Summary of events on August 14th

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Click here for the live blog which has all videos, pictures and more from the day.

 

In brief:

  • At least 18 arrests
  • 60 protests across 40 areas, including Manama
  • Heavy police presence deployed
  • Several injuries from tear gas and bird shot
  • Internet tampered
Protests began Bahrain yesterday at around 6am in villages across the country. They continued in a series of waves until late evening. 

The demonstrations took several forms, from marches, to human chains, to sit-ins, following guidelines for "cumulative action" released by the February 14 Youth Coalition. A heavy security presence was reported in multiple villages. Although this failed to deter the protesters, it enabled the government to largely contain the demonstrations, buttressed by checkpoints and the barbed wire fences and security barriers police had erected on Tuesday

By noon, opposition AlWefaq reported that it had counted 60 protests in 40 different areas. Around 3pm, citizens began staging sit-ins outside their homes. At the same time, the Tamarrod (Rebellion) movement called for a protest at Seef Junction. However, the area was under heavy police blockade and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights reported the arrest of 5 women there. Several demonstrations were also seen in the capital Manama, despite the ban on protests there which was issued by King Hamad last week.

Pictures from August 14th

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Collection of photographs (many more on the live blog)

Bahrain 14th August Live Blog

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Statement from Opposition Societies: The opposition parties demand the regime to stop its dangerous violations and live up to its pledges

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The following statement has been published by the opposition societies in Bahrain:
The opposition parties demand the regime to stop its dangerous violations and live up to its pledges

The National Democratic Opposition Parties in Bahrain demanded the regime to stop its dangerous violations against the citizens. The opposition parties demanded the regime to immediately start implementing the recommendations of both the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the United Nations Human Rights Council, to thus, ease tension on both the political and security levels and prevent instability in civil peace.  

The opposition parties said in a statement issued Tuesday, on the 42nd anniversary of Bahrain's independence, that the Bahraini people have struggled until they achieved independence for their country from the British mandate forces in 1971 pursuant to the memorandum of the British High Commissioner which stated to end the active treaty relations between the United Kingdom and the State of Bahrain given that the treaty contradicts with a fully independent and sovereign state. The memorandum also stated the end of the 23rd December 1880 and 13th March 1892 treaties between the two states.

General instructions and guidance released for 'cumulative action' by the Coalition of 14 February

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Ahead of the mass protests planned in Bahrain on the 14th August has been an air of confidentiality. That is until today where signs have aired about what to expect from protesters by the Coalition of 14th February. Although it is difficult to ascertain the specific organisers of the movement, notices have been published about the stances to be taken.

The Coalition has announced that timings of actions will be announced on the day, that it expects them to be peaceful and that they will continue after the 14th of August. It has also discouraged clashes with what it has called the 'Al Khalifa mercenaries'.

Here is what to expect:

This website blocked in Bahrain 24 hours after launch

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The message people in Bahrain receive when trying to access this website
We launched this website on Saturday afternoon, to offer a central space for news and information about current events in Bahrain ahead of tomorrows Tamarrod protests. Within 24 hours hours of our launch, we began receiving messages from Bahrainis telling us that the site had been blocked in Bahrain. Despite the best efforts of a technical assistant, we have been unable to provide a working link for those inside Bahrain. As a voluntary project with limited capacity, we sadly lack the means pursue this further.

bahrainaugust14.com therefore joins a long list of websites banned by the Bahrain government, including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Justice and Development Movement, and even at one point the United Nations "WebTV" site. In 2006, the government banned access to Google Earth after activists began circulating satellite images showing the disparity between the palaces and land belonging to the ruling AlKhalifa family, compared with the cramped conditions of many villages. 

Security forces erect barbed wire fences around villages ahead of August 14th protests

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Security forces erect barbed wire fences, enclosing villages, ahead of August 14th protests (Source: left, right)
Activists have reported that they woke up this morning to see newly erected barbed wire fences and other barriers. Maryam AlKhawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said, "they're caging in entire villages with barbed wire".  Nick McGeehan from Human Rights Watch described it as "Barbed Wire Bahrain".

