Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) participated in the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, held from 11 September to 13 October 2023.
During these sessions, the organization delivered eight oral interventions under four items, highlighting various human rights violations in Bahrain and Yemen. In partnership with other human rights organizations and male and female human rights activists, it also organized a symposium on the sidelines of the Council’s work, during which they raised concerns about the continued systematic violations against political prisoners in Bahrain and the necessity of their release.
ADHRB delivered five interventions related to the human rights situation in Bahrain under items 4, 5, and 6, and it made three interventions under items 4 and 8, two of which highlighted the violations committed against the Yemeni people.
Under Item 4, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain delivered three interventions during the General Debate on 26 and 27 September 2023.
In its first intervention, the organization delivered an oral intervention, presented in the presence of the human rights activist Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, during which he raised the Council’s concern about the conditions of political prisoners in Bahrain, and the horrific and systematic violations perpetrated by the Bahraini government, without restraint or accountability. He referred to the suffering of hundreds of political prisoners who were forced to undertake the largest hunger strike in the history of Bahrain, demanding an end to the policy of slow murder and putting an end to harsh prison conditions, including the academic Dr. AbdulJalil al-Singace, who has been on an empty stomach battle since July 2021 and was subjected to physical and psychological torture. As a result, ADHRB called on the Council to pressure Bahrain to allow special rapporteurs to visit prisons.
At the same time, the organization delivered another intervention that drew attention to the sharp and serious health deterioration of political prisoners, which led to the detainees undertaking a prolonged hunger strike. It touched on the case of detainee Mohamed Hasan Abdulla al-Raml, a 63-year-old prisoner who has been detained since 2015 and sentenced to life imprisonment. The government ignores his health condition despite him undertaking fourteen hunger strikes. The organization urged the Council to call on Bahrain to release all political prisoners and ensure necessary medical care.
The organization and other partners had an intervention that touched on the effects of the siege on the Yemeni people, drawing attention to UN Security Council Resolution No. 2216 and its impact on the human rights situation in Yemen. During the intervention, ADHRB pointed out that the UN resolution was biased towards one side of the war, which caused a war that included illegal air strikes and an illegal siege that resulted in the deaths of more than 500,000 civilians and the starvation of millions. As a result, she called on the Council to replace Resolution No. 2216 because it has not been applicable since then and only hinders the positive atmosphere of the ongoing peace talks in Yemen.
Under Item 5, ADHRB delivered three interventions on 29 September 2023 during the General Debate.
In the first intervention, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain touched on the reprisals and unfair rulings that individuals cooperating with the United Nations face, namely Dr. AbdulJalil al-Singace, AbdulHadi al-Khawaja, Hasan Mushaima, Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, and Sayed Nizar Al-Wadaei. ADHRB shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the deteriorating health of Al-Singace, Al-Khawaja, and Naji Fateel since the ongoing hunger strike began on 7 August. They have been subjected to acts of reprisals during their imprisonment, including severe and ongoing medical neglect that threatens their lives. She pointed out that Bahrain used spyware, including the “Pegasus” program, to limit activists’ cooperation with the Human Rights Council, which was evident in cases of electronic surveillance against government critics in the lawsuit filed in the United Kingdom by Saeed al-Shehabi and Moosa AbdulAli. The organization held the Bahraini royal family responsible for these retaliatory measures and urged the Council to take immediate action.
As part of its interventions under Item 5, ADHRB drew the Council’s attention to multiple cases of arbitrary detention in Bahrain and the country’s refusal to cooperate with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as it has been denied access to the country since October 2001. It noted that despite Bahrain’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adherence to the treaty is still lacking. Bahrain has developed an oppressive judicial system that systematically targets dissenting voices and uses methods including arbitrary detention, torture, and unfair trials to suppress these voices. She noted that the Working Group made several appeals to Bahrain, confirming the systematic use of arbitrary detention and denial of fair trials and due process. Accordingly, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain reiterated the Working Group’s calls for a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the arbitrary disenfranchisement of Bahraini citizens, and urged that appropriate measures be taken to hold perpetrators accountable.
