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Case History: Naji Fateel

Estatus: 
Imprisoned
About the situation

On 29 May 2014, the Appeals Court of Bahrain upheld a 15-year sentence against human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel.

About Naji Fateel

Naji FateelNaji Fateel is a Bahraini human rights defender and member of the Board of Directors of the Bahraini human rights NGO Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR). Since 2007 he has been imprisoned, tortured and the target of death threats during the Bahraini uprising starting in February 2011.

24 Marzo 2015
Incommunicado detention of imprisoned human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel

23 March 2015 marks the 13th day since human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel, detained in Jaw prison, has been held incommunicado. Authorities have refused to allow the human rights defender's family to visit or contact him and did not provide any information on when contact may be resumed, stating that he is being punished.

Reportedly, on 10 March 2015, Bahraini security forces attacked prisoners at Jaw Prison using rubber bullets, tear gas, and shotgun pellets. The incident allegedly started when the family of a detainee protested after being denied permission to visit the person. According to a witness, Naji Fateel was held in the same building where the clashes occurred, but was not involved in the events. However, shortly after the incident, an officer ordered that several individuals be taken to Building 10, including Naji Fateel.

The human rights defender had a sentence of 15 years' imprisonment upheld against him by the Appeals Court of Bahrain on 29 May 2014. The human rights defender had been convicted of establishing “a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act. Front Line Defenders sent an observer to his first instance trial, which fell short of fair due process guarantees. At the time of his arrest on 2 May 2013, Naji Fateel was held incommunicado for three days and reportedly subjected to torture.

29 Mayo 2014
15 year sentence upheld against human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel

On 29 May 2014, the Appeals Court of Bahrain upheld a 15-year sentence against human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel.

Naji Fateel will appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation. The sentence is in relation to charges of “establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act. It was originally imposed on 11 July 2013 by the Fourth Criminal Court. The human rights defender was arrested on 2 May 2013, when he was held incommunicado for three days, and during which time he was reportedly tortured. On 22 May 2013, he was first sentenced to six months in prison on separate charges of attending illegal gatherings, and then the accusations under Article 6 were brought.

Front Line Defenders sent an observer to Naji Fateel's first instance trial, which fell short of fair due process guarantees. Photographic evidence of torture inflicted against Naji Fateel during his detention emerged last year and was ignored by the authorities.

15 Noviembre 2013
Lawyer mandated by international human rights NGOs denied entry to Bahrain to observe the trial of human rights defender Naji Fateel

November 15, 2013. While the appeals trial of human right defender Naji Fateel is due to start on November 18, 2013, a group of human rights NGOs regrets the lack of cooperation by Bahraini authorities to allow access to the country for a trial observation. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights - FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture - OMCT), with support from IFEX, had mandated a lawyer to observe the trial of the human right defender, but their request to facilitate entry to the country remains unanswered several days before the hearing.

Naji Fateel, co-founder of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and a blogger, was sentenced on September 29, 2013 to 15 years in prison for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act.

On October 8, 2013, a few days after the date of the hearing was made public, IFEX wrote on behalf of the group to the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development to facilitate entry to Bahrain for a lawyer appointed as trial observer by the group of international organisations. Twelve days later, the Director in charge of Human Rights replied that “the Ministry is currently updating its entrance procedures and at this time we will not be able to facilitate the entry of your representative”. One day later, IFEX requested clarifications in order to be able to plan future trial observations. Such request remains unanswered to date.

Our organisations recall that Naji Fateel was arrested without warrant by security men in civilian clothes at his home in the village of Bani-Jamra at dawn of May 2, 2013 and held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was severely tortured at the Criminal Investigation Directorate. He was taken to the Ministry of Interior hospital twice for treatment due to the torture.

Previously, Naji Fateel had been arrested on February 14, 2012 while he was participating in a peaceful march toward the Pearl Roundabout area, the now restricted centre of the 2011 protests for rights and democracy. He was also detained between December 2007 and April 2009, a period during which he was reportedly tortured. On May 22, 2013, Naji Fateel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on charges of “attending illegal gatherings”.

The co-signed organisations denounce this obstacle to observing the trial, which manifestly aims to hinder their human rights activities and impedes Naji Fateel's right to a fair trial. They further call upon the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of movement to both local and international human rights defenders in Bahrain as enshrined by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

We collectively and strongly call on the Government of Bahrain to meet its international obligations and grant immediate and unconditional access to Bahrain for international human rights observers and journalists.