Al Wefaq opposition society reports that security forces have "surrounded entrances of Sitra island with barbed wire and roadblocks". They add that Sitra "has been living under growing fear due to the regime’s violence", with 15 citizens from Sitra having been killed since the uprising began on February 14th 2011. Maryam AlKhawaka also reports that Sitra "has been closed off with barbed wire, except a few entrances guarded by security forces" and similar reports have been heard about Sehla village.

The following pictures were shared online by activists:

Messages of support for Tammarod Bahrain from Human Rights Defender and Prisoner of Conscience Nabeel Rajab

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Nabeel Rajab (right) with Abdulhadi AlKhawaja (left)

Nabeel Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He is a current prisoner of conscience, serving a two-year sentence for calling for and participating in protests. Two weeks ago, he sent three messages from prison in which he offered his support for the Tamarrod Bahrain movement and renewed his calls for a Bahrain where there is "justice and equality between people and the protection of rights". The messages were smuggled out of prison and posted on Facebook in Arabic. Here are English translations:
My message to the street in this struggle;

Do not change. Be strong because the world does not respect the weak. Crying and pleading are actions of the weak. Begging will not return our rights, but will only make it more difficult and complicated to move. Steadfastness and insistence on the demands, our principles and values​​, struggle and sacrifice are the factors that will return our rights sooner or later. We should unify our ranks across all spectrum of society and should not surrender to sectarian schemes. With our solid determination  and strong will, and our weapons of peace, we will beat their deadly weapons. We should all multiply our efforts to empower each other in everything and we should all strive to be human rights activists, journalists, writers and artists to support our just cause. We need to expose to the world the injustices that the system practices on us, and the repression and brutality that it uses to confront the fair demands of the people.

Government claims it has "zero-tolerance" policy towards torture; evidence suggests otherwise

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The office of Sameera Rajab, the Government's official spokesperson, has told Reuters that Bahrain has a "zero-tolerance" policy towards torture. However, evidence over the past days, weeks, months and even years, suggests otherwise. The following is just a small selection of examples of both torture and the culture of impunity that surrounds the security forces:

Media fixer and blogger Mohamed Hassan was arrested on July 31st. On August 7th, he told his lawyer AbdulAziz Moussa that he had been tortured whilst in custody. His lawyer tweeted that he had seen marks of torture on Hassan's body. On August 8th, Moussa was also arrested.


Human rights defender Naji Fateel was arrested on May 2nd. He appeared in court on July 2nd and removed his shirt to show the judge marks of torture on his back. Fateel alleges that he was subject to electrocution, beating, simulated drowning, hanging from his hands, sexual harassment, enforced standing, sleep deprivation, sectarian harassment and threats against his wife. On July 11th, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights published these images of Fateel, showing the markings on his back:

Frontline Defenders attended Fateel's most recent hearing on July 25th. They "condemned the trial", saying that it failed "to meet internationally accepted legal standards and due process guarantee".

Father of victim of extrajudicial killing arrested in Arad; protests continue

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Said Yousif Almuhafda, head of monitoring for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, reports that the father of Yousif Al Mowali, a "victim of extrajudicial killing", was arrested on Sunday in Arad, a town on Muharraq island. He was reportedly arrested with several others following a protest. Authorities decided to hold them in detention, although released a child who was arrested with them.

Yousif Al Mowali was killed in January 2012. The 23 year old man, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, disappeared on January 11th. His body was found two days later, lying on rocks next to the sea. Authorities claimed the cause of death was drowning. However, his body showed clear signs of torture. (Link to GRAPHIC video of his body). A Turkish forensics expert was able to covertly enter the country and examine him. She concluded: “We have proved that the scars on the hands and feet were the scars of electrical torture. The victim was most likely unconscious when he was thrown into the sea and this is why he drowned.” During Yousif's funeral on January 21st, mourners were attacked and plain-clothed security forces violently arrested opposition politician Yousif Qadrat. On April 21st, 2013, vandals desecrated his grave. To date, nobody has been charged with his torture or death.

