…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
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King Hamad, “All those who called for the downfall of the regime will have a wall fall on their heads. Bahrain is a small island – there is no escape.”

Stalinesque Military Tribunals for Civilians – Since July 2011, at least six people have been killed by birdshots or excessive tear gas during the daily protests that have persisted despite regime brutality. To date, around five hundred detainees are languishing in Bahrain’s prisons, most of them sentenced in military tribunals specifically established to deliver summary justice. In Bahrain’s corrupt judicial system, even if cases are appealed in regular civilian courts, the possibility of a fair trial or access to legal counsel is severely diminished. Most detainees have no idea what the nature of charges against them are until they are brought to trial. Punishments are then inconsistently applied. Again, in my husband’s case, he was sentenced to three years on two counts of participating in an illegal assembly consisting of more than five persons and spreading false information that incites hate against the Bahraini regime.

Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Inquiry: A Path to Justice or Political Shield
by Alaa Shehabi – Jadaliyya – 22 November, 2011 – BCHR

Tomorrow, 23 November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), comprised of an international panel of law experts, is due to submit its report following a four-month investigation of the violence that broke out since the February 14 Uprising in Bahrain. Aside from questions of partiality raised by ongoing statements made by its Chairperson, Professor Bassiouni, the more serious question centers on the political purpose that this report will serve. Will it offer justice for victims of the most brutal crackdown in Bahrain’s history? Or will it whitewash the findings by avoiding high-level accountability and offering a political shield for the regime against its critics?

The February 14 Uprising and the Saudi Crackdown

“All those who called for the downfall of the regime [isqat al-nizam] will have a wall fall on their heads. Bahrain is a small island – there is no escape.”

These were the ominous words of the son of the King of Bahrain, uttered on state television in his newly appointed role as Head of the Royal Guard in March 2011. It was a stark warning: no one who participated in Bahrain’s revolt would be spared the regime’s wrath. Many, like myself, felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on our heads. There really was no escape. My own husband, Ghazi Farhan, an apolitical businessman who did not participate in the protest movement, was ambushed in his office parking lot on 12 April by masked armed men and held incommunicado for fifty days before being dragged to a military tribunal and sentenced to three years of imprisonment. He was the liberal and consumer-orientated face of the young generation of Bahrainis who cared little for politics. But that is no longer the case. Much of this has changed. Not just in him, but in many of the youth who have witnessed or experienced such repression.

Ghazi is one of the hundreds of forgotten prisoners languishing in an overcrowded jail that was emptied of common criminals over Ramadan in late Summer 2011 to make room for more prisoners of conscience. In October alone, 208 people were sentenced to a combined total of 2500 years in prison through military tribunals. Since February 2011, forty-three people have been killed, almost 1500 arrested and tortured, and nearly 3000 fired from their jobs. Hundreds of Bahrainis have gone into exile.

The mass persecution of thousands of activists and their families began as punishment for daring to participate in mass protests in which people demanded the end of absolute rule. Those protests brought the regime to the brink of collapse. Some demanded a constitutional monarchy. Others wanted an end to the monarchy altogether. One by one, masked men raided the homes of youths, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and engineers. People were blindfolded and whisked off to undisclosed locations with little or no information given to their distressed families. Fuelled by a public campaign of naming and shaming on state television, thousands were dismissed from their jobs, labeled as “traitors,” and denied the ability to question the accusations made against them. Bahrain’s prisons, infamous for the torture that took place in them during the 1990s, were once again transformed into terror chambers. During his first four days of interrogation at the Riffa West police station, my husband was sleep deprived, whipped on the back and feet, and verbally abused. Four men, including a renowned book publisher, Karim Fakhrawi emerged with battered bodies after a few days of their arrest. The government’s forensic doctors attributed the bruises and marks to “sickle cell anemia” or “kidney failure.” “We will kill you like we killed Karim Fakhrawi, if you do not confess,” my husband was told by his interrogator.

Choosing the route of brutal repression, backed by neighboring Saudi Arabia’s military intervention, may have secured the regime its survival for the time being. Yet the human cost will prove too heavy for such a small island to bear. The regime and its state institutions has been implicated in serious and systematic crimes, which blatantly flouted internationally recognized principles and laws. A regime that has so keenly nurtured its international image as “business-friendly” and rarely made headlines over the last decade—except to announce its role as host of the prestigious Formula One races—now finds itself being referred to as “tyrannical” on the front pages of Western newspapers.

In the aftermath of the crackdown, the government needed a major damage control strategy. One that would allow it to regain some kind of legitimacy in the eyes of the international community, if not amongst its own people. So a regime accused of grave violations of human rights—ones that could very well amount to crimes against humanity—has initiated an investigation to be supervised by panel of renowned international law experts. On 20 July, the commission, comprised of five members headed by Professor Bassiouni, commenced its work. …more