Business Interests Are More Valuable to Bahrain’s Western Allies Than Democracy and Human Rights
17 August, 2014 – Business Insider
I was sentenced to two years in prison for holding what authorities in Bahrain described as “illegal demonstrations” in 2012. In actual fact I was doing my legitimate and peaceful human rights work. I have been released in May this year, after serving the full sentence. My crime, if it can be called one, was defending the people’s rights and calling for reform in Bahrain. But under the pretext that I had not acquired permission from the government for my protest, I was locked away. The real reason was to keep me silent: my role as the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, my advocacy on the media, including twitter and my relations with international human rights organisations and the UN system made me a threat to the undemocratic government and the Al Khalifa family that runs the country. Now that I am released from prison I can speak freely and engage myself in human rights work again.
The fearsome possibility of being re-imprisoned can’t stop my work. During the time I that spent in prison, my country has transformed into a fully functioning security state. The police force, now made up of thousands of naturalised Bahrainis, mercenaries in all but name, control the streets. Law upon law has been passed to silence protesters. It is now illegal to demonstrate in the capital, or to criticise the king. Offenders are punished by a vindictive and non-independent judiciary. Parliament is too cowed to even question government ministers any longer. Also, prisons in Bahrain are at the moment with detained human rights defenders and political detainees. Since 2011, over 50,000 people have been in and out of jail. Over three thousands of them are now serving time in Bahrain’s prisons, in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Mass beatings and torture is a common occurrence. Although I was not tortured as badly as others, I witnessed other prisoners being beaten and tortured in front of my eyes.
The reality Bahrain’s situation has not improved. Like most countries which saw uprising and revolution in 2011, it has only worsened. I am happy to say that the United States, one of Bahrain’s closest allies and whose Fifth Fleet is station in my country, is keenly aware of these problems, though whether they will pressure the government to improve the situation remains to be seen. More concerning – and infuriating – is the British response to Bahrain’s crisis. In 2013, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recommended that the FCO should “designate Bahrain as a ‘country of concern'” in its next Human Rights Report. Despite overwhelming evidences that the human rights situation had only continued to deteriorate, the British Government refused to upgrade Bahrain to a country of concern. The government reasoned that a new dialogue with the Crown Prince was promising evidence of improvement. Even when the dialogue quickly fell apart, Britain has refused to take further action. But the fact is that there can be no meaningful dialogue when most of Bahrain’s civil and political leaders are in prison. …more
August 18, 2014 No Comments
And the Bullshit just keeps coming and the UN Continues the Charade
Switzerland read the following joint statement on the opening day of the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council on behalf of 47 co-sponsoring countries including the United States.
24th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item 2 – General Debate
Joint Statement on the OHCHR and the human rights situation in Bahrain
Geneva, 9 September 2013
Mr. President, I have the honour to make this statement on the OHCHR and the human rights situation in Bahrain on behalf of Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the United States of America and Uruguay.
We take note of positive steps taken by the Government of Bahrain to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in order to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain. In particular, we note with appreciation the creation of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for the Ministry of Interior in August 2012 and its official launch in July 2013. We also note the creation of the Special Investigation Unit in the Public Prosecution Office in February 2012. We urge these institutions to proactively fulfil their mandate and encourage the Government of Bahrain to uphold its commitment to these institutions and their independence. We commend the continuation of the National Consensus Dialogue in August 2013 and encourage all sides to participate in a constructive and genuine way. We encourage the Government of Bahrain to continue to work with all participants in the Dialogue towards an open, democratic and inclusive society with equal opportunities for all.
However, the human rights situation in Bahrain remains an issue of serious concern to us. In particular, we share the concerns expressed by the OHCHR regarding the 22 recommendations made by the National Assembly of Bahrain on 28 July 2013. Any new legislation to implement these recommendations must meet international standards and ensure human rights are protected. We are also particularly concerned by the ongoing violation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the repression of demonstrations. We expect officials and protestors to refrain from any violence. Furthermore, we continue to be concerned about the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including of human rights defenders. We are also concerned about the cases of revocation of nationality without due process, some of which might lead to statelessness. Lastly, we are concerned that those alleged to have committed human rights violations are often not held accountable.
We call upon the Government of Bahrain to address these concerns and expedite the implementation of the recommendations received from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the recommendations Bahrain agreed to accept through the Universal Periodic Review. We urge the Government of Bahrain to enhance its cooperation with the OHCHR and allow for a fully comprehensive collaboration, including accepting an OHCHR follow-up mission. We also urge the Government of Bahrain to cooperate with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, in particular the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, together with any other Special Procedures that request to visit Bahrain and reschedule previously planned visits. Lastly, we encourage the Government of Bahrain to fulfil its obligation to submit its outstanding reports to the treaty bodies of the human rights conventions it has ratified.
We will continue to follow closely the human rights situation in Bahrain and invite the OHCHR, Special Procedures and the Human Rights Council to do so. We also invite the Government of Bahrain to further engage with the Human Rights Council. Thank you Mr. President. …source
February 17, 2014 No Comments
HM the King issues four laws
4 February, 2014 – BNA
(BNA) – His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa today issued four laws for this year.
According to Law 1, Article 214 of Penal Code of 1976 was amended as follows:
“A prison sentence of a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years, and a fine of not less than BD 1000 and not more than BD 10000 shall be the penalty for any person who offends publically the Monarch of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the national flag or emblem, and the penalty shall be tightened if the offence was committed in the presence of the King.”
In Law 2/2013, HM the King ratified the by-law of the GCC Emergency Management Centre.
February 4, 2014 No Comments
Bahrain: religious persecution continues, calls to investigate torture
By davidswanson – 27 December, 2013 – warisacrime.org
In a flagrant attack on religious freedom, the Alkhalifa regime has summoned the headsof three Hussaini Oration Centres to attend the prosecution centre where many others had been tortured before. The heads of Bin Khamis and Sanabis mourning halls have been asked to attend the prosecutor’s office, which has become one of the main abusers of human rights in Bahrain. This follows the strong public participation in the mourning processions in the past few days to mark the Arba’een (Fourtieth Day after Imam Hussain’s martyrdom). Some anti-regime sentiments were expressed in those processions as people remembered their own dead, wounded and imprisoned by the Alkhalifa enemy.
