photo: Felix Heyder dpa/lnw

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders in Egypt and Bahrain Denounced at the UN

In United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

United Nations Human Rights Council:  Session 15
Item 2:  High Commissioner’s Update- Oral Intervention
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
13 September, 2010
Delivered by:  Laila Matar

Thank you Mr. President,

CIHRS would like to express its sincere gratitude to the High Commissioner and her office for their dedicated and high-quality work on behalf of human rights.

As pointed out by the High Commissioner, attacks on human rights defenders is increasing in severity throughout the Arab region, including in Bahrain, Egypt and Sudan.  In countries like Tunisia, Syria and Libya Human Rights Defenders have almost all been imprisoned, forcefully disappeared, expelled or killed.

A full-blown human rights crisis has developed over the past two months in Bahrain.   On September 4, 2010 Bahrain Television (a government-led TV channel) aired a 31-minute broadcast during which the names of 22 Bahraini individuals, who had been added to a list of suspected terrorists and accused of being involved in an underground terrorist organization, were displayed.  This list included the most prominent Bahraini human rights defenders, bloggers and activists.   Many of these human rights defenders are now in prison and face charges of terrorism.

This aggressive crack down on human rights defenders began on August 3, 2010 with the arrest of Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace. He was arrested upon his return from London, after participating in a seminar in the British House of Lords about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain.  In the proceeding days Abdul-Ghani Al-Khanjjar, Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi, and Jaffar Al-Hisabi were also arrested. All are prominent human rights defenders.

The list of those who have been imprisoned or subject to forms of intimidation is too long to list here but have also included Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.  Mr. Rajab has been living in eminent threat of imprisonment and torture after being accused of terrorism for his engagement at UN human rights mechanisms including this Council in March of this year. .  This Council, and its member states should no longer remain silent on the critical situation in Bahrain ahead of the upcoming parliamentarian elections in the kingdom.

Also, in Egypt, on the 9th of September a Human Rights Defender who is also a researcher at the Cairo Institute, Amr  Salah, was beaten and abducted by state security forces.  He was blindfolded, placed in chains and interrogated for almost 40 hours before being released.    The same occurred to a friend of Amr few hours after the release of the latter. The reasons behind their arrest as well as the governmental body responsible for the abduction and intimidation remain unknown.    CIHRS believes these types of enforced disappearance constitute a dangerous trend in Egypt ahead of the upcoming elections.

Thank you Mr. President

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