Meanwhile, opposition protests continued in Bahrain in preparation for August 14th, in spite of high police presence and checkpoints. This is a small selection of pictures and videos:

Crackdown on citizen journalists ahead of August 14th protests

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Josh Shahryar writes for Christian Science Monitor:
With August 14 quickly approaching, citizen journalists are the government's new targets. A week ago, I spoke online with a citizen journalist inside Bahrain who told me his arrest might be imminent because he feared a crackdown had begun against him and his colleagues. He had good reason to worry. At 3 am on July 31, fifteen masked men woke up Bahraini blogger Mohammed Hassan in his house and arrested him.

(...)

That evening, Hassan's best friend photographer Hussain Hubail was arrested by police at Bahrain's main airport. He managed to call his family to tell them he had been surrounded by police at the immigration check while he was trying to fly to Dubai. He, too, was only told that he was "wanted."

10-year-old child dies, months after tear gas attack on home

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The inflammed eye of Ali Jaffar,
brought on by the cancer
According to Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, a 10-year-old Bahraini child has died, whilst seeking medical care for cancer of the eye, reportedly sustained from a tear gas attack on his home.

The home of the boy, Ali Jaffar Habib Ibrahim, came under heavy tear gassing in October 2012 during an attack on Malkiya Village, to the west of Bahrain. According to the family, the Grandfather of Ali Jaffar, died from a chest infection shortly after the incident occurred.

Two weeks after Ali Jaffar began to suffer from irritation in his eye and after seeking treatment both in Bahrain and abroad, the family learned that he had developed cancer in one of his eyes. After months of treatment, Ali Jaffar passed away as a result of the cancer last week on 8th August.

Ali Jaffar's Father explicitly blames the security authorities in Bahrain for the death of his child and his Father, according to Al Wefaq. The family has requested an investigation into the death, as well as the ingredients and side effects of the tear gas used in Bahrain.

Brian Dooley: The Bahrain government has pressed the "Repression Button"

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Brian Dooley, Director of the Human Rights Defenders program at Human Rights First, writes for Policy Mic:
Bahrain is bracing for a series of protests likely to be the most significant in over a year. Inspired by the Tamarod Movement, which helped bring down the Morsi government in Egypt, Bahriani activists will take to the streets on August 14, a date that marks the country’s independence from Britain.

“Everyone’s talking about the date, waiting for it,” said Said Yousif al Muhafda of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. “I’m expecting large protests throughout the country —not just in the villages but in the capital Manama too.”

The government is responding to the prospect of widespread dissent with a predictable reach for the Repression Button.

Bahrain Deports U.S. Teacher for "inciting hatred against members of the Royal Family"

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Picture tweeted by Bahrain Minister of State for Communications claiming
to show the bedroom of a recently deported US teacher (Source)

Bahrain has deported a US citizen who was working as a teacher in Riffa. The Washington Post reports that the woman, Erin Kilbride, from Portland, Maine, arrived back in the US on Saturday. She also works as a co-editor of online publication Muftah.

Bahrain's News Agency (BNA) claims that she was been deported from the Kingdom following findings by the Ministry of State for Communications that she had published writings on social media as well as other "activities linked to radical Opposition groups". In the statement, she is accused of writing "under an undisclosed pen name" and "working illegally as an unaccredited journalist". To date, Kilbride has not made any public comments on the matter.

The Minister for Communications took to Twitter to comment on the story. In a series of tweets, he congratulated his staff for identifying the anonymous social media account that Kilbride was using. He also tweeted a photograph which he claims shows a Hezbollah flag hanging in her bedroom, over what appears to be a framed picture or poster (see image above). Pro-government accounts on Twitter have gone further - posting pictures of Erin and making additional allegations against her.

Bahrain's Prime Minister issues threat against opposition

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Bahrain's Prime Minister of 43 years speaking in Muharraq today (Source: BNA)

Speaking today in Muharraq, Bahrain's Prime Minister issued a strong threat against the opposition in advance of the August 14th protests. Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa is the uncle of the current King and has been in his current position since 1970, making him the longest serving Prime Minister in the world. He said:
This island will burn to a cinder all those who seek to tamper with its security and stability.