Meanwhile the attacks on native Bahrainis have continued. In the early hours of this morning at least five people were arrested; Sayed Mohammad Sayed Aqeel Al Mousawi, Salman Al Mawt, Baqir Ibrahim Khamis, Ali Hassan Al Tabbal and Hussain Ra’id from Sanabis.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has issued a special report on the abuse of children by the ruling Alkhalifa clan. It mentioned two boys aged thirteen years; Sayed Hashim Alawi and Sayed Tamim Majid. On 7th December they were arrested for taking part in anti-regime protests, but their detention has been repeatedly renewed and are still behind bars. They were accused of planning to overthrow the Alkhalifa regime by force. On 20th December Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action about the two boys. It said: “Cousins Sayed Tameem Majed Ahmad Majed and Sayed Hashim Alwai Ahmad Majed were arrested on 7 December in the north-western village of Bani Jamra, and taken to the police station in al-Budaya, Manama, in two separate incidents. Sayed Tameem, who turned 13 on 19 December, was arrested at about 3.10pm in front of his grandparents’ house about 15 minutes after he had arrived with his family, for a visit, and while he was playing with a young er cousin. He had run away after seeing a police patrol car approaching, but his family did not see him being arrested. They were later told by eyewitnesses that he had been taken away by a police patrol. Sayed Hashim, aged 13, was arrested at about 3.45pm near his grandparents’ house while on his way to a nearby shop”. It also called for protecting the two children from torture and forming an independent commission to examine torture claims. …more
December 30, 2013 No Comments
David Isaksson denied entry to Bahrain
28 December, 2013 – Global Reporting
David Isaksson, CEO of the Swedish consultancy firm Global Reporting, was today denied entry to Bahrain despite the fact that EU citizens can get visa on arrival. The reason given was that Global Reporting is a company working with communication and development issues and that David Isaksson was thus suspected of planning to meet with opposition and human rights activists in the country.
“I am currently travelling to 50 countries around the world where I have not yet been before, asking people about happiness. This was also the main reason for my visit to Bahrain”, David Isaksson says, adding:
“Obviously, happiness is a dangerous word in Bahrain today”.
David Isaksso spent about eight hours at the aiirport of Bahrain before having to board a plane back to Dubai.
Find out more about the Happiness project at www.globalhappiness.se follow David Isaksson on twitter at @davidglobal
Amnesty International, Reporters without borders and several other international organisations are criticising Bahrain for it’s human rights abuses. Recently, Amnesty has called for a halt on dentation, abuse and torture of children in Bahrain. …more
December 30, 2013 No Comments
Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq get new exports of Canadian guns, ammunition
Mike Blanchfield – The Canadian Press 8 December, 2013
OTTAWA – Bahrain, Algeria and Iraq, countries with dubious human rights records or a history of violent internal conflict, have recently become new buyers of Canadian-made guns and ammunition, an analysis of federal government data shows.
The analysis by The Canadian Press found that Canadian exports to those countries swelled by 100 per cent from 2011 to 2012, the most recent figures publicly available.
During the same time period, exports of Canadian weapons also increased to Pakistan (98 per cent), Mexico (93 per cent) and Egypt (83 per cent), where, respectively, al-Qaida terrorists, a deadly government war on drug cartels and seismic political upheaval have sparked violence.
Though Canada’s arms trade is legal and regulated, analysts say the increases raise questions about the government’s foreign policy commitment to human rights, and its regulatory regime for arms exports.
“Diversification is a principle of business in this globalized economy. As we see western militaries decrease their defence budgets, military industries will be looking for new markets,” said Walter Dorn, the chair of international affairs studies at the Canadian Forces College.
“The danger is that the almighty dollar may become the predominant motivator in trade deals and therefore weapons are more easily shipped.”
The Canadian Press provided a list of questions to the offices of International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, but an emailed reply from Foreign Affairs left many of them unanswered.
Foreign Affairs carefully reviews all export of weapons to ensure they “do not contribute to national or regional conflicts or instability” or “are not used to commit human rights violations,” the statement said.
The analysis examined 10 years of Industry Canada data on a class of exports that is made up of military weapons, guns and ammunition, along with howitzers, mortars, flame throwers, grenades and torpedoes. It does not include other big military equipment such as vehicles, aircraft and other advanced technology, which balloons Canada’s overall arms trade into the billions of dollars.
Last month, Fast announced that Canada would be putting economic interests at the centre of foreign policy. The shift to “economic diplomacy” is designed to increase trade and investment in emerging markets.
In 2012, Canadian weapons manufacturers found some new customers, which offset a decline in sales to some major democratic allies. …more
December 10, 2013 No Comments
November 27, 2013 No Comments
Bahrain welcomes deal for sake of banishing mass destruction proliferation spectre
24 November, 2013 – BNA
Manama, Nov 24 (BNA): Bahrain’s relations with the international community are not built on provisional regional alliances and do not place Iran and Israel in the same category, the foreign minister said.
“We have an Arab and historic conflict with Israel as there is a people that have been chased out of its lands and we are endeavouring to establish its Palestinian state, whereas we have diplomatic relations with Iran as a significant neighbour. We do not place the two countries at the same level under any label,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said.
The minister who was speaking at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in the Bahraini capital Manama said that Bahrain was keen on positive relations based on good neighbourliness, mutual respect and non-interference in the domestic affairs of between Bahrain, Iran and the other countries.
“We do not change allies like we are in a market. We look for stability with our neighbours,” he said.
Shaikh Khalid said that Bahrain welcomed Iran’s nuclear agreement with the world powers to keep it in check.
“This is an important agreement that will eventually serve stability and defuse any imminent crisis.”
Shaikh Khalid expressed hope the agreement would help banish the spectre of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and end concerns about the existence of such weapons be they in Iran or any other state in the region.
The minister denied claims that Bahrain had concerns about Iran striking a nuclear deal with the 5+1 world power countries, saying there is a new beginning to restore stability and calm to the region.
