If you say furthermore that the people are not entitled to work for changing that system and if they do work for the change of that system they are terrorists then I despair of any progress in Bahrain. On one occasion when I went to see the king at his invitation I said to him democracy is not a static process where you reach a particular state of affairs and you say thank you very much it is all done. It is progressive and in any country in the world where you have a genuine democracy there are changes taking place all the time. Changes in the constitutional mechanisms, changes in the processes of elections as people refine and improve the system. Only in Bahrain do you have certain changes implemented following the access to power by this ruler and then no further progress has been made since then whatsoever. If you are trying to make progress and changes, like Dr Shehabi and Mr Mushaima then you are a terrorist. That is the system that you have in Bahrain.

MARYAM AL KHAWAJA, Bahrain Center for Human Rights:

I actually just flew into London last night. I am here representing the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. I want to talk about my personal experience having just come from Bahrain.

People in Bahrain, particularly human rights activists live in constant fear. Around 3.30am you will find that most activists are awake as they are waiting to see if its their turn to get arrested. When you are in the car you make sure you lock the car doors because if they come for you you will at least have time to make a final phone call. So there is a constant situation of fear that people are living under.

I have been working on the cases of the detainees and of course I also want to talk about the kidnappings. The kidnappings differ from the arrests. What happens is that someone will get picked up in the street by the security forces. They will disappear for two or three days and then they will be thrown on the curb somewhere after being abused and beaten.

I myself interviewed one of the victims of these kidnappings. He was even a Saudi national, he was not even a Bahraini. He was walking towards his car from a coffee shop and he was taken, blindfolded for the whole two days that he was kept. He was beaten severely, they kept threatening him with sexual abuse and made him listen to cries of other people being tortured and supposedly sexually abused as well. And he was thrown half naked in the street.

Part of the procedure, what they do is that they will take a person's clothes off completely, take pictures of him completely naked and threaten to publish these pictures all over the country.

As for the defendants that are being kept. According to Bahraini law people have to be charged with a crime or released. And you are also innocent until proven guilty. But according to the state security law or the counter terrorism law which was released in 2006 they can also keep someone incommunicado for 15 days before presenting them before the public prosecution. This gives way to torture and ill-treatment. After they are presented at the public prosecution which has been the case with the detainees now, they are allowed to extend that detention by another sixty days, which puts them right back in the hands of the torturers. This is exactly what his happening with the detainees today.

After the detainees went to the public prosecution and made all the complaints of torture and mistreatment they were actually placed right back to where they come from for another 60 days. And we fear for their lives, we fear for their well-being, they are not allowed to see any physicians or doctors.

According to different human rights organisations the government has to throw out any forced information for indictment in court. But in the public prosecution office when a detainee makes a statement he tries to tell the attorney general of the torture they will not allow that to be recorded in the papers describing what transpired during the meeting This is the opposite of what is supposed to happen. They are not even writing down the complaints of torture.

The charges that have been filed against these detainees, especially the one concerning over throwing the government, can lead to execution if they are convicted. There is also fear for the lives of these detainees and what might happen to them if they are convicted of these charges.

On August 26th there was an order issued by the public prosecutor which comes after the defamation campaign in the local media. You have the local media are writing articles about all these defendants who haven't even been to court. They are talking about how they are already criminals, or how they are already terrorists and how they are funding all the terrorist activities in Bahrain.

And the moment these so called terrorists are taken to the public prosecution office and make complaints about torture a gagging order is issued saying that no one is allowed to publish anything about the topic. The people who are working for human rights have access about information about what is happening to these detainees. But as soon as they have access to this information the gagging order is issued.

Of course we consider these detainees to be prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. We have reason to believe that a lot of them are being subjected to sexual assault. Of course these are not documented because the detainees have asked that this is not documented for personal reason. But we have reason to believe that most of them are being subjected to sexual assaults.

And there are almost daily statements issued by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights on our website. You are more than welcome to visit our website to get more information. We know that what we are is based on facts. There is no evidence to convict the defendants. We invite you all to visit Bahrain and see what is happening first had. Thank you very much.

LORD AVEBURY:

I would like to congratulate the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights on their website because it is a model of clarity. It does give all the information. They get details of all the human rights abuses and they put them up very promptly. If you want to know what is going on in Bahrain it is all there.

PETER WEATHERBY, Bar Human Rights Committee:

Thank you very much for the invitation for me to say a few words at this press conference. My name is Pete Weatherby. I am a barrister in independent practise. I specialise in human rights at Garden Court North Chambers in Manchester. I am a member of the Bar Human Rights Committee for England and Wales which is an independent arm of the Bar of England and Wales and in that guise I travelled to Manama in early July to observe a number of so-called special trials, trials of protesters that were taking place at that time to consider the application and adherence to human rights standards that the Bahrain government has signed up to. In particular I went to observe two trials.