All we want is that all citizens across Bahrain’s cities and villages participate effectively in efforts to implement the recommendations approved by the National Assembly.

The focus is on Bahrain now because it is the gateway for other countries in the region, and we have to foil such desperate attempts.

We will not accept to let our country be subjected to chaos and destruction, like other countries.

Bahrain Human Rights Defender Prevented From Flying Home

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Reportedly leaked screenshot of Maryam AlKhawaja's denial of boarding, via journalist Lamees Dhaif
Maryam AlKhawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), was due to travel from Denmark to Bahrain today. However, following a request from the Bahrain government, British Airways prevented her from boarding the plane. John Horne writes at Bahrain Watch:
Since 2011, [Alkhawaja] has been living in self-imposed exile in Denmark “due to the necessity of being abroad for her work and for safety and security reasons”. AlKhawaja successfully visited Bahrain for a fortnight in January. On August 5th, she announced her plans to return to Bahrain to monitor the human rights situation in advance of the planned protests on August 14th. AlKhawaja holds dual Bahraini-Danish citizenship and was intending to travel on her Danish passport as her Bahraini passport has expired.

This morning, AlKhawaja was scheduled to board a British Airways flight from Copenhagan to Bahrain, however she was prevented from boarding. She told IB Times:
I had the flight this morning from Copenhagen and everything was fine. I did the online check-in yesterday. I was blocked at the boarding and told to check with the counter because there was a problem. The lady called the office in London who told her that there was a denied boarding message as a decision from Bahrain government.

Interviews with family members of prisoners of conscience

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As part of its new series focusing on security issues, Open Democracy spoke to several Bahrainis who are related to prisoners of conscience.

Farida Ghulam is the wife of Ebrahim Sharif, the imprisoned leader of Wa'ad opposition society. In 2011, he was arrested, tortured and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. The sentence was upheld on appeal:


"It's a basic right" - Bahrain, In search of security from open Security on Vimeo.


Lawyer arrested after tweeting about his clients torture

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The Bahrain Center for Human Rights reports:
Blogger Mohamed Hassan (known on twitter as @Safybh) has reportedly been subjected to torture in detention. His lawyer, AbdulAziz Mosa informed BCHR that he was able to see marks of beatings on Hassan’s arm, and that Mohamed stated that he was beaten at the Criminal Investigation Department on his back and lower abdomen.  Hassan made this statement during the interrogation session at the public prosecution that started at approximately 2:30 am on the 7th of August and lasted for more than 3 hours. Hassan said that he was forced to confess under mental and physical coercing. Hassan was interrogated about his online activities, participation in seminars and forums outside Bahrain, and his contacts with media reporters who visit Bahrain.

Blogger Mohamed Hassan was arrested from his home at around 3am on 31 July 2013. He was held incommunicado for over three days with no access to family or lawyer. On 3 Aug he was transferred to the Dry Dock Prison.

"The persistent fear of living in hiding"

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March 2012: Bahrain police arrest a young man following a funeral procession (Source AP)

Chloe Kems (a pseudonym) writes for Middle East Voices on the "lost boys" of Bahrain - the young men who find themselves living in hiding from the authorities:
Mahmood has not slept at home in eight months. His younger brother has not slept there in a year. But armed riot police continue to raid their family home monthly, breaking down bedroom doors searching for them.
(...)

The exact crime associated with each “wanted” case is nebulous at best. The mass cases that police produce utilize what human rights lawyers in Bahrain call “copy and paste” evidence: the crime and evidence listed after each suspect in a case file is identical to hundreds of other concurrent Bahraini cases.