Referring to the Bahraini Turkish relations, he said that Manama and Ankara had well-anchored ties that have developed throughout the times and in the political, economic, cultural and tourism areas.
“Turkey is highly significant to us and we look forward to developing our relations in all fields,” Shaikh Khalid said.
The minister said that Bahrain was grateful to Turkey for its support in confronting the events that had occurred in the kingdom, adding that Ankara was among the capitals that stressed the sovereignty of the country and rejected any form of interference in its internal affairs. …more
November 25, 2013 No Comments
The 2013 Rafto Prize to Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) – the fight for “inconvenient” human rights in the Gulf
24 October, 2013
The 2013 Rafto Prize is awarded to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) for their long and courageous fight for fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of association in Bahrain. By awarding the Rafto Prize to BCHR, we turn the spotlight on the systematic violations of human rights in a region where abuse is too often met with silence from western governments. …more
November 5, 2013 No Comments
EU Parliament Expresses Human Rights Concerns For Bahrain
12 September, 2013 – Eurasia Review
“The legitimate right of Bahraini citizens to express their opinions freely, organise gatherings and demonstrate peacefully must be respected”, said MEPs in their resolution.
They further called on the authorities to immediately end all acts of repression, release all prisoners of conscience, and respect the rights of juveniles.
“The independent commission for the rights of prisoners and detainees should effectively monitor and improve their conditions”, they added, while “the Ministry for Human Rights and Social Development in Bahrain should act in accordance with international human rights standards and obligations”. …source
Complete EU Resolution HERE
September 13, 2013 No Comments
U.S. Ambassador Donahoe Hits Back at Bahraini Media Distortion of Meeting with Regime Officials
11 Septemebr, 2013 – By Brian Dooley – Human Rights First
Once again the Bahraini media has proven that it plays fast and loose with the truth in its reporting of the regime’s meetings with foreign diplomats. An article in today’s English-language Gulf Daily News claimed that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council at Geneva Eileen Donahoe refuted remarks made by earlier in the week by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in which she criticized the government of Bahrain.
A story titled “U.S. Backs Bahrain” reported from Geneva that a “Bahrain parliamentary team yesterday won superpower backing against ‘unfair’ comments,” and that “America’s Ambassador to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, Eileen Donahoe, agreed that her remarks did not reflect reality.” Yesterday the state-controlled Bahrain News Agency (BNA) also reported that Donahoe met with Bahraini Members of Parliament and “agreed” that the Members “showcases the true nature incidents” (sic).
Ambassador Donahoe hit back on Twitter this morning, saying “Story is NOT accurate. #Bahrain gov del ask to meet after US joined JS: I expressed concern re Min of Justice order.” Earlier this week the Bahraini Minister for Justice announced that opposition figures in Bahrain would have to notify the government in advance if they intended to meet representatives of foreign governments. Also this week The United States, along with 46 other countries, signed a statement expressing concern over human rights violations in Bahrain.
This is not the first time the Bahraini media has been caught falsifying what happened at governments meetings. In June 2011, the BNA reported that Pillay had recognized that “misinformation” had been spread about the crisis in the Kingdom. In a statement the following day, a Pillay spokesperson described the BNA account of a meeting held with Bahraini officials as a “distortion of her words” and asked for a retraction.
The government-supported media in Bahrain media seems determined to cement its pants on fire reputation. The U.S. government should really wonder how reliable an ally Bahrain is when its state media distorts conversations with senior American officials. A full statement from Ambassador Donahoe about what was said and not said in the meeting would help clarify things.
Update: The U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva posted a statement expressing its “deep disappointment and concern over gross factual inaccuracies” reported by the Bahrain News Agency and the Gulf Daily News. …source
OFFENDING STORY BELOW:
US backs Bahrain over human rights issue
Trade Arabia , 11 September, 2013
A Bahrain parliamentary team yesterday won superpower backing against ‘unfair’ comments by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, a report said.
America’s Ambassador to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, Eileen Donahoe, agreed that her remarks did not reflect reality, according to the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Bahrain’s delegation, led by MP Dr Jamal Saleh and including Shura Council member Hala Ramzi, met the envoy following a statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Dr Saleh stressed the need to differentiate between hundreds of peaceful demonstrations allowed by authorities and terrorist attacks in which saboteurs frequently use Molotov cocktails, metal rods, firearms and homemade bombs and set fire to tyres in the streets.
This jeopardises people’s basic freedom of secure living, movement, and access to health and medical service besides other liberties, which are guaranteed by the Bahraini Constitution.
He said that the National Assembly was convened after exhausting all patience in the aftermath of a series of acts of terror and sabotage.
It set forth 22 recommendations for implementation by the government to eliminate acts of terrorism and vandalism.
Ramzi explained that Bahrain suffered from constant attacks on its public schools to an extent that parents fear for the safety of their children daily, in addition to continuous instances of road-blocking.
This necessitated a quick decision from the National Assembly to stop such acts of terrorism committed by miscreants seeking to destabilise Bahrain’s national security and infringe upon the freedom of its citizens and residents, she said.
Donahoe expressed her dismay at the violent demonstrations, burning of tyres and undermining of public interest.
She urged all parties to encourage peace, shun violence and resume dialogue to reach stability.
The UN rights chief’s comments had caused an uproar earlier with legislators terming it one-sided and alleging that it seemed to be ‘dictated’ by the opposition. – TradeArabia News Service …source
September 13, 2013 No Comments
Bahraini rights groups reach out to international community for help ahead of mass protests
6 August, 2013 – Bahrain Center for Human Rights – ifex
In the past few weeks, the human rights situation in Bahrain has been rapidly deteriorating ahead of planned mass protests on 14 August. 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 becoming increasingly challenging for them to ensure the safety of their members.
Bahraini human rights defenders should not be left to stand alone. We urge international human rights organizations to attempt to visit Bahrain over the coming week, in order to document and monitor ongoing protests, especially on 14 August when Bahrain is expected to come under lockdown. The government has already declared that all protests in the capital Manama are banned.
International human rights organizations have done a good job of highlighting the human rights situation in Bahrain, though their physical presence in the country has been lacking due to a state policy of controlled access. Nonetheless, their presence is important, as witnesses and in solidarity with those fighting for justice, human rights, and democracy.
