Advocacy letter

Bahrain: Urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and detention of Mr Mohammed Hassan, Mr Hussain Hubail and Mr Qassim Zain Aldeen

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ARTICLE 19

08 Aug 2013

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To the Special Rapporteur:

We respectfully request that you consider this urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and arbitrary detention by the Government of Bahrain of blogger Mohammed Hassan, freelance photographer Hussain Hubail and freelance cameraman Qassim Zain Aldeen. We request that you urgently intervene to secure their immediate release and declare their arrest and continuing incommunicado detention a gross violation of their human rights, including the right not to be arbitrarily detained as protected by Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 ICCPR. In addition, Mr Hassan was reported to show signs of torture, which is a violation of his rights under Article 7 ICCPR and Bahrain’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

Arrest and detention of Mr Mohammed Hassan

Mr Mohammed Hassan is a 28-year old independent blogger who has been publishing on human rights and politics in Bahrain since 2007. He was arrested and taken from his house by masked security agents at 2:00 in the morning on 31 August 2013.[1] Mr Hassan was not presented with an arrest warrant and his computer and phone were confiscated. He was taken away from his home without any indication as to where he would be taken. Later reports said that Mr Hassan was transferred to Dry Dock Prison, the Ministry of Interior’s short-term detention unit where the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights recently reported an escalation of the harassment of detainees,[2] and that he showed signs of torture. He has not had access to legal counsel and his family has not been notified of his whereabouts.

Allegedly, Mr Hassan is being accused of being a member of the 14 February media group.[3] He has been harassed and detained because of his work several times since the beginning of 2012. In June 2012, he was summoned for questioning about his writing as well as his alleged involvement in the Bahraini opposition. In addition to writing his blog,[4] which he stopped doing on 29 April 2013, Mr Hassan worked as a fixer for several news organisations.

Arrest and detention of Mr Hussain Hubail

Mr Hussain Hubail is a 20-year old a freelance photographer of opposition protests in Bahrain. He was also arrested on 31 August 2013, upon which he disappeared at Bahrain airport.[5] The only sign from him since has been a 36 seconds call to his family, which took place several days after his arrest. His family has not been informed of Mr Hubail’s whereabouts and is concerned he might be exposed to torture. Mr Hubail has also not had access to legal counsel.

Allegedly, Mr Hubail also faces accusations of being a member of the 14 February media group. His work has been published by Agence France-Presse, Voice of America[6] and various other news outlets. Earlier this year, Mr Hubail was awarded a photography prize by independent newspaper Al-Wasat for his photo capturing protesters amidst teargas at a demonstration.[7]

Arrest and detention of Mr Qassim Aldeen

Mr Qassim Zain Aldeen is a 25-year old freelance cameraman who films opposition protests in Bahrain. He was arrested on Friday 2 August and taken to an unknown location. Until this moment, his family has been unable to obtain any information on his whereabouts from the authorities. It is also not known on grounds of which alleged criminal offence Mr Aldeen was arrested.

Mr Aldeen’s work is published by local websites and blogs. He was previously arrested and detained for over 6 months in 2012.

Request for urgent action

Mr Hassan, Mr Hubail and Mr Aldeen were arrested without being shown an arrest warrant and without any indication as to what they were being arrested for. They are being held at undisclosed locations, without access to legal counsel or their relatives. When Mr Hassan was last seen, he showed signs of torture. Whatever the formal charges may be that they face, there are strong suspicions that their arrest and detention is in fact related to their work as independent journalists; Mr Hassan, Mr Hubail and Mr Aldeen all published on matters unfavourable to the Bahraini government and were previously harassed and even arrested because of their work.

The treatment described above is in violation of Mr Hassan’s, Mr Hubail’s and Mr Aldeen’s right not to be arbitrarily detained as guaranteed under Article 9 ICCPR.  To the extent that acts of torture were committed against Mr Hassan and possibly Mr Hubail and Mr Aldeen, this is in violation of their right to remain free from torture, as protected under Article 7 ICCPR. Given that their arrest and detention most likely stem from their work as independent journalists, this also violates Mr Hassan’s, Mr Hubail’s and Mr Aldeen’s right to free expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR.

As a State Party to the ICCPR since 20 September 2006, Bahrain is under an obligation to guarantee these rights to all its citizens, as specified under Article 2(1) of the ICCPR.

Bahrain is under an additional obligation to prevent torture, as specified in Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The signs of torture seen on Mr Hassan may indicate actions contrary to, amongst others, Article 11 CAT. Bahrain acceded to the Convention on 6 March 1998 and therefore is under an obligation to uphold and protect the obligations contained therein. Bahrain has acted contrary to its obligations under CAT before which has been explicitly condemned by the Special Rapporteur on torture, who in called the “appalling killing and ill-treatment of protestors, including those in hospitals, and the targeting of medical personnel and journalists…completely unacceptable.”[8]

In light of the above we appeal to the Special Rapporteur to: 

  • intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Hassan, Mr Hubail and Mr Aldeen, or, if an immediate release is not possible, have the Bahraini government disclose their location and allow them access to legal counsel and;
  • insist that the Bahraini authorities refrain from any and all methods of torture against Mr Hassan, Mr Hubail and Mr Aldeen;
  • declare the arrest and continuing detention of Mr Hassan, Mr Hubail and Mr Aldeen a gross violation of their human rights.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or if we can provide you with any additional information.

Yours sincerely, 

Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN

Nani Jansen, Senior Legal Counsel, Media Legal Defence Initiative