Our organisations also call upon the Government of Bahrain to put an end to the judicial harassment against Naji Fateel, and to release him immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities.

30 Septiembre 2013
Human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel sentenced 15 years following unfair trial and evidence of torture

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the decision made by a Bahraini court to sentence human rights defender and blogger, Mr Naji Fateel, to 15 years' imprisonment for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act.

Front Line Defenders urges that this sentence be overturned when Naji Fateel's appeal is heard on 18 November 2013, as there is evidence that this sentence was handed down under unfair trial conditions and credible reports of torture.

Following Naji Fateel’s original arrest on 2 May 2013, he was held incommunicado for three days, during which time he was reportedly tortured. Although he had been initially charged with the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act, these charges were subsequently dropped. On 22 May 2013, he was sentenced to six months in prison on charges of attending illegal gatherings.

On 11 July 2013, Naji Fateel appeared before the Fourth Criminal Court, charged once again under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act. This time, he received a sentence of 15 years' imprisonment. Since his arrest in May 2013, Front Line Defenders has observed Naji Fateel's trial, which has fallen short of fair judicial process. Photographic evidence of torture inflicted against Naji Fateel during his detention has also emerged. Overlooking these reports and proceeding to issue such a harsh sentence indicates that the Bahraini authorities are failing to safeguard Naji Fateel's judicial rights as well as his physical integrity.

26 Julio 2013
Trial of human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel falls short of international standards

Observers representing Front Line Defenders at the trial of Bahraini human rights defender and blogger Mr Naji Fateel, on 25 July 2013, have condemned the trial for its failure to meet internationally accepted legal standards and due process guarantees.

Naji Fateel was not allowed to appear before the court during the hearing and it is believed that this is a result of his public allegations that he had been tortured during his detention. On 11 June 2013, during a separate trial, Naji Fateel rejected the charges of establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution, and declared before the court that he had been tortured. Front Line Defenders published photographs corroborating Naji Fateel’s account of torture.

Observers attending the trial reported that other detainees also showed signs of physical injuries.

Following Naji Fateel’s original arrest on 2 May 2013, he was held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was tortured. Approximately four weeks later, he was sentenced to 6 months in prison on charges of attending illegal gatherings. These charges were dropped, and he is currently facing charges accusing him of the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution, under article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act.

The lawyers representing Naji Fateel have requested that the judges be disqualified from hearing the human rights defender's trial, on the grounds of bias. The claim is made on the basis that the judge is a member of the royal family, and not impartial. The defence has also communicated to the Supreme Judicial Council that the trial proceedings fall short of the minimum standards of fair trials.

12 Julio 2013
Evidence of torture of detained human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned for the well-being and safety of Bahraini human rights defender and blogger Mr Naji Fateel, after seeing photographic evidence showing marks of torture sustained during his detention.

The photographs follow, and corroborate, repeated accounts from Naji Fateel that he has been subjected to torture since his arrest on 2 May 2013. Following the arrest, he was held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was tortured. Approximately four weeks later, he was sentenced to 6 months in prison on charges of attending illegal gatherings.

A separate trial on charges of establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution, under article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act, opened on 11 July 2013 before the Fourth Criminal Court. During the hearing, he rejected the charges against him and declared again before the court that he had been tortured. The judge ordered for the case to be postponed until 25 July 2013.

In the light of this new evidence, in addition to Naji Fateel's testimony, Front Line Defenders reiterates its deep concern about the reported torture of Naji Fateel and the consistent failure of the authorities to investigate allegations of torture in detention, despite their legal obligations to do so under international human rights law.

23 Mayo 2013
Sentencing of human rights defenders Zainab Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel

On 22 May 2010, Bahraini courts sentenced, in separate proceedings, human rights defenders Ms  Zainab Al-Khawaja and Mr Naji Fateel.

Naji Fateel was sentenced to six months imprisonment on charges of attending illegal gatherings. He had initially been charged with the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution under article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act. The human rights defender was arrested on 2 May 2013 and held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was tortured.

Naji Fateel is a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), and a blogger who has been active in reporting human rights violations in Bahrain. For more information on his arrest and trial, please see the urgent appeal and subsequent update issued on 2 May 2013 and 10 May 2013.

