June 25, 2012
Bahrain Prosecutes Abused Human Rights Lawyer on International Day for Torture Victims
Washington, DC – As people around the globe mark the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture tomorrow, June 26, the Bahraini government will spend it prosecuting human rights lawyer Mohammed Al Tajer, who was tortured by the Bahrainis after he chose to represent and advocate for others abused by the country’s regime. “Putting a torture survivor on trial is certainly an odd way for the Bahrain authorities to mark the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Mr. Al Tajer has defended many others prosecuted by the Bahraini government for their political views, admirable work that has made him a target for similar abuse.” Al Tajer was arrested on April 15, 2011. At that time, he was tortured and detained for three months before being charged in a military court with “spreading rumours and malicious news” and “incitement of hatred towards the regime.” Al Tajer was released on bail on August 6 and his case has since been transferred to a Bahraini civilian court, where he is due to appear tomorrow at 9 a.m. Three weeks ago, a film was posted online showing Al Tajer in bed with his wife. He claims that early last year, Bahraini government officials tried to blackmail him with the tape, but he refused to stop his criticism of the regime’s abuses. In May 2012, he traveled to Geneva with other human rights defenders to take part in the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Bahrain. A few days later, the tape was released on the internet. “It was the National Security Agency who did this,” Al Tajer told Human Rights First. “They still follow me regularly. At first, when they released the tape it was very painful. But, in a way, it was a relief because I had been living with this threat for over a year. And I never compromised my principles. I never gave into the blackmail and never refused to back down on my human rights work.” Bahrain is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Despite that obligation, it has been heavily criticized for using torture. The Kingdom has faced widespread criticism for torture and other abuses, including condemnation from Human Rights First, other leading international NGOs and the commission appointed by its own government last year to report on allegations of human rights violations. Earlier this year, the Bahraini Government told U.N .Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez that he should not come to visit as scheduled in March. Although incidents of torture have been widely documented in Bahrain, there has been no serious attempt to hold those responsible accountable, nor to offer rehabilitation or treatment to survivors of torture. “Bahrain has a serious torture problem,” said Dooley. “The regime allows those responsible to enjoy impunity. Prosecuting a lawyer who was tortured in custody and whose clients include many other torture survivors is simply unacceptable. Bahrain should immediately drop all charges against Mr. Al Tajer and others who continue to face trumped up charges simply for stating their opinion.” For more information about this case or to speak with Dooley, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-370-3323.