We call on mainstream media networks to dedicate particular attention to the situation in Bahrain in the build up to August 14 and to send journalists into the country. What happens in the coming week could be critical.
To the government of Bahrain’s closest allies; Mr. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, we urge you to remain neutral, if not supportive of the peoples’ right to self-determination. This is not a call for intervention, but rather we urge you to live up to claims of ethical foreign policies that take human rights into consideration and to end your active support of the government of Bahrain.
Finally, we call on the United Nations and its Special Rapporteurs to be proactive and to reiterate the rights of Bahrainis to free speech, freedom of assembly, the right to adequate medical care, and to pressure the authorities to refrain from using force, particularly tear gas and birdshot, ahead of August 14. Public statements reminding those who are responsible of guaranteeing these rights are needed as well as activating direct channels with officials in such positions.
For the past two and a half years, the Bahraini regime has failed to realize its pledges to implement both the Universal Periodic Review and Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommendations. Domestic and international accountability mechanisms have so far failed, and Bahrainis have decided that 14 August is another step in the current struggle for justice.
We, the undersigned, will be on the ground in Bahrain during this period to monitor and observe the human rights situation. We hope that you will commit time, resources, and effort to support HRDs in the country in any capacity.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain Human Rights Society
European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
Bahrain Human Rights Observatory
August 9, 2013 No Comments
A Breathtaking Hypocrisy – Why the US Has No Right to Lecture Latin America
by DANIEL WICKHAM – 30 July, 2013 – Counter Punch
Venezuela has announced that it is ending efforts to improve ties with the United States after the Obama administration’s nominee for the role of ambassador to the United Nations labelled the country “repressive.” Samantha Power, who is widely known for her strong stance on human rights, vowed to contest “the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia and Venezuela.”
For obvious reasons, Power is selective in who she choses to criticise. The likes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom have presided over major crackdowns on dissent in recent years, warrant no mention, which is not surprising given the US government’s staunch support for the regimes in question. Regarding Saudi Arabia, Washington’s attitude towards democracy is best expressed by William M. Daley, Obama’s chief of staff during the Arab uprisings, who said that “the possibility of anything (like the revolution in Egypt) happening in Saudi Arabia was one that couldn’t become a reality.” Daley explained that “for the global economy, this couldn’t happen”, referring of course to the importance of Saudi oil, which was described by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2003 as the primary reason for US support for the monarchy. An unsurprising claim, in light of the US State Department’s description in 1945 of the Gulf’s oil reserves as “a stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”
Returning to Latin America, the hypocrisy is again breathtaking. Condemning Venezuela as “repressive”, Power neglects to mention that the “most dramatic setback”, according to Americas Watch, for human rights in Venezuela came in 2002 when a coup d’etat, allegedly supported tacitly by the United States, removed Chavez from office and “dissolved the country’s democratic institutions.” It is also worth noting that the US supported enthusiastically the Caldera and Perez administrations which preceded Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution, both of which were vastly more repressive than the current ‘revolutionary’ government.
Also strikingly absent from Power’s remarks was any mention of Colombia, the United States’ closest ally in the region, which according to Americas Watch, “presents the worst human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere.” This year’s annual report claims that “over the past decade, the Colombian army committed an alarming number of extrajudicial killings of civilians”, carried out in “a systematic fashion”, during which time the army was the highest recipient of US military aid in Latin America. Most of the killings occurred under the presidency of Alvaro Uribe, whom President Bush described in 2006 as “a personal friend” and “a strong believer in democracy and human rights.” Under Obama, Colombia has continued to receive more military aid than any other country in the hemisphere, with Mexico, whose well-documented record of “extrajudicial killings, disappearances” and “widespread torture” is not much better, coming second. …more
July 31, 2013 No Comments
Bahrain Torturers Must Be Held Accountable
17 July, 2013 – Brian Dooley – HRF – Huffington Post
It’s been two years since the King of Bahrain commissioned human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouni to investigate the events of February and March 2011. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) duly confirmed in November 2011 what Human Rights First and other leading international human rights organizations had already reported — that dozens of people had been killed, thousands had been arrested, and there had been widespread use of torture in custody.
The King promised to put things right and implement all of the recommendations made in the BICI report. It hasn’t happened. The culture of impunity identified in the BICI hasn’t been properly addressed, and this month has seen a new spate of torture allegations.
Prominent human rights defender Naji Fateel claims to have been tortured in custody, including being electrocuted in his genitals, suspended from the ceiling and threatened with rape. He is one of 50 defendants charged with terrorism-related offenses in the 14th of February Youth Coalition Cell case which opened on July 11. Others accused for their involvement with that coalition report having been forced to sign confessions under torture. A young woman activist, Rihana Almousawi, appeared in court this month and said she had been stripped naked during detention, reportedly threatened with rape and electrocution. It is also reported that she was forced to stand naked in front of an open door so those outside could see her.
On July 1, Bahraini courts acquitted two security officials, Lt-Colonel Mubarak ben Huwail, Director of Drug Detection, and Lieutenant Noora Bint Ebrahim Alkhalifa, of torturing medics during March and April 2011. Human Rights First has received consistent and credible reports from a number of former detainees alleging that Ben Huwail and Al Khalifa (a member of the ruling family) tortured or mistreated them in detention. …more
July 19, 2013 No Comments
Bahrain: Concern over Human Rights Defenders Prosecuted and Sentenced to Prison
21 June, 2013 – fidh
Geneva-Manama-Paris, 21 June 2013. In Bahrain, human rights defenders are being harassed, arbitrarily detained for months and ill-treated or tortured for their human rights work. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights 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), express their deep concern over the sentencing of three human rights defenders to prison on 22 May 2013 as well as about the judicial harassment against Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati.