Whilst I was there I was asked by a local human rights groups to meet with the relatives of ten of the men that were then on trial and to hear allegations of mistreatment of those detainees. I of course agreed to that and I asked that I see them serially, one at a time. I listened to and spoke with the mothers, the fathers, the wives, the relatives of several of the detainees for several hours.

And what I was told about the mistreatment of these detainees was truly shocking. Their accounts were consistent and their accounts were of severe beatings, hanging by the wrists by handcuffs, electric shocks, in some cases sexual abuse or certainly the threat of sexual abuse and other forms of mistreatment of the most serious nature.

I was also provided with photographs of some of the detainees which showed injuries which were consistent with some of the allegations being made. I had no method of verifying those claims and so I asked if I could see detainees who had been released to discuss with them the treatment they received previously and that I did. I found that their descriptions of treatment whilst they were in detention were similar to those which I had heard from the relatives of the detainees.

And I also spoke to the lawyers who represented detainees and again they could confirm from their knowledge of the detainees that these were allegations of systematic mistreatment which were bearing on each of these cases and that they had seen injuries which were consistent with the allegations that were made.

I then set about trying to speak to the public prosecutors and the Ministry of the Interior and I did so. I was able to speak to one of the senior prosecutors who told me a very different story and that no such mistreatment was taking place in Bahrain. I spoke to several officials from the Ministry of the Interior including Major General Tariq Bin Dena who is now the chief of public security and again there was a complete denial of mistreatment of detainees. And they went so far as to say that the allegations were made up for political gain.

The verification of the individual allegations that I heard was not straight forward but what is straight forward is that the detainees were regularly being held without access to lawyers, without access to doctors and the allegations that were being made were not simply persistent, they were pervasive. They were being made in just about all of the cases that I had gone to observe and of the cases that I had seen.

I discussed these allegations with officials from the Ministry of the Interior. I made a series of recommendations. I suggested they institute a truly independent inquiry into the allegations and a human rights complaints body which could investigate ongoing complaints and I discussed other measures which would make torture and mistreatment more difficult in the future.

I also met in Manama with representatives of the US and British embassies to inform them of the matters I had observed and heard about and I maintained that contact because of the current situation since I returned from Manama.

On August 5th as many of you know I was pleased to accept an invitation to speak at a seminar here. As we all know three people from that seminar have now been detained and there are serious allegations of mistreatment amounting to torture.

In particular Dr Al Singace has been held without access to a lawyer. Once again the same allegations being made – without access to his family and without access to an independent lawyer. I understand through his lawyers that there are serious allegations of mistreatment amounting to torture in his case. He has been charged with offences which amount to trying to overthrow the state. He is also charged with having contact with and working with international organisations. That you may think is a charge which falls entirely without any possible definition of a terrorist act and is an offence which is unknown in most countries.

It also emerged that the pro government newspapers in Manama, in particular Al Watan, that the arrest of Dr Al Singace was linked to his appearance at the August 5th seminar. That is a matter of public record which any of you can verify from an internet search.

One of the disturbing reports from Dr Al Singace case and no doubt that of the others, is that he has been forced to sign statements under mistreatment in detention. This was a consistent feature that I observed in the trials in July. In the main trial seven out of seven of the convicted defendants had made what were hotly disputed confessions allegedly under torture and that was the main evidence in those cases. A lack of access to lawyers, a lack of access to family members and independent doctors of the sort of obvious pointers to the allowing of that kind of activity to continue.

The Bahraini government may be facing widespread civil unrest but there are no excuses for flagrant abuses of human rights standards to which it has signed up. I note that prior to the coming into force of the 2006 anti terrorism legislation under which these detainees were apparently held and charged it was roundly criticised by the UN Human Rights Rapporteur on several grounds, chief of which was the broad definition which the legislation gave to terrorism involving under the definition of the legislation acts which did not endanger lives and did not intend to injure anybody. It gave an overtly broad definition of terrorism. It was criticised by the Special Rapporteur on the basis that the new law would restrict the right of association and assembly and it would criminalise peaceful protests and it would affect due process of law by giving the public prosecutor excessive powers to detain, effectively incommunicado without recourse to a court and without recourse to review by a judge or anybody else.

What is needed from the Bahraini government is a firm commitment to respect the human rights standards to which it has signed up. It has signed up to the main conventions against torture and for the protection and furtherance of human rights and it needs to respect that position.

It must institute a truly independent inquiry into the pervasive allegations of human rights abuses including torture. It must make a commitment to respect fundamental aspects of Bahraini law, never mind international human rights law to access to independent doctors and lawyers from an early stage of detention.

It must respect the right of citizens to peacefully oppose the government, to respect the right of political opponents, human rights defenders and lawyers and it must respect the right of the press to report what is or maybe going on in the kingdom free from arrest, detention and prosecution.

