For Immediate Release: November 5, 2012
Washington, DC – Human Rights First remains seriously concerned about the detention of Bahraini human rights defender Said Yousif al-Muhafdah, who was arrested on November 2 in the wake of a new policy banning public gatherings across the kingdom.
Al-Muhafdah, the acting vice president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was reportedly arrested and detained as he tried to assist a 12-year-old boy who had sustained a head injury from a tear gas canister that police fired at protesters in the town of Bilad al-Qadeem. He was detained just days before explosions in the kingdom killed two men. Human Rights First notes that the explosions should be promptly investigated and that those responsible for the incidents should be held accountable.
“Bahrain continues to target leading human rights activists like Said Yousif and to suppress peaceful dissent. Reform seems an increasingly distant prospect,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Despite those challenges, violence – from the Bahraini government or those seeking reform – is not the solution to Bahrain’s problems.”
This is not the first time al-Muhafdah has been detained by police. The human rights defender was also arrested on August 15 for speaking out against the Bahraini government. In this most recent arrest, the Public Prosecutions office declared that they would detain Al-Muhafdah for a week on charges of “illegal gathering.”
Clashes between police and a minority of protestors are increasing. Human Rights First is concerned that al-Muhafdah’s detention is part of a systematic policy of targeting and arresting prominent civil society representatives in an attempt to intimidate human rights defenders from speaking out. For example, Nabeel Rajab is currently serving a three-year sentence for his “involvement in illegal gatherings.” In addition, Hussain M. Jawad, Chairman of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR), has received a summons from the Public Prosecutions office to appear for questioning on November 11.
Last week, in an attempt to further curtail freedoms, Bahraini authorities banned all public gatherings. In doing so, they cited “repeated abuse” of the right to freedom of speech. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed his concern over these restrictions and said that they “could aggravate the situation in the country” and urged the government of Bahrain to lift the ban “without delay.”
The recent demonstrations came as a civil court sentenced three men on charges of insulting Bahrain’s king in Twitter posts. Today two of these men received sentences of four months and one month in prison and last week another man received six months in prison. The fourth man is expected to be sentenced this month.