On May 22, 2013, Mr. Naji Fateel, a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYHRS), was sentenced by the Manama Criminal Court to six months’ imprisonment for “illegal gatherings” in relation to a gathering on 24 January 2012 organised in BaniJamrah in which he did not participate. Mr. Fateel was arrested without a warrant after his house was raided by members of the security forces, dressed in civilian clothing, at dawn on 2 May 2013. He was allegedly subjected to severe torture at the Criminal Investigation Directorate. Reports allege that he was subjected to electrical shocks to his genitals, left foot and back in addition to simulated drowning, severe beatings, threats to publish his wife’s photographs (taken from a camera confiscated by the security forces when his house was raided), insults, hanging by his hands from the ceiling, sexual harassment and threats of rape, standing for hours, and sleep deprivation. He was taken to the Ministry of Interior hospital twice for treatment due to the torture. In another case, he is also facing charges of “establishment of a group in order to disable the provisions of the Constitution” . He remains currently in Dry Dock Detention Centre. He was granted access to his lawyer, however he complained about not being provided adequate medical care.
On the same day, blogger Ms. Zainab Al Khawaja and Ms. Masooma Al Sayed, both known for their participation in peaceful gathering calling for reforms and the respect of human rights in Bahrain, were sentenced by the Manama lower criminal court to three months and six months’ imprisonment, respectively, for “illegal gathering”, “assaulting a female officer” and “inciting hatred against the regime” in reference to events that go back to December 2011. Our organisations recall that on 16 December 2011, Ms. Al Khawaja staged a sit-in to call for reforms and more rights at Abu Saiba roundabout and was joined by several women. The riot police fired teargas canisters to disperse them. Ms. Al Khawaja continued her sit-in peacefully and refused to move and she was shot at directly with a teargas canister . She was then handcuffed, dragged across the pavement by her handcuffs, had her Muslim head scarf removed and was slapped by a female police officer. She was further cursed and beaten in the police station. Ms. Masooma Al Sayed continued her peaceful sit-in with Ms. Al Khawaja and refused to move. She was handcuffed and arrested. Ms. Al Sayed was also subjected to ill-treatment: she was kicked on her right leg which caused her to walk with a limp for a time and red marks around her wrists were apparent from the handcuffs. Both women were detained for around a week at that time then were released pending trial. Moreover, since 27 February 2013, Ms. Al Khawaja is serving in Isa Town Women a six months and 22 days sentence in two other cases on charges of “insulting a public official, entering a restricted zone “the pearl roundabout” and illegal gathering”. With these sentences, Ms. Al Khawaja will remain in prison until the end of 2013. In total she stood for more than 13 cases against her and she was sentenced in most of them to either prison or fines at least one more case is still in hearing process and verdict is expected on 25 June 2013 . Since 4 March 2013, Ms. Al Khawaja was not allowed to receive visitation from her family, including her 3 years old daughter, due to her refusal to wear the prison uniform as prisoner of conscience. Furthermore, she is not allowed to go out to the prison yard, or to receive personal items including hygiene items from her family. As for Ms. Masooma Al Sayed, she remains free as of now.
On 19 June 2013, Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati, President of BYSHR, appeared before the Lower Criminal Court on charges of “participation in illegal protests” in relation to a peaceful gathering held in Manama on 12 October 2012 to call for human rights and democracy in the country. As Mr. Al-Maskati’s lawyers asked for the case file, the judge decided to postpone the case to July 9, 2013. Mr. Al-Maskati could face three to six months’ imprisonment. On October 17, 2012, Mr. Al-Maskati had appeared before Bahrain’s public prosecution under these same charges. He had been summoned the day before to Al Hoora police station, where he had been kept overnight before being referred to the prosecutor’s office. On October 17, he was released on bail, but charges against him had remained pending since then. …more
June 21, 2013 No Comments
Human rights record in Bahrain still abysmal – Europe must act
by Mariwan Hama – 21 June, 2013 – Pubic Service Eurpoe
The country’s systemic repression should be on agenda of the EU-Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Manama at the end of this month – says campaigner
Hama When European Union ministers meet their counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council states for a summit in Bahrain on June 30, the dismal state of that island kingdom’s human rights record needs to have a prominent place on the agenda. Despite King Hamad’s claims of reform, Bahrain is clearly heading down the road of greater repression and the EU ministers should make a point of clearly and publicly saying so.
For starters, Europe should call for the release of political prisoners – among them three with EU citizenship – who languish in jail, some serving life terms, for crimes such as ‘possessing political leaflets’, ‘participating in illegal demonstrations’ and calling for a constitutional monarchy. Bahrain’s claim that it has released all those jailed solely for speech offenses is a blatant lie.
Freedom of association does not fare any better than freedom of speech: the government recently sent to parliament – where most members are the king’s men – a draft law that allows authorities to take over and dissolve, more or less at will, organisations whose leaders criticise government officials and policies; and severely limits the ability of groups to raise money.
Unregistered organisations are ‘illegal’ and joining one is a criminal offense under the penal code. In May, parliament amended the Public Gathering Law to ban demonstrations near ‘lively places, and places that have a security nature’ and to require organisers to provide up to 20,000 Bahraini Dinars – $53,000 – as a security deposit to hold a demonstration. Authorities can refuse permission if they decide it ‘harms the economic interests of the country’.
Just this week the parliament amended the penal code to prescribe five years in prison and a $26,500 fine for ‘insulting the king’. When Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa came to power in 1999, he promised a new era of reform by releasing hundreds of political prisoners, allowing hundreds of exiles to return home and abolishing the notorious State Security Courts. But then the king unilaterally decreed a constitution that was all about preserving the control of the ruling Al Khalifa family.
Now authorities have decisively reversed the pretense of reform by prosecuting and jailing civil and political society leaders and drafting legislation to suppress independent civic engagement and political activism. Public frustrations culminated in massive demonstrations in February 2011 when tens of thousands took to the streets demanding greater political rights, an end to corruption and an elected government.
The Al Khalifas responded with a brutal retribution campaign against protesters. Special military courts sentenced opposition and civil society leaders and hundreds of others to lengthy prison terms after patently unfair trials. Under international pressure, the king appointed the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the repression.
The commission’s hard-hitting report of November 2011 documented torture, unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and other systematic human rights violations. The commission recommended, among other things, freeing all those detained for exercising the right to free speech and peaceful assembly and amending laws to comply with international human rights standards. King Hamad publicly accepted the recommendations but the activists remain jailed and the new legislation is in many ways more restrictive and punitive than what has been on the books.