LORD AVEBURY:

Thank you very much. I think there is a movement in Geneva I think to institute a regular procedure of review a year after the universal periodic review. That would be particularly good in the case of Bahrain because many of the things were raised in the periodic review. There isn’t at the moment a fixed procedure for following those up. I believe that we should be calling for such a mechanism and that it would have a particular role in the case of Bahrain where all these things that we have been describing this morning have been happening very recently.

And you could get another three years to elapse before the next universal periodic review in which no one in Geneva would pay attention to these events accept of course of Bahrain was willing to invite the special rapporteur on torture to come back for another visit which I can’t see them doing at the moment. Thank you very much for your report Peter and lets see how we can take the recommendations that you have made and follow them up with our foreign office.

HANEEFA SARWAR, Islamic Human Rights Commission:

We from the Islamic Human Rights Commission are deeply concerned by the recent crackdown in Bahrain where according to reports in excess of 200 people have been arrested and detained under the 2006 anti terror law. As well as prominent activists, common people who are not politically active are also picked up, blindfolded, taken to unknown locations and brutally tortured and then thrown back on to the streets.

I’d like to bring your attention to two individuals in particular, the first being Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Haq Movement, who was arrested on 13 August, as he and his family returned to Bahrain after addressing a meeting at the House of Lords. Dr Al-Singace was permitted to meet his lawyers for the first time last week, which is how details of his treatment have been revealed.

Al-Singace has described to his lawyers the brutal torture he endured which included the following: • being kept in solitary confinement for a fortnight, his crutches and wheel chair were taken away from him and he was forced to stand for hours on one leg because of the paralysis in his other leg, • he was stripped naked and beaten repeatedly, • the masked torturers used electric shock devices and metal tongs which they attached to his ears and nipples, • he was repeatedly slapped across the face and ears till he partially lost his hearing, • he was forced to listen to the screaming of other prisoners who were being tortured • and he was forced to sign statements written by the authorities. Others who were arrested have subsequently been hospitalized as a result of their treatment in detention. These include Shaikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, a religious scholar, human rights activist and president of Al-Zahra charity; Abdulghani Khanjar, the official spokesperson for the Truth and Justice coalition; and Abdulhadi Alsaffer.

The second individual who’d I’d like to bring your attention to is Jafar Al Hisabi, a 39 year old British citizen with a wife and 5 children, the youngest of whom is 5 months old. Jafar sought asylum in the UK in 1995 after being imprisoned by the Bahraini authorities. In July of this year he went to Bahrain with his family, whilst his family was in Bahrain he went on a customary religious pilgrimage to Iran. Upon his return to Bahrain on the 16th of August he was arrested and is currently still in detention. After two weeks of detention he was taken to the public prosecution and then given access to a lawyer. Similar to Dr Al Singace, Jafar also endured horrendous torture which included: • He was tied in the Falaqa position, which is when the hands and feet are tied together to a wooden stick, and then the stick is raised so that the detainee is hanging, similar to an animal roasting on a spit fire during medieval times • Whilst in this position he was beaten repeatedly on his hands and feet • He was then hung from his hands, so that his whole body weight was held by his wrists • He was repeatedly beaten all over his body so that now his legs are completely black with bruises • He has lost feeling in both his hands and feet • He was made to listen to the cries of other detainees whilst they were being tortured.

According to the lawyers, prosecutors have charged the defendants with various crimes under the 2006 counter terrorism law and the penal code. The broad and ambiguous language of the 2006 counter terrorism law and the penal code allow the government to criminalize the basic rights to freedom of expression and association.

The use of such brutal torture by the Bahraini authorities clearly violates numerous articles within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Bahrain is a party. Article 9 of the ICCPR states that ‘anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him,’ and ‘shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power.’ This Article was clearly breached since these rules were not followed by the Bahraini authorities. Bahrain has also signed the Convention against Torture, which prohibits torture and other ill-treatment under all circumstances and prohibits the use of statements made as a result of torture as evidence in legal proceedings.

It’s also extremely alarming when a British citizen is brutally tortured and this government acts mutely and worse still according to news reports, the British ambassador to Bahrain who recently met with Bahraini officials, praised the security services for their actions during this recent crackdown. It is outrageous and unacceptable that Britain, a country which goes to war in order to bring ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to other lands, acts impotently when one of its own citizens is alleging torture and cruel treatment.

Violent measures to suppress the work of human rights defenders will be counter-productive and lead to increased violence and unrest. Until the key issues of civil and economic inequalities experienced by the Shia majority are addressed there will be no progression towards a harmonious society.

