Bahrain: Further Smear and Open Attack against Human Rights Defenders

HAQ: Movement of Liberties and Democracy- Bahrain

The Human Rights Bureau (HRB) of the HAQ Movement expresses its concerns about the ongoing smear and defamation campaign waged by state-supported electronic and printed means of publications. Some dailies, in Arabic and English, newspapers as well as electronic forums stage that campaign whenever an international related activity (Report, Press Release, Petition, Seminar, Article) is posted out covering aspects of human rights of violations in Bahrain. The waged smear campaign was focused on Mr Nabeel Rajab, President of (BCHR), Ms Ghada Jamsheer, President of Women's Petition Committee, Dr Abdulla Al-Derazi, Secretary General of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, and Mr Mohamed Al-Maskati, President of Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society.

The latest smear attack was made by an electronic forum, called "Moltaqa (Forum) of Kingdom of Bahrain" addressed as, which came as a result of a visit made by Andrew Anderson and Khalid Ibrahim, representatives of Frontlinedefenders- a Dublin-based organization (FLD) to support and defend human rights defenders in Bahrain and rest of the world[1]. In this posting comments were made on a picture posted on the homepage of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)[2] showing Andrew, Khalid and a number of human rights defenders in Bahrain, were ridiculed, stigmatized with names and considered as traitors.
This is the second attack on Nabeel Rajab by this site in just about a week ago. The previous one was when Andrew and Khalid of FLD first came to Bahrain on 11 December and contained similar defamatory language of being Iranian agent and a traitor against Bahrain[3]. The campaign includes provoking the Authorities to take legal action and prosecute Nabeel on charges of being agent to a foreign country, namely Iran, and also accusing him of receiving outside funds to run his local and international activities. It is worth mention that Mr Rajab has already initiated a legal pursuit against some local dailies which include Akhbar Al-Khaleej and its English partner, Gulf Daily News who published similar defamatory material on their front pages[4]. All previous visits by Nabeel Rajab to the Public Prosecution to initiate a legal pursuits against all forms of intimidation and harassments by phones, SMS messages, emails and posts against his family and himself were infertile.
The moltaqa, also holds another address as, is an electronic forum initiated during the row about what has been locally dubbed as "Al-Bandergate", a documentary report about a secret organization funded by the Royal Court and run by its minister Khalid Ahmed Al-Khalifa, aimed at fomenting sectarian sedition, marginalization of Shia citizens and disfranchising oppositions groups and local NGOs[5]. This documentary report was disclosed in August 2006 by Dr Salah Al-Bander, a UK citizen of Sudanese origin, a former Strategist for the Government of Bahrain, who was dismissed from his post, deported to UK and prosecuted in absentia by the Bahraini Courts. This electronic and other forums, which are financed by the Royal court as per Al-Bander[6], along with a local newspaper, Al-Watan[7], have been established as part of the media program to wage attacks against dissidents and human rights activists, initiate and guide sectarian-based campaigns, polish the Authorities measures against the local NGO's and shed lights on the GONGOS[8] (Government Operated Non-Governmental Organizations) so that they appear as civic organizations[9].
The Moltaqa, in both URLs, is not included in the censorship state-lead campaign to block over a 1000 sites so far, which is being administered by Mai Al-Khalifa, Minister of Culture and Information and member of the ruling family. Mai Al-khalifa tried to justify the war on the sites which contains all forms of dissidence, opposition, human rights and local public sites which allow for views unfavoured by the Authorities to be posted, that her ministry target pornographic and sites of hatred and discrimination. A visit to the Moltaqa would show how abusive the language used in that site, and how fomenting and provocative to sectarian discrimination among citizens, particularly[10] Shia, is. Moreover and although the administrators of this site are known and signed a charter to respect others sects and would not attack others on sectarian basis, no legal measure has been initiated by the Prosecution against them in this respect, a sign meaning that they are enjoying the legal and prosecution impunity, as they are playing the role as prescribed by the Al-Bandergate documentary.
It is evident that this a state-lead campaign to dampen the activism of the human activists in Bahrain who managed to cross borders and establish credible contacts with international NGOs and institutions persistently monitoring the human rights situation in Bahrain, and reporting any form of violations. Since the Authorities are not able to affect those renowned International NGOs, it is trying to settle it down with the activists by imposing as many constraints on their activities which includes the defamatory campaigns, harassments and legal incrimination. These acts are in violations to the UN Declaration of the Human Rights defenders, and in particular Article Two which states that:" Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia, by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields, as well as the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all those rights and freedoms in practice".

Therefore, HAQ calls for:
1-    The Authorities to put an end to the smear campaigns and any form of acts targeting human rights defenders and members of their families, which includes publishing media, posts, sms-messages, emails, etc.
2-    Respect its vows and commitments to human rights covenants and declarations and particularly the Declaration of the Human Rights Defenders.
3-    Recognizing the important role of the human rights defenders, practically allowing them to freely exercise their activities, without any hindrance, and ensuring that this is mandated within the law.

Time: 6pm local time (3pm GMT)
January 22nd, 2010