Reporters Without Borders

Arrests, torture and website-blocking as situation worsens alarmingly

Arrests, torture and website-blocking as situation worsens alarmingly

Published on Tuesday 7 September 2010.
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Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of bloggers and other human rights activists in Bahrain, which is becoming systematic, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

The latest blogger to be detained is Ali Abdulemam, an online activist for the past 11 years and contributor to Global Voices Advocacy, who was arrested on the evening of 4 September after receiving a summons to report to the national security department. The authorities said he was arrested as he was trying to flee the country.

Abdulemam is accused of disseminating false information on BahrainOnline.org, an Internet forum he created. It is one of the most popular Bahraini websites with 100,000 visitors a day, although access is blocked within Bahrain. One of the first Bahrainis to use the Internet for activist purposes, he has criticised Bahrain’s human rights violations in many international conferences.

Under the pretext of combating terrorism, the Bahraini authorities have launched a major offensive against those who speak out about the human rights situation. Reporters Without Borders is particularly concerned about the allegations or torture and mistreatment it has received. The international community, including UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay, must intercede to get these practices stopped.

Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, a Reporters Without Borders partner organisation, is the target of a smear campaign in the government media. After reading in the 5 September issue of the Gulf Daily News that he is regarded as the member of a “sophisticated terrorist network,” he is expecting to be arrested at any time (http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/source/XXXIII/169/pdf/PAGE02.pdf).

Access to dozens of political, religious and free speech websites has been blocked since 13 August and, on 26 August, the prosecutor’s office banned the Bahraini media from providing any independently-reported coverage of the current wave of arrests. So now both the Internet and the media are gagged.

A total of 23 people have been officially detained under a 2006 anti-terrorism law, with the prosecutor’s office deciding to hold them for another 60 days. The real number of arrests is said to be more than 160. Most of those being held are Shiite politicians and activists of different political tendencies who are accused of conspiring and inciting sabotage against the Sunni monarchy.

Four of the first activists to be arrested – Abdul Ghani Al-Kanjar of the Bahraini National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture, Mohammed Saeed of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Jaafar Hisabi and Abdeljalil Al-Singace (http://en.rsf.org/bahrein-unacceptable-arrests-of-human-20-08-2010,38186.html) – say they have been tortured. Al-Singace was reportedly beaten and humiliated, Reporters Without Borders is worried about his state of health.

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