Bahraini authorities have an obligation to investigate the accusations of torture and prosecute the guilty parties responsible for the authorisation and act of torturing.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission calls for all allegations of torture to be independently investigated, and those found guilty of authorising and carrying out the act of torturing be brought to justice. We also demand the release of British citizen Jafar al Hisabi and his repatriation to Britain as soon as possible. The Islamic Human Rights Commission has written an open letter to : the UN Special Rapporteur on situation of HR defenders and Khalifa bin Sulman Al Khalifa, prime minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain Press releases and action alerts can also be found on our website www.ihrc.org.uk, I have also brought some of these with me today, which will be handed out. Thank you for your time and I hope that we can achieve our aims of ensuring freedom and equality to those who have been brutally deprived.

LORD AVEBURY:

Thank you very much. I wonder if it is possible that the work of the Islamic Human Rights Commission could be make known to the people of Bahrain via the BCHR website, especially human rights defenders. I think the people in Bahrain would like to know they are not by themselves. There are other people who are attempting to get something done about the situation. I am sure they would be very happy to learn that the Islamic Human Rights Commission is going all this work on their behalf.

PROFESSOR RODNEY SHAKESPEARE:

There is the diabolical behaviour of the Bahraini regime which is full of dirty medieval torture. But just as evil is the obvious complicity of the American and British governments. In the case of the British government the evidence is firstly the failure to follow up the attacks in London and a very serious case of arson.

And secondly the complete failure to issue any form of open, clear public statement to condemn the torture in Bahrain. We are in London, we have a government and our government must stand up and openly condemn the barbarous medieval torture going on in Bahrain.

KAREN DABROWSKA:

You have in front on you an envelope with press releases. And if you look at who has been issuing these press releases its like a who's who of international human rights organisation condemning what is going on in Bahrain.

It is very clear that despite all these press releases, despite the fact that everybody knows, and the Al Khalifas know that everybody knows what they are doing they keep on torturing people. And they don't care because they get away with it and we can sit here and make conferences and they do what they do.

The only way to stop the torture is to make them afraid. And how to make them afraid? The only way to make them afraid is to make them afraid for themselves because it is going to affect them.

So the idea now is to set up an International Committee to bring Bahraini torturers to justice. We hope very much that Lord Avebury will honour us with membership of this committee. And we have also spoken to some other people so slowly we are getting members. We want members especially from Canada, the USA, India, Britain, Asia, Africa to emphasise that it is not just something that Westerners have got bees in their bonnet about. It is something that concerns people all over the world.

So what are we going to do? Hopefully in the long term we can bring a case before the International Criminal Court against the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of the National Security Agency.

But closer to home is the ambassador. We actually have many testimonies from people for whose torture this ambassador was responsible and Redress if very keen to pursue this so we are going to start closer to home with the ambassador.

We also hope to write to the Foreign Secretary to make him aware of the kind of person that they have actually accredited as an ambassador to Britain. All ambassadors are vetted and I know that in the case of some ambassadors the British have said we don't want these people. They have asked some embassies like the Israeli embassy to remove certain individuals so we really want this guy gone very soon.

Also there is the genocide convention which talks about certain communities are targeted and under the genocide convention what has been happening to the Shia in Bahrain can certainly be raised.

And also there are prosecutions. We can inform the Crown Prosecution Service when members of the Bahraini regime visit London and we can lodge a case with them and they can be arrested.

So that is how we want to start because unless these people feel that they themselves are going to be affected we can issue hundreds of press statements and hold many conferences and they will continue doing what they are doing.

And finally with regard to Jaffar. I have actually worked with Jaffar on a website and he is the kindest most gentle man you could meet. If he were here today he would be welcoming all of you with his wonderful smile.

And just something to finish. We were working on the website of the Gulf Cultural Club and one day Jaffar called me and said you know Karen there is not enough bad news on this website. You didn't put a story about the violation of human rights for more than a week. And I said well okay Jaffar are we manufacturing news or are we presenting an objective picture of what is happening in the Gulf? No all that happens in the Gulf is bad so when something good happens in the Gulf we will put in on our website. And when there are human rights violations we will put that on the website as well. Jaffar said 'thank you very much' and he agreed. So his not someone who just yells and shrieks and says bad things about Bahrain. He is actually willing to admit that some good things happen in Bahrain. And because of his confidence, I don't know in whom, he actually went there because he wasn't doing anything wrong. And this how he was rewarded.

So we have all the emails of the people here. As our committee gets under way we really hope for your support. Thank you very much.

LORD AVEBURY:

I think it is a particularly good idea to have the ICC brought into the picture and in order to do that your new need the benefit of legal advice. I don't know whether the Bar Human Rights Committee would be able to look into whether we have the evidence....

PETER WEATHERBY:

The short answer is yes, Lord Avebury.

LORD AVEBURY:

Wonderful, there you have it. You have got the expert advise to judge which of the crimes committed by regime would come within the remit of the ICC and that would be an extremely good start.