June 21, 2013 No Comments
NABEEL RAJAB fighting for human rights in the prison
17 May, 2013 – WSN World
NABEEL RAJAB fighting for human rights in the prison Bahrainis’ follow with concern reports of the breakdown in communication between the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab and his family. Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was arrested and sentenced to 3 years because of his human rights activities carried out by the media through his distinctive highlight the revolution of the people of Bahrain.
Mr. Nabeel Rajab sentenced in Jaw Prison Call for days before his wife, Ms. Sumaya Rajab and he asked her to send an urgent appeal to human rights organizations, because he saw police in Bahrain tortures children in prison and Mr. Nabeel Rajab was angry and the call had been disconnected immediately!
Ms. Sumaya Rajab and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights sent appeals of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, to all human rights organizations and the international community about torture of children Nabeel Rajab saw in prison.
Mr. MP Osama Tamimi contacted the Privy Council and told them about the allegations of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and asked them to verify.
Ms. Tara Secretary General of the Organization of Bravo (Bahrain Rehabilitation & Anti violence organisation) contacted the prison manager Jaw Mr. Rashid Al-Husseini, but Mr. Husseini did not respond and did not cooperate with her.
This incident shows why the prison administration in Bahrain kept Mr. Nabeel Rajab from other prisoners of conscience not to see the abuses & documented.
The prison administration now abducted Mr. Nabeel Rajab to an undisclosed location and his family is concerned about his safety.
A official of monitoring and documentation of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Mr. Yousef Abdul Jalil an interview with the BBC channel in which he said that Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s family worried for his safety as the Human Rights Organization and issued a statement condemning the taking of Mr. Nabeel Rajab from jail to an undisclosed location. …source
May 17, 2013 No Comments
Dictatorship and Double Standards: Bahrain Is More Repressive Than Russia, But Reading the Washington Post You’d Never Know That
1 May, 2013 – Mark Adomanisv – Forbes
One of the things that I find endlessly grating about the “morality in foreign policy” crowd is their myopia. While a consistent stand in defense of human rights is entirely laudable, if a bit unrealistic in the fallen world we live in, the people who want to inject “values” into American diplomacy are usually incredibly selective in their outrage. By and large they choose countries, such as Venezuela or Russia, with which America is already on lousy terms and then argue that “values” demand heightening tensions in already tense situations. It’s an instrumental view of “rights” which holds that they are useful only to the extent they support American foreign policy priorities.
Thus you have someone like the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl who is repulsed by the idea of limited anti-terror cooperation with the Russians but who just can’t seem to find the time to bemoan the (far more grievous) human rights violations of close US anti-terror allies such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It’s particularly fascinating to compare Diehl’s almost palpable outrage over limited intelligence sharing with the Russians (something about which supposedly “pro-Russia” people like myself and Daniel Larison have been decidedly skeptical) with the bored and indifferent tone he takes with the Bahrainis who, according to Freedom House, are even more repressive and undemocratic than the Russians.
Here’s how he sets the stage in Bahrain which, remember, is a more repressive country than Russia whose regime has shot to death dozens of peaceful demonstrators over the past few years (emphasis added):
For the past 18 months, the two sides have been locked in an impasse that has spawned near-nightly demonstrations in Shiite villages, the deaths of at least 55 people, the jailing of many opposition leaders and fraying relations between Bahrain and its chief military ally, the United States.
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that there is almost no evidence that relations between Bahrain and the United States are actually “fraying.” The Obama administration easily brushed aside Congressional concerns about a continued security relationship with the country. The United States fifth fleet is still based in Bahrain and there are no plans to have it relocate anytime soon. The United States was so “concerned” about Bahrain’s violent suppression of its pro-democracy movement, aided by our close allies the Saudis, that it continued to sell the country a broad range of weapons systems (weapons systems, of course, that it would never in a million years countenance selling to the Russians). Diehl seems to be inventing tensions between the United States and Bahrain where they don’t actually exist. …more
May 2, 2013 No Comments
U.N. Expert Says Bahrain Canceled Visit in Torture Inquiry
By NICK CUMMING-BRUCE – 24 April, 2013
GENEVA — A United Nations expert who was due to visit Bahrain next month to look into reports that the authorities there have abused and tortured protesters in detention said on Wednesday that the Bahraini government had effectively canceled the trip.
Bahrain’s decision “does not enhance transparency with regard to the situation in the country, nor demonstrate a commitment to redress impunity regarding any violations,” said the expert, Juan E. Mendez, in a statement released in Geneva. Mr. Mendez is based there as the United Nations’s special rapporteur on torture.
The cancellation follows a week of clashes between the police and opposition demonstrators in Bahrain, mostly in villages outside Manama, the capital. They were timed to coincide with a Formula One auto race in Manama, which attracts international media attention. The race took place on Sunday without incident, but the protests signaled a simmering challenge to the ruling Al Khalifa family.
Mr. Mendez had been scheduled to meet a number of key government ministers and officials during a visit that had been discussed since September 2011. An independent commission of inquiry reported late that year that some detainees in Bahrain had been tortured to death and others subjected to physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions or as punishment. The commission and the U.N. Human Rights Council recommended a number of reforms; Mr. Mendez said in a telephone interview that his visit would have given him an opportunity to see how much the Bahrain government had done to implement them.
He was originally scheduled to go to Bahrain in February 2012, but the Bahraini authorities canceled the visit on short notice, saying that there had not yet been enough progress on the reforms. Similarly, the letter delivered to Mr. Mendez this week canceling next month’s visit said that talks with the opposition in Bahrain had not progressed as fast as expected and that the visit could damage their chances of success. …more
April 24, 2013 No Comments
Obama, Congress, should listen, act on State Department Report on Dismal Human Rights Situation in Bahrain
US State Department 2012 Human Rights Report: Bahrain
19 April, 2013 – Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain is a monarchy. King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the head of state, appoints the cabinet consisting of 29 ministers; approximately half are members of the Sunni Al-Khalifa ruling family. The parliament consists of an appointed upper house, the Shura (Consultative) Council, and the elected Council of Representatives. Approximately 17 percent of eligible voters participated in parliamentary by-elections for 18 seats vacated in September 2011. Independent human rights organizations did not consider the elections free and fair. On May 19, the king ratified constitutional amendments broadening the powers of the elected chamber of parliament. Security forces reported to civilian authorities during the year.