9 Mayo 2013
Alleged torture of human rights defender Naji Fateel whilst in detention

On 5 May 2013 human rights defender and blogger Mr Naji Fateel was transferred to the Dry Dock prison in Bahrain where he is suffering from several injuries due to torture whilst he was in detention. The human rights defender was arrested at dawn on 2 May 2013, and was only allowed to contact his family to inform them he was in the Criminal Investigation Building two days later, on the evening of 4 May 2013.

BYSHR reported that during his detention, Naji Fateel was subjected to torture which included electrocution of his genitals and left leg, where he suffers from an injury; simulated drowning; beating, including on the injured left leg; sexual harassment including the threat of rape; psychological torture; being forced to stand for long hours and sleep deprivation. The human rights defender was handcuffed and blindfolded for the duration of his detention in the Criminal Investigation Building, and his blindfold was only taken off upon his arrival in Dry Dock prison.

On 9 May 2013, Naji Fateel was charged with the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution under article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act. The prosecutor has also ordered sixty days further imprisonment pending investigation.

2 Mayo 2013
Arrest and incommunicado detention of human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel

On 2 May 2013 at dawn, police arrested human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel at his home in the village of Bani Jamra in north-west Bahrain. He is being held without formal charges at a location which is still unknown.

Naji Fateel has previously been arrested on charges of illegal assembly and taking part in a demonstration unauthorised by Bahraini officials. The demonstration was an exercise of the right to peaceful assembly. On this occasion the human rights defender was interrogated and tortured whilst in detention. Front Line Defenders issued an urgent appeal on his behalf on 16 February 2012. He was released on bail on 17 April 2012. Naji Fateel's home has been raided on several occasions last year as part of a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. He has also been subjected to death threats on account of his work in defence of human rights.

19 Abril 2012
Human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel released on bail

On 17 April Bahraini human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel left prison for his home having been released on bail.

The public prosecutor ordered his release on bail on 4 April but Naji Fateel refused to pay bail and opted to stay in prison in solidarity with his fellow human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja who is on his 71st day of a hunger strike. Naji Fateel is a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and attended the Front Line Defenders 2010 Dublin Platform.

On14 February 2012, Naji Fateel, was arrested by a group of masked men in plain-clothes as he was taking part in a peaceful demonstration to protest against human rights violations in Bahrain. He was subsequently interrogated and charged of illegal assembly and taking part in an unauthorised demonstration by Bahraini prosecution authorities.

On 21 March 2012, the Bahraini public prosecution brought new charges against him including “planning and executing an illegal assembly” and “rioting” in the area of Beni Jamra on 24 January 2012. The new charges seem to have been brought against him as a way of keeping him in detention for as long as possible so that he can not continue his human rights activities. According to information received by Front Line Defenders, Naji Fateel was ill-treated while held in detention, including being verbally abused for belonging to the Shi'a majority in the country and being denied access to food and other items brought to him in prison by his family. He was held in harsh conditions in the Dry Dock detention centre in an overcrowded cell, along with other prisoners held for serious criminal offences. The toilets are said to be in poor condition, there is no access to hot water and food and drinking water are reportedly of poor quality. This led to the deterioration of Naji Fateel's health as he has already been suffering from injuries sustained during previous detentions in Bahrain.

27 Marzo 2012
New charges brought against human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel

On 21 March 2012, the Bahraini public prosecution brought new charges against human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel who has been in detention since 14 February 2012.

Among the charges brought against him are the charges of “planning and executing an illegal assembly” and “rioting” in the area of Beni Jamra on 24 January 2012. Naji Fateel is a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and attended the Front Line Defenders 2010 Dublin Platform.

As a result of these new charges his detention has been extended by one week and he is now expected to appear before a court on 30 March in relation to the charges. The new charges seem to have been brought against him as a way of keeping him in detention for as long as possible so that he can not continue his human rights activities.

On 14 February 2012, Naji Fateel, was arrested by a group of masked men in plain-clothes as he was taking part in a peaceful demonstration to protest against human rights violations in Bahrain. Other human rights defenders arrested with him on 14 February have been released.

According to information received by Front Line Defenders Naji Fateel has been ill-treated while held in detention including being verbally abused for belonging to the Shi'a majority in the country, and being denied access to food and other items brought to him in prison by his family. He is held in harsh conditions in the Dry Dock detention centre in an overcrowded cell, along with other prisoners held for serious criminal offences. The toilets are said to be in poor repair and there is no access to hot water, and food and drinking water are reportedly of poor quality.