Bahraini women’s rights defender arrested again


Ghada Jamsheer

From the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights:

Bahrain: Women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer released and immediately re-arrested

29 Nov, 2014

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) express serious concern over the re-arrest of women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer in Bahrain, hours after she was released from 10 weeks imprisonment. She was returned to jail just days before International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November.

On 27 November 2014, Jamsheer was released after two and a half months in jail, only to be re-arrested on charges of “assaulting a police officer” within hours of her return home to her daughter and mother, who have been suffering greatly from her absence. The police officer claims that the alleged assault by Jamsheer was during her stay in prison within the month of September. Jamsheer was not informed of such a case and no investigations were done based on such a charge before.

The BCHR and the GCHR express its concern about the judicial harassment against Jamsheer and believes that this kind of harassment is merely aimed at deterring human rights defenders from their human rights activities. It is similar to the experience of Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was charged in September with allegedly assaulting a police woman after she was arrested at Bahrain’s airport, even though she herself suffered a torn shoulder muscle and did not resist. (See: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/767)

On 29 October 2014, Jamsheer appeared before the Third Lower Criminal Court on charges of defamation via twitter. She was first arrested on 15 September. While she was acquitted in one case, fined 100 Dinars in another case, and granted bail in a third case upon the payment of 50 Dinars, she remained in detention on two other defamation charges for two and a half months. The court postponed the hearing of those two cases until 24 November 2014, two days after the parliamentary elections. Then on 27 November, Jamsheer was released only to be re-arrested on trumped up charges.

Jamsheer is a well-known women’s rights defender who is President of the Women’s Petition Committee (WPC), a network of Bahraini women human rights defenders who campaign for the codification of Bahrain’s family laws and their reform. She was summoned for interrogation on 9 September 2014 in relation to her tweets about corruption at King Hamad University Hospital, headed by a member of the ruling family. She continued tweeting after that and up until her arrest six days later. (See: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/749)

The BCHR and the GCHR believe the arrest and prosecution of Ghada Jamsheer is in direct violation to her right to freedom of expression. We therefore call for her immediate release and for all the charges against her to be dropped.

The BCHR and the GCHR respectfully remind the Bahraini government that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

Also we remind the Bahraini government of the following:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states under:

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Bahrain’s Sunni ruling elite is naturalizing Sunnis en masse to dilute dissent among its majority Shiite population and bolster its security forces. Whether this amounts to demographic engineering or ethnic cleansing, the implications are grave and far-reaching: here.

As the Bahraini authorities continue to violate human rights and target rights defenders, the United States should leverage the re-admission of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski to Bahrain as an opportunity to ask the Bahraini government to fulfill their international human rights obligations: here.

Bahraini pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja has been sentenced to three years in prison for tearing up a picture of King Hamad during a court hearing: here.

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