King issues new decrees banning protests and introducing penalties for parents

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Demonstration in Manama Tuesday night in defiance of protest ban

On August 6th, King Hamad continued the implementation of the National Assembly recommendations by issuing two new decrees. Ahmed Ali writes about them for Bahrain Watch:
The first Decree promulgated by the King drastically alters Bahrain’s 1973 public gathering law by imposing sweeping limitations on freedom of expression.  In addition to the previous prohibition imposed in Article 11 of the 1973 law, which contains a ban on “marches, demonstrations or sit-ins before sunrise or after sunset” without special governmental authorization, the decree adds a ban on all “demonstrations, marches, rallies, or sit-ins in the capital city of Manama,” unless “special permission” is obtained from the head of Public Security.  The new ban also covers marches and gatherings that are being held at or “near” hospitals, airports, shopping malls, or other “places of security”. The latter category has been left open for the Interior Ministry to determine. The use of vehicles in any form of gathering has also been prohibited in an apparent bid to limit the mobilization of protesters.

Interview with Human Rights Defender Maryam AlKhawaja ahead of her Bahrain Visit

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Maryam AlKhawaja (Source)

Maryam AlKhawaja is the Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). The President, Nabeel Rajab, is a current prisoner of conscience. Maryam's father Abdulhadi AlKhawaja and sister Zainab AlKhawaja are also current prisoners of conscience.

Maryam has been living and working in exile since 2011. On Friday, she will return to Bahrain. She is expected to arrive at 7:05pm Bahrain time. In a statement, BCHR said: "Maryam Al-Khawaja has chosen to remain in self imposed exile due to the necessity of being abroad for her work and for safety and security reasons. While the same security and safety concerns are still valid, Al-Khawaja finds it necessary to make this trip at this specific time."

King Hamad meets UK Prime Minister and discusses arms sale

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David Cameron meeting King Hamad (Source)


King Hamad met with British Prime Minister David Cameron for talks at 10 Downing Street, in an unannounced visit on August 6th.

Details of the meeting are scant, however Bahrain state media revealed that amongst the topics of conversation was the potential sale of Typhoon warplanes to Bahrain.

Reuters followed up and obtained this statement from British arms company BAE Systems who are one of the manufacturers of the the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets: "Bahrain has expressed an interest in Typhoon and the British government are leading very early discussions; BAE Systems is supporting the government in these discussions."

Downing Street issued a statement shortly after the meeting which reads in full:

Appeal from Bahraini NGOs to UN, International NGOs & Media

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Six Bahraini NGOs have written a joint open letter to the UN, international NGOs, media and ally governments, appealing for attention and support in advance of August 14th.

The letter was signed by Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Human Rights Society, European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and Bahrain Human Rights Observatory. It reads in part:
In the past few weeks, the human rights situation in Bahrain has rapidly deteriorated ahead of planned mass protests on August 14th. With many of the country’s most prominent Human Rights Defenders behind bars, local NGOs have inadequate resources to keep up with the unfolding situation, and it is challenging for them to ensure the safety of their members.

UN concerned over Bahrain's anti-terror law

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The  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today voiced concerns over the recommendations made by the Bahrain National Assembly and their implementation in law. In a statement, spokesperson Cécile Pouilly said:
We are concerned about the recommendations made by the National Assembly’s extraordinary session which was recently held to discuss toughening punishments under the 2006 Law on the Protection of Society from Acts of Terrorism. These recommendations include increasing detention period or revoking citizenship of anyone found guilty of committing or inciting an act of terrorism. They also provide for banning sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama. On 31 July, a royal decree was issued to amend the above-mentioned law in accordance with these recommendations.

While recognizing the responsibility of States to maintain law and order, we remind the authorities that any measure should respect international human rights standards.

Leading human rights defender Abdulhadi AlKhawaja speaks from behind bars

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Leading human rights defenders Abdulhadi AlKhwaja (left) and Nabeel Rajab (right). 
Both are currently prisoners of conscience.

Abdulhadi AlKhawaja is an internationally renowned human rights defender. In 2011, he was violently arrested from his home, severely tortured, and sentenced to life imprisonment before a military court. Despite international pressure calling for his immediate release, the sentence against him was upheld at appeal. This evening Abdulhadi delivered a message from Jaw Prison where he remains a prisoner of conscience. In it, he calls "for a peaceful Tamarrod on August 14th [...] under the banner of 'Right to Self determination'."