The most serious human rights problems included citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention; and lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists, medical personnel, teachers, and students, with some resulting in harsh sentences. Some protesters engaged in lethal acts of violence against security forces, including the use of improvised explosive devices, Molotov cocktails, and other improvised weapons.
Other significant human rights problems included arbitrary deprivation of life; arrest of individuals on charges relating to freedom of expression; reported violations of privacy; and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. The government sometimes imposed and enforced travel bans on political activists. Discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, nationality, and sect persisted, especially against the Shia population. There were reports of domestic violence against women and children. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of foreign workers continued to be significant problems.
Beginning in February 2011, the country experienced a sustained period of unrest including mass protests calling for political reform. In 2011, 52 persons died in incidents linked to the unrest, and hundreds more were injured or arrested. The government prosecuted some police personnel implicated in abuses committed during the year and in 2011. Courts convicted six individuals of crimes related to police abuse, resulting in prison sentences ranging from three months to seven years. It was unclear whether any of those convicted were in prison at year’s end. Many of the trials continued. In the pending cases, charges ranged from misdemeanor assault and battery to murder. The government took some steps to address the “culture of impunity,” which the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report identified.
Human Rights in Bahrain- Report by State Department HERE
April 24, 2013 No Comments
The Hijacking of Human Rights
7 April, 2013 – By Chris Hedges – truthdig
The appointment of Suzanne Nossel, a former State Department official and longtime government apparatchik, as executive director of PEN American Center is part of a campaign to turn U.S. human rights organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive war and apologists for empire. Nossel’s appointment led me to resign from PEN as well as withdraw from speaking at the PEN World Voices Festival in May. But Nossel is only symptomatic of the widespread hijacking of human rights organizations to demonize those—especially Muslims—branded by the state as the enemy, in order to cloak pre-emptive war and empire with a fictional virtue and to effectively divert attention from our own mounting human rights abuses, including torture, warrantless wiretapping and monitoring, the denial of due process and extrajudicial assassinations.
Nossel, who was deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under Hillary Clinton in a State Department that was little more than a subsidiary of the Pentagon, is part of the new wave of “humanitarian interventionists,” such as Samantha Power, Michael Ignatieff and Susan Rice, who naively see in the U.S. military a vehicle to create a better world. They know little of the reality of war or the actual inner workings of empire. They harbor a childish belief in the innate goodness and ultimate beneficence of American power. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, the horrendous suffering and violent terror inflicted in the name of their utopian goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, barely register on their moral calculus. This makes them at once oblivious and dangerous. “Innocence is a kind of insanity,” Graham Greene wrote in his novel “The Quiet American,” and those who destroy to build are “impregnably armored by … good intentions and … ignorance.”
There are no good wars. There are no just wars. As Erasmus wrote, “there is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more deeply tenacious, more loathsome” than war. “Whoever heard of a hundred thousand animals rushing together to butcher each other, as men do everywhere?” Erasmus asked. But war, he knew, was very useful to the power elite. War permitted the powerful, in the name of national security and by fostering a culture of fear, to effortlessly strip the citizen of his or her rights. A declaration of war ensures that “all the affairs of the State are at the mercy of the appetites of a few,” Erasmus wrote.
There are cases, and Bosnia in the 1990s was one, when force should be employed to halt an active campaign of genocide. This is the lesson of the Holocaust: When you have the capacity to stop genocide and you do not, you are culpable. For this reason, we are culpable in the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. But the “humanitarian interventionists” have twisted this moral imperative to intercede against genocide to justify the calls for pre-emptive war and imperial expansion. Saddam Hussein did carry out campaigns of genocide against the Kurds and the Shiites, but the dirty fact is that while these campaigns were under way we provided support to Baghdad or looked the other way. It was only when Washington wanted war, and the bodies of tens of thousands of Kurds and Shiites had long decomposed in mass graves, that we suddenly began to speak in the exalted language of human rights.
These “humanitarian interventionists” studiously ignore our own acts of genocide, first unleashed against Native Americans and then exported to the Philippines and, later, nations such as Vietnam. They do not acknowledge, even in light of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our own capacity for evil. They do not discuss in their books and articles the genocides we backed in Guatemala and East Timor or the crime of pre-emptive war. They minimize the horror and suffering we have delivered to Iraqis and Afghans and exaggerate or fabricate the benefits. The long string of atrocities carried out in our name mocks the idea of the United States as a force for good with a right to impose its values on others. The ugly truth shatters their deification of U.S. power. …more
April 9, 2013 No Comments
The torture and ill-treatment of detainees remains one of Amnesty International’s long-standing and serious concerns in Bahrain. Over the years the organization has documented numerous cases of torture, which have been raised with the government and placed on the public record. The government denies the use of torture in its prisons, and yet continues to deny independent international human rights bodies access to the country to investigate such claims. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the government has failed to carry out a single independent investigation of its own into allegations of torture. No one has been brought to justice or convicted for such crimes to date.
Torture is prohibited by Bahrain’s Constitution, Article 19(d) of which clearly states that “no person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, enticement or degrading treatment, and the law shall provide the penalty for these acts”. Article 20(d) of the Constitution further states that “no physical or moral injuries shall be inflicted on an accused person”. National legislation prohibits, and provides penalties for, a range of offences deemed to constitute an abuse of office or authority by public officials. Article 75(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure states:
“No policeman or any other person with authority shall use violence or threats or promise of benefits towards any person during an investigation into the commission of an offence in order to influence the statement he may give”.
Bahrain: A Human Rights Crisis
25 September, 1995 – Amnesty International
In early December 1994, widespread protests erupted in Bahrain as thousands of people took to the streets calling for the restoration of democratic rights – namely, the reconvening of parliament and respect for the country’s Constitution. The Bahraini Government responded by ignoring these demands and attempting to stifle these calls by violating basic human rights.
