Bahrain: Sentencing and continuing judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer
November 30, 2015
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing and continuing judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, Head of the Women’s Petition Committee, an organisation which campaigns for the rights and dignity of women in the Shari’ah family courts.
According to information received, on November 26, 2015, the High Criminal Appeal Court upheld the one year sentence, suspended for three years, issued against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer on charges of “assaulting a police officer” (see background information). The Court refused all the requests of the defense lawyers, which included the testimony of Ministry of Interior officials and a forensic examination of whether Ms. Jamsheer could have kicked the police officer as alleged.
The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing and the continuous judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning her human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against her.
Over the past years, Ms. Jamsheer has come under permanent surveillance with a 24-hour presence of plainclothes Public Security officials of the Ministry of the Interior in front of her home.
On September 14, 2014, Ms. Jamsheer was arrested and arbitrarily detained for more than three months on allegations of defamation, in connection with messages posted via her Twitter account criticising corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain, which is run by members of the ruling family. Various charges were brought against Ms. Jamsheer based on the above-mentioned Twitter posts resulting in twelve criminal cases.
Hearings in a total of 12 criminal cases against Ms. Jamsheer have been regularly adjourned without any reason, in violation of Ms. Jamsheer’s right to be tried within a reasonable time.
On October 29, 2014, the Third Criminal Court acquitted Ms. Jamsheer in one case, fined her 100 BHD (approx. €210) in another case, and granted bail upon the payment of 50 BHD pending the decision on the other Twitter cases. However, Ms. Jamsheer had to wait until November 27 to be released, and was again rearrested only 12 hours later on new charges of “assaulting two police women”. She was again released on December 15, 2014, and further put under house arrest until January 15, 2015.
On May 5, 2015, the Bahrain High Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Jamsheer to a one year prison term, suspended for three years on charges of “assaulting a police officer”.
On June 9, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Jamsheer to one year and eight months imprisonment on charges of defamation in connection with messages posted via her Twitter account criticising alleged corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain. Ms. Jamsheer paid a bail of 400 BHD (approx 1,200 USD) and filed an appeal.
Besides, on October 1, 2015, the Second Lower Criminal Court held its first hearing against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer on charges of “verbal and physical confrontation with a police woman”. The Court then adjourned the hearing to November 11, 2015. On that day, Ms. Jamsheer’s lawyers requested the Court to present evidence and witnesses, and the court adjourned the hearing to December 28, 2015. The Prosecution alleges that Ms. Jamsheer assaulted a police officer while she was detained in September 2014.
In the present, separate case, for allegedly “assaulting a police officer”, for which she has been sentenced in first instance to one year in prison suspended for three years, the High Criminal Court of Appeal had refused on October 29 the requests filed by Ms. Jamsheer and adjourned the hearing to November 23 for the verdict. The ruling was eventually issued on November 26.
The Observatory recalls that on December 29, 2014, UN experts urged the government of Bahrain to drop charges against Ms. Jamsheer, as she was sentenced “purely for [her] criticism of government authorities. […] Such criticism is not only fully legitimate according to Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law; it is also essential to the free and public debate necessary for a healthy civil society” they added.
Furthermore, Ms. Jamsheer has faced other acts of harassment. For instance, on March 14, 2015, Ms. Jamsheer was denied the right to board on a plane at Bahrain International Airport by the airport’s security office as she attempted to travel to France to receive medical treatment. Ms. Jamsheer, who did not receive any prior notification, was not given any reason for the travel ban. On March 23, 2015, Ms. Jamsheer complained to the Public Prosecutor’s office regarding the travel ban and was informed that she should submit a travel request to the High Criminal Court. The Court reviewed her request on April 12, 2015 and decided to waive the travel ban, stating that there was no solid reason for such a restriction. Nonetheless, on April 15, 2015, the office of the Public Prosecutor was still unable to provide Ms. Jamsheer with a formal authorisation to travel, stating that the file was now in the hands of the immigration office.
Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer;
ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
iii. Guarantee Ms. Ghada Jamsheer’s freedom of movement;
iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its :
– Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
– Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”,
– as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or 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”;
v. Ensure in all circumstances, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
- Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
- Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: 00973 17 21 05 75; email@example.com
- Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284
- Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: email@example.com
- H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Avenue Louise 250, 1050 Brussels, Belgium; Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail: Brussels.firstname.lastname@example.org