In light of this, ADHRB and partner organizations expressed their disappointment at the procedures NGOs go through to obtain consultative status, which is an integral part of protecting human rights worldwide. She explained that the Non-Governmental Organizations Committee currently consists of member states that not only allow non-governmental organizations to operate on their territories but also from states that are willing to trade human rights for the sake of a fleeting political or economic interest, others that illegally occupy the lands of others, and states that seek to delay granting advisory capacity for an indefinite period to secure business deals, business contracts or to receive interest-free loans. Based on these facts, she called on the Council to consider these apparent paradoxes and develop procedures to address them.
Under Item 6 during the General Debate, ADHRB delivered an intervention on 3 August 2023.
During its intervention, it raised concerns about Bahrain’s failure and lack of seriousness in fulfilling its obligations under the Universal Periodic Review. Urgent concerns include poor prison conditions and ill-treatment of detainees, as outlined in recommendations 93 and 96. ADHRB also pointed out that Bahrain continues to imprison and torture political opponents and human rights defenders despite recommendations 132 and 37 calling for the protection of peaceful opposition. It indicated that Recommendations 88 and 89 call for reducing the death penalty for serious crimes, but Bahrain fails to implement them fully. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain called on the Council to urge Bahrain to adhere to the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review and ensure their implementation by appointing a special rapporteur in Bahrain.
During the General Debate on 5 August 2023, the organization pointed out that the Saudi-led coalition and all the countries that support it violated the right of the Yemeni people to self-determination, caused the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, and occupied about two-thirds of the territory of Yemen, including Socotra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site now threatened by the establishment of coalition military bases and environmentally destructive commercial projects. She called on the Council to respect Yemen’s sovereignty because the continuation of military operations against Yemen and the restrictions that led to this humanitarian catastrophe will lead to serious repercussions not only for Yemen but also for regional and international stability in general.
A Human Rights Symposium on the Sidelines of the Council’s Work:
On 27 September 2023, on the sidelines of the Council’s work, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, in cooperation with human rights organizations, organized a symposium entitled Silencing Dissenting Voices: The Risks Human Rights Defenders Face in Bahrain. The Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, spoke during the symposium, in addition to women human rights defenders Najah Yusuf, Ibtisam al-Saegh, and Hajar Mansoor.
During her speech, the activist Najah Yusuff touched on her exposure to physical and psychological torture and sexual assault during the investigation period, which lasted for five days, due to her criticism of Bahrain’s hosting of the Formula One race on its soil. She stated that the trial she was subjected to lacked the lowest standards of justice and fairness, which was confirmed by the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which mentioned her case. She also touched on the conditions of women detainees, which prompted her to undertake a hunger strike several times in protest against ill-treatment, and she pointed to the psychological and physical effects of arrest and the unprofessionalism of official human rights institutions and their practice of deception.
In turn, the activist Ibtisam al-Sayegh pointed to the suffering of young convicts despite the issuance of the restorative justice law and the sentences issued against them that exceed their age, in addition to their strike several times in protest against ill-treatment and demanding the most basic rights. She spoke about the targeting of human rights defenders and her own experience with her car being burned due to her participation in the Human Rights Council in 2017. She also highlighted the physical and psychological torture and rape that she was subjected to during the investigation before her recent arrest and the psychological effects that resulted from it for her and her family.
The activist Hajar Mansoor pointed out that she was targeted in retaliation for the activity of her daughter’s husband, the human rights activist Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, and how her son Sayed Nizar was arrested and physically and psychologically tortured to force him to confess, which was confirmed by the team concerned with arbitrary detention. She called on the international community and human rights organizations to press the Bahraini authorities to release him and complete his university studies, which he was denied.
Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei spoke about the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain and the strike of more than 800 prisoners in Jau Prison to protest inhumane treatment. He also touched on the strike of human rights activist AbdulHadi al-Khawaja and the prevention of his daughter, the activist Mariam, from entering Bahraini territory. He also referred to the case of Dr. AbdulJalil al-Singace and the exposure of sixty-five political prisoners subject to unfair trials.
Through its participation in the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain succeeded in drawing attention to the most serious human rights violations in Bahrain, most notably the conditions of political prisoners. It also drew attention to the devastating effects of the continued military war and the unjust siege on Yemenis and urged adherence to the basic principles of human rights and ensuring mechanisms for their implementation.