Targeting Bahraini Human Rights Lawyer Mohammed Al-Tajer
by Stephen Lendman
Since anti-Al-Khalifa protests began early last year, Al-Tajer was persecuted for defending human rights and denouncing Bahraini repression publicly.
On April 18, 2011, it reported Al-Tajer’s arrest. Twenty “masked and armed (Bahraini) plainclothes men” stormed his house, ransacked it, arrested him, and detained him at an unknown location.
His wife and children were terrorized. His computers, cell phones, and documents were confiscated. His bank account was frozen. He was forced to turn over keys to his law office.
On June 12, he was brought before a military tribunal. His attorneys weren’t informed. He had no legal representation. He was charged with inciting anti-government hatred, engaging in illegal protests, and instigating people to commit violence and harm security forces. He pled not guilty.
On August 7, he was conditionally released. Charges weren’t dropped. He was forced to sign papers saying he wouldn’t participate in “any activity against the country.”
During detention he was tortured and abused. He received international support.
Mrs. Al-Tajer is a physician. She fears arrest for having treated injured protesters.
Following mass winter 2011 arrests, Al-Tajer organized a defense lawyer team to help targeted protesters and others held incommunicado.
On June 5, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights
(BCHR) and other human rights organizations expressed “grave concern regarding the act of humiliation, intimidation and violation to privacy directed at” him.
He was targeted days after his participation at the Bahrain Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meetings in Geneva. Government social media forums and accounts circulated photos and videos of him and his wife online for two days.
He previously testified before the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry (BICI). At the time, he said “he was videotaped sleeping with his wife and that he was threatened that this tape would be made public.”
After being with his wife at his beach house over a year ago, he was threatened. He believes government intelligence agents targeted him.
He was told they installed cameras at his beach house. They videotaped intimacy with his wife. The tape would be aired publicly unless his human rights work stopped.
In January 2011, he was defending opposition activists. He led a “distinguished protest movement inside the court when he withdrew from (proceedings) for lack of fair trial basis.” Forty-five other lawyers followed him. His action highlighted problems in Bahrain’s judicial system.
He wouldn’t be intimidated. He continued his human rights work. During a March 2011 protest, he spoke publicly. He denounced Bahrain’s human rights record. In April last year, he was again threatened. He kept expressing opinions openly.
As a result, he was arrested, detained, held incommunicado, isolated, tortured, and conditionally released on bail after nearly four months confinement.
Proceedings against him continue. On June 26, another hearing is scheduled. Items confiscated last year haven’t been returned. Bahrain’s National Security Intelligence closely monitors his telephone and other communications.
After participating in Geneva’s UPR process last month, he got threatening text messages. They warned against involvement in follow-up Bahrain National Democratic Action Society (BNDAS) discussions weeks later. When intimidation didn’t deter him, a Bahrain Forum government web site played the intimate video.
It was instrumental in inciting sectarian violence and conducting defamation campaigns against anti-regime opponents and activists.
Previously, the government targeted human rights supporters and other activists similar ways. Their privacy was violated. They were threatened and blackmailed.
Female poet Ayat Alqurmozi was shown on social media web sites without her veil. She was arrested. Her photo albums and other personal possessions were confiscated.
In 2008, state security agents conducted a warrantless search of human rights activist Ghada Jamsheer’s home. She was away at an Association for Women’s Rights Development conference. Photographs and other possessions were confiscated.
She’s been repeatedly harassed and abused. She was accused of attacking officers performing their duties. She’s denied access to Bahrain’s media. Charges against her are spurious.
She’s president of the Women’s Petition Committee. It campaigns for women’s rights in sharia courts.
Other human rights supporters and activists feel insecure. Their activities are monitored. They’re threatened and terrorized. Arrests can happen any time. No one’s safe in Bahrain today. State terror is policy. Washington supports it.
Al-Tajer was attacked after other Bahrain UPR Human Rights Council delegates were targeted in pro-government media. They were intimidated. They were called traitors, Iranian agents, disloyal, and other pejoratives.
UN Human Rights Council president Laura Dupuy Lasserre called on Bahrain authorities “not to make reprisals against opposition activitists attending” UPR meetings. They continued anyway.
BCHR, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Bahrain Rehabilitation Against Violence Organization (BRAVO), and Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) want those responsible for state crimes against humanity held accountable.
Al-Tajer conducts legitimate human rights work. They want charges against him dropped. They want authorities responsible for torturing him held accountable.
They want threats, blackmail, and other personal attacks stopped.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders denounced Al-Tajer’s treatment. It said abusing him deters his legitimate nonviolent human rights work.
In 1998, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
It recognizes the legitimacy of human rights defenders, their freedom of association, and right to conduct activities without fear of reprisals. Article 5 (b) states:
“For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups.”
Article 6 (c) states:
“(E)veryone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters.”
Article 12.2 says “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”
Bahrain, other rogue regional states, and Western ones violate international law with impunity. Millions suffer grievously. Many die. Conflict rages. Justice remains distant.
A Final Comment
Previous articles discussed BCHR’s co-founder Abdulhadi Alkhawaja’s human rights work, harassment, imprisonment, torture, and protracted 110 day hunger strike for justice. During its final weeks, he was lawlessly/painfully force-fed.
On May 28, he resumed ingesting food. In a letter to his family, he said refusing it highlighted Bahrain’s appalling human rights record.
His main objective was “freedom or death.” He’s still imprisoned. He expressed gratitude to supporters. His action drew worldwide attention. He denies all charges against him.
He addressed “violations he was subjected to.” They include arbitrary arrest, physical assault, prison isolation, torture, other ill-treatment, judicial unfairness, and denial of all other fundamental rights under international law.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) documented them.
A previous article also addressed BCHR president’s Nabeel Rajab’s arrests and ill-treatment. Prior to his first apprehension, he said:
“Given that Bahrain in essence lacks a judiciary system that is independent and/or fair, and is far from being in line with international standards of a fair trial, I have decided to boycott the trial against myself. The judiciary system in Bahrain, today, is a tool used against human rights defenders and people calling for democracy and justice.”
Several times he was arrested and tortured for exposing human rights abuses and expressing his views freely. On May 5, he was targeted again. On arrival home at Bahrain’s airport, security forces seized, abused, detained him.
He’s charged with “participating in illegal assembly and calling other to join.” He was questioned about “insulting the statutory bodies.”
In late May, he was released on bail. It’s temporary until sentence is imposed later in June. He said he’s committed to “peaceful struggle.” Democratic change is his goal. He expressed anger about America’s complicity with Bahraini crimes.
He committed none, he stressed. Activism got him targeted. Thousands of others were for the same reason. Many more are abused daily.
On June 6, he was rearrested. He was charged with “publicly vilifying Muharraq citizens and questioning their patriotism with disgraceful expressions posted via social networking websites.”
Previous charges include participating in illegal gatherings, calling a march without prior notification, defamation of official authority, and other illegal practices.
In court on June 6, he said:
“I was targeted because I was exercising my right to defend human rights, which is a right that is stipulated by the Bahraini constitution.”
Bahrainis protest daily for fundamental rights they’re denied. Many languish unjustly in prison. Nothing in sight suggests change. Struggling for it risks personal freedom and death.
Rajab, Alkhawaja, Al-Tajer, and other human rights leaders inspire them to continue. Expect commitment that strong to prevail. Sustained courage yields results. Bahrainis believe it and won’t stop protesting for equity, justice, and real democratic change.
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