A letter to the Prime Minister before heading to Bahrain, expressing concerns of Human Rights organizations to put an end to human rights violations in Bahrain

Paris- Cairo June 30th 2011 To the attention of H.E Essam Sharraf Prime Minister of Egypt

Excellency, In view of the official visit that you will pay to the Kingdom of Bahrain on July 4, 2011, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), together with its member organizations in Egypt, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) would like to bring to your attention their great concern about the current critical situation of human rights defenders and political opponents in Bahrain, in the aftermath of the violent and bloody repression of the popular upraising that erupted in February 2011.

On June 22nd 2011, 21 prominent Bahraini human rights activists and opponents to the regime were given harsh sentences by the special military court which was set up to prosecute those who have voiced their opinion and demanded their basic human rights. 8 of them were given life sentences while 13 were given two to fifteen years in prison. The charges given to the activists seem to be an attempt to punish them merely for their political activities.

FIDH, EOHR and CIHRS are deeply concerned by the reports of torture and ill-treatment of those arrested and detained. Our organizations have documented the case of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, former Director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), who was beaten severely and had to undergo major surgery du to his injuries. Despite the heroic display of Mr. Al Khawaja during his hearing, the judges refused to acknowledge his claim of having been subjected to torture. These acts of torture and ill-treatment are not limited to detention centers, but have managed to infiltrate hospitals as well. According to the information we received, in Salamiya hospital, many of those wounded were beaten three times a day.

The Bahraini government did not stop at prosecutions and torture, but has extended its crackdown on its employees as well. There has been a mass firing campaign where 383 workers have been dismissed due to their participation in the protests.

Furthermore, FIDH and its member organizations condemn the ongoing harassment of journalists, doctors, lawyers, human rights defenders and their families, among which FIDH’s Secretary General Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who is currently prevented from leaving the country and remains under threat and harassment by the security forces.

Mister Prime Minister, considering Egypt’s influential position in the region, and the events of the 25-January Revolution, our organizations believe Egypt can set a model for the rest of the Arab countries to uphold international human rights standards. The Bahraini government has announced the opening of a probe into the events of the protests. It should be reminded that this investigation must be thorough, independent and impartial in order to insure that those responsible for the grave human rights violations perpetrated against the background of the protests are held accountable for their actions. At the same time, the Bahraini authorities must put an end to human rights abuses and release without delay all the political opponents arrested in the context of peaceful protests as well as human rights defenders wrongly accused of being terrorists and severely condemned after they organised peaceful awareness-raising and human rights education activities for protesters in the recent weeks.

These recommendations should be seen as a pre-requisite to any sustainable national dialogue between the Bahraini civil society and the authorities.

Sincerely Yours,

Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President Bahey Eddin Hassan, CIHRS Director Hafez Abu Seada, EOHR President

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