It was shared by Mohammed Al-Maskati (@MohdMaskati) from the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. Mohammed notes that Abdulhadi passed the message to his family and he is relaying "an approximate translation". The message was shared via Twitter. We have edited it for clarity: 
I am a rebel prisoner therefore I support calls for a peaceful "Tamarod" (rebellion) on 14 Aug against tyranny and oppression, considering it as a movement which transcends political and religious affiliations lead by youth with human rights as the common ground under the banner of "Right to Self determination" which can be achieved via an elected national conference representative of all.

3 citizen journalists arrested in 3 days

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The Bahrain government has cracked down harshly on freedom of expression since the start of the uprising in February 2011. Reporters Without Borders currently rank Bahrain in the bottom 15 of countries for "press freedom". Similarly, Freedom House ranks Bahrain's press status as "not free". This week, in the wake of the National Assembly recommendations, a prominent blogger and two photographers were arrested. Their charges are not yet known. Speaking on August 1st, following two of the arrests, Sherif Mansour from the Committee to Project Journalists said: "Bahraini authorities have a record of suppressing critical news and commentary, which has had the effect of obscuring the extent of the country's unrest from the rest of the world."
Left to right: Mohamed Hassan, Hussain Hubail and Qassim Zainaldeen

Security forces destroy cameras outside opposition leader's house

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On July 30th, masked men working for the Ministry of Interior (MOI) attacked CCTV cameras outside the home of Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary General of opposition society Al Wefaq.

Masked men outside Sheikh Ali Salman's house
The MOI justified the attack, describing the cameras as "suspiciously-positioned," and adding that "they could have been used to monitor the movement of police patrols in order to target them with violence". Reporting on the incident, pro-government English newspaper Gulf Daily News misquoted the MOI, claiming that the cameras were being used to monitor police (h/t @marcowenjones).

Rights group writes to UN Special Rapporteurs

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The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) has written to two UN Special Rapporteurs raising serious concerns about current events and urging them to visit the country in the in wake of the National Assembly recommendations and the escalating crackdown. The letters were sent to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

Bahrain Government begins to implement new recommendations

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At an emergency meeting of the National Assembly on Sunday 28th July, members made a series of recommendations relating to national security. The recommendations were quickly condemned by local and international NGOs as violating human rights and giving legal cover to further repression.

The Bahrain government wasted little time in starting to implement them. John Horne writes:
On July 29th, King Hamad wrote to the Prime Minister, reportedly calling for “essential speedy implementation of these recommendations”. The Prime Minister subsequently directed “all ministries and concerned departments” start working on their implementation. He then chaired an extraordinary session of the Cabinet, who claimed that the recommendations would “inaugurate a new era of security, stability and safety in Bahrain.” In contrast, the BBC’s Bill Law wrote: “The recommendations if implemented in full would effectively return the country to a state of martial law.”

New National Assembly recommendations could return Bahrain to "martial law"

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On Sunday July 28th, Bahrain's National Assembly was recalled by King Hamad for an emergency session "to discuss toughening penalties [...] with respect to protection of the Community against terrorist acts". Analyst Emile Nakhleh described the meeting as "a spectacle of venom, a display of vulgarity, and an unabashed nod to increased dictatorship". The session ended with the members making 22 recommendations. Only one member, MP Osama al Tamimi, voted against them. The following day, King Hamad wrote to the Prime Minister and asked for “essential speedy implementation of these recommendations”. The BBC wrote: "The recommendations if implemented in full would effectively return the country to a state of martial law."

The National Assembly in Bahrain consists of two chambers - the Council of Representatives (lower house) and the Consultative Council (upper house). Each has 40 seats. The Consultative Council is entirely appointed by the King. The Council of Representatives is an elected chamber, however it has been boycotted by opposition MPs since the 2011 crackdown. Furthermore, many largely "opposition" districts in Bahrain are subject to severe gerrymandering. One lawyer, Abdulla AlShamlawi, has claimed that the emergency session was unconstitutional, as the existing provisions only allow for the chambers to be recalled separately. He argues that "there is no constitutional provision which authorizes the invitation for the National Assembly with its two chambers."