In February demonstrations were held after three people were arrested and protesters clashed with security forces. The three arrested – ‘Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, President of the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights; Hassan Mshaima’, a former political prisoner and Head of the radical Shi’a opposition al-Haq Movement; and Shakir Mohammed ‘Abdul Hussain – were charged with “inciting hatred and seeking to change the political system by illegal means” and other offences. They were released on bail the day of their arrest. Court proceedings against them were later dropped at the request of King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa.
In September Bahrain acceded to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Human rights defenders
- Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President of the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was reportedly harassed: he was followed and he and his wife received offensive anonymous phone calls, letters and messages. In March, he was summoned to appear before the Criminal Investigation Directorate apparently for distributing documents related to a report issued in September 2006 by Salah al-Bandar, a UK national and former adviser to the Bahraini government. The report alleged that officials had planned to manipulate the outcome of the November 2006 parliamentary elections at the expense of the majority Shi’a Muslim population. In October 2006 the High Criminal Court had banned publication of any information related to Salah al-Bandar’s report.
- No charges were known to have been brought against Nabeel Rajab.
Freedom of expression
In May some 200 Bahraini journalists held protests outside the Council of Representatives (parliament) calling for greater press freedom and an end to prison terms for press-related offences. The same month the Shura (Consultative) Council unanimously passed a new draft law that excluded prison terms for press-related offences. However, the law had not been promulgated by the end of the year.
At least 22 internet sites, including some known for carrying criticism of the government, remained banned.
The local media was reportedly banned from interviewing Ghada Jamsheer, a woman human rights defender.
‘War on terror’
The two remaining Bahraini nationals still held by the US authorities at Guantánamo – Juma’a Mohammed al-Dossari, a Saudi Arabia resident, and ‘Issa ‘Abdullah al-Murbati – were returned to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in July and August respectively. They were released uncharged by the Saudi Arabian and Bahraini authorities.
At least 11 people were reportedly arrested under Bahrain’s 2006 counter-terrorism law. Six people were released but five, detained in August, were still being held at the end of the year. They appeared in court on 23 October charged with “preparing attacks against another country, membership of a banned organization and financing terror attacks”.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
Following demonstrations on 17 December and subsequently, about 45 people were arrested. Many were released within hours or days, but at least 20 continued to be held at the Department of Criminal Investigations and in the Central Prison in al-Manama. They were held in solitary confinement and kept blindfolded for lengthy periods. Some were tortured during interrogation by security officials, including with beatings and electric shocks to various parts of the body. According to reports, three detainees – Mohammad Khalil al-Madoob, Hussain Khalil al-Madoob and Hussain ‘Abd al-Nabi – alleged that they were tortured in the days following their arrest and had facial injuries apparently caused by beatings when they were seen by their legal representative.
In January a proposed amendment to the 1976 Penal Code to repeal the death penalty for drug trafficking was defeated in the Shura Council. In November the government voted against a moratorium on executions at the UN General Assembly.Two people were sentenced to death for murder: an unnamed Bangladeshi man in January; and another Bangladeshi national, Mizan Noor Al-Rahman Ayoub Miyah, in April.