14 March 2012

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern over the continuous human rights violations against university students in Bahrain. A year after the start of the revolution, university students are still being subjected to injustice, unfair trials, arrests and torture.

On February 14 2011, Bahraini youth started to demand democracy and freedom from the oppressive Al Khalifa regime.Many of these young people were targeted even before the declaration of Martial Law in March, through an attack by government-sponsored thugs on the pro-democracy students at the University of Bahrain (UOB) during a planned protest which took place on March 13 2011. Following the state of emergency, the government targeted students in a fierce crackdown; more than 500 were expelled, many were arrested, tortured and put through sham trials. At least 6 UOB students were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in an unfair trial lacking evidence.

Human chain formed by male students on 13 March 2011 to protect their female classmates from being attacked by government- sponsored thugs (Dr. Mike Diboll blog[1])

As a former professor at the University of Bahrain who was present at the time of the attack on March 13, Dr. Diboll recalls, they were “carrying blunt or sharp-edged weapons including axes, swords, golf clubs, iron bars, heavy chains, and baseball bats.” [2] Students were violently attacked without any protection from university security nor police forces, who only interfered when the attack was over. On that day at least 80 students were wounded and transferred to the nearby health center, although the majority were suffering from suffocation due to teargas. However, there were a few serious injuries. Mohammed Abdulmahdi, a 19 year old Applied Studies student in UOB, was hit on the head with a sharp weapon. It caused him to go into coma for around 100 days. When he woke up, he had lost the ability to speak[3].

Mohammed Abdulmahdi, 19, lost the ability to speak after being attacked by government thugs.

Based on the 13 March incident at the University of Bahrain, the actions taken by the university administration, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Interior, are a clear violation of human rights. There are around 11 cases related to the 13 March incident at UOB. More than a 100 students are being put on sham trials. Human rights violations against students are still ongoing. The cases include:

(1) 6 students sentenced to 15 years imprisonment

6 university students were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of 349,300 dinars (about 925,000 U.S. dollars) in a National Safety Court. The appeal hearing of the 6 university students at the High appeal Supreme Court was on 5 March 2012. Five of these students have been detained for almost a year now:

1. Jawad Al Mahary: 24 years old, law student who was arrested on 29 March 2011. 2. Shawqi Radhi: 21 years old, Business major. Arrested on 26 April 2011 after his house was raided. 3. Jassim Al Hulaini: 19 years old. He studies in the Teachers college and was arrested on 27 March 2011 during a house raid. 4. Jassim AlMukhodher: 20 years old, Teachers college student. He was arrested on 26 April 2011 in a house raid. 5. Yousif Ahmed: 20 years old, arrested on 26 April 2011 after his house was raided. He is a Business student.[4]
They were accused of arson, attempted murder and theft, and in that regard were unfairly detained for almost a year. They were severely tortured and forced into false confession under torture, as confirmed by the BICI report (link to previous statement in Jan 2012).

(2) Al Fardan and Sayed Amjad: accused 8 months after the incident

Mohammed Al Fardan accused of attacking a pro-government student 8 months after the incident. Arrested twice since last year and subjected to torture.

Mohammed Al Fardan and Sayed Amjad Faisal Al Alawi are two students who were charged with causing a student permanent disability. It was based on a video released by the Ministry of Interior more than 8 months after the actual incident took place. Both have been detained for around 2 months. The case is being considered by the Bahrain Third High Criminal Court.

(3) 114 students and university staff on trial

The cases of 114 students and staff accused in 8 cases related to the university incident were combined. The last hearing was on 23 February 2012, where two witnesses who were investigation and inquiry officers from the public prosecution, gave testimonies mostly referred to secret resources.

According to S. Mohsen Al Alawi, some of the accused students were not present in the university on 13 March 2011 and others were from Isa Town campus while events took place in Sakheer campus. Although the defense submitted witnesses' names before the last session, they were denied the right to listen to them which they allowed the public prosecution. S. Mohsen said that “the judge refused the defense request to call upon public figures that stated on Bahrain Television (BTV) that they were present in the University of Bahrain, like the university president and head of Riffa police station” and the case was postponed to 15 March 2012 for the final hearing.

The court was also provided with photos of well-known figures from the university incident who were holding weapons, bars and clubs. Even though criminal procedure law allows the court to accuse new defendants when their relation to the case is proved, the judge did not respond to some of the lawyers’ requests.

This photo was taken on 13 March 2011 during the attack. Red arrows point well-known figures (athletes) who participated in attacking students - Click to enlarge

The report of Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) also confirmed that “In respect of photographic evidence, the Commission did not see any photographs in the university‘s investigative files that established that a particular student had participated in a violent, criminal or disruptive act on the university campus.”

Therefore, Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls for the immediate release of all detained students and putting an end to the ongoing unfair trials. BCHR urges human rights and education-related organizations to pressure the Bahraini authorities to stop the unfairness towards university students and allow them to exercise their right to education.

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[1] Dr. Mike Diboll blog: eye-witness of 13 March 2011 [2] BCHR: Former University Professor's Testimony of March 13 University of Bahrain Incident [3] Video footage of Mohammed Abdulmahdi ((1)) ((2)) [4] BCHR: Bahrain:Treatment of University students at its worst