Over a ten-month period, several thousand people – including women and children – were arrested and many continue to be held without charge or trial. Among them were prisoners of conscience. At least 100 of them were subsequently charged, convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment, and in one case to death, following grossly unfair trials. Scores of detainees are believed to have been tortured under interrogation, and two have died in custody. Security forces and riot police were deployed in large numbers in the streets to quell demonstrators. A variety of weaponry, including live ammunition, was used for this purpose. To date, 10 civilians have been killed in circumstances suggesting that they may have been extrajudicially executed. At least 20 Bahraini nationals were forcibly exiled from the country or were denied entry after attempting to return.
Throughout, the Government of Bahrain has denied that forces under its authority have committed these widespread violations of human rights. It has sought to maintain – both at home and abroad – that it has acted within the law with regard to arrest and detention procedures, that the rights of detainees in custody were respected, and that those convicted received the benefit of fair trials. Furthermore, the government has sought to justify its strong-arm tactics in quelling demonstrators by pointing to acts of violence – the killing of three law enforcement officers and acts of sabotage – which it accused “extremist elements” of having perpetrated. It has stated publicly that such acts of violence were carried at the instigation of hostile foreign powers.
The government, however, has failed to provide the evidence to support its public statements, both with regard to the question of foreign involvement in the current political unrest and with regard to the manner in which the authorities have handled the mass protests. It has failed to make known the names of those arrested and their places of detention, and has denied the vast majority of them access to relatives and defence lawyers. Most of those convicted were tried in camera before the State Security Court, the proceedings of which fall far short of international standards for fair trial. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the government has failed to set up investigations into any allegations of torture or into incidents involving the killing of demonstrators. No one has been brought to justice for any of these crimes. Moreover, the government continues to deny Amnesty International access to the country to investigate these allegations or to observe ongoing trials. Thousands of appeals sent by Amnesty International members on behalf of individual detainees remain unanswered.
This report addresses the range of Amnesty International’s concerns about human rights violations committed since December 1994. In gathering its information, the organization has interviewed a wide range of victims, including former detainees now abroad as well as others who remain in Bahrain. Amnesty International has obtained testimonies from victims of torture and ill-treatment; some of the allegations of torture made are supported by medical evidence. Testimonies and information were also obtained from numerous eye-witnesses to the killing of demonstrators, from the relatives of those convicted following unfair trials, and from defence lawyers. The fear of further reprisals by the authorities means that some of these sources – particularly those who remain in Bahrain – are not identified at their own request.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S CONCERNS IN BAHRAIN
The Government of Bahrain has engaged in a consistent pattern of systematic human rights violations since the early 1980s. These violations included the arbitrary arrest and prolonged administrative and incommunicado detention without charge or trial of suspected political opponents; the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, particularly during pre-trial detention, in order to extract “confessions”; grossly unfair trials before the State Security Court; and the forcible exile from the country of Bahraini nationals. While executions have not been carried out in Bahrain for many years, Amnesty International remains concerned about the introduction by law of new capital offences and the continued passing of death sentences. …more
March 25, 2013 No Comments
Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia keep the protest movement alive
By Reese Erlich – GlobalPost – 18 March, 2013
Editor’s Note: When Arab Spring protests broke out in Saudi Arabia in 2011, the government reacted quickly. It pumped $130 billion into the economy, including hiring 300,000 new state workers and raising salaries. It also brutally cracked down on dissent, in some cases breaking up peaceful protests with live ammunition. While the carrot and stick approach worked in some cities, the Shia Muslims in the Eastern Province continued to protest. Shia make up some 10-15 percent of the Saudi population and have long rebelled against discrimination and political exclusion.
Demonstrations continued in the city of Qatif but got little publicity because foreign journalists are banned from reporting there. Correspondent Reese Erlich, on assignment for GlobalPost and NPR, managed to get into Qatif, meet with protest leaders and become the first foreign journalist to witness the current demonstrations.
This is his account: QATIF, Saudi Arabia — Night has fallen as the car rumbles down back roads to avoid the Saudi Army’s special anti-riot units. To be stopped at any of the numerous checkpoints leading into Qatif, would mean police detention for a Western journalist and far worse for the Saudi activists in the car. They would likely spend a lot of time in jail for spreading what Saudi authorities deem “propaganda” to the foreign media.
In Saudi Arabia all demonstrations are illegal, but here in Qatif residents have defied the ban for many months. At least once a week the mostly young demonstrators march down a street renamed “Revolution Road,” calling for the release of political prisoners and for democratic rights.
The anti-riot units deploy armored vehicles at strategic locations downtown. The word on this night is that if demonstrators stay off the main road, the troops may not attack.
Foreign journalists are generally denied permission to report from Qatif. Activists said this night was the first time a foreign journalist has been an eyewitness to one of their demonstrations. Asked if the troops will use tear gas, Abu Mohammad, the pseudonym used by an activist to prevent government retaliation, says, “Oh, no. The army either does nothing or uses live ammunition.”
I really hope it will be option #1.
Suddenly, young Shia Muslim men wearing balaclavas appear, directing traffic away from Revolution Road. All the motorists obey the gesticulations of these self-appointed traffic cops.
Minutes later several hundred men march down the street, most with their faces covered to avoid police identification. Shia women wearing black chadors, which also hide their faces, follow closely behind, chanting even louder than the men.
One of their banners reads, “For 100 years we have lived in fear, injustice, and intimidation.”
Despite two years of repression by the Saudi royal family, Shia protests against the government have continued here in the Eastern Province. Though Shia are a small fraction of Saudi Arabia’s 27 million people, they are the majority here. Most of the country’s 14 oil fields are located in the Eastern Province, making it of strategic importance to the government.
Shia have protested against discrimination and for political rights for decades. But the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 gave new impetus to the movement. Saudi Arabia is home to two of Islam’s most holy cities, and the government sees itself as a protector of the faith. But its political alliances with the US and conservative, Sunni monarchies have angered many other Muslims, including the arc of Shia stretching from Iran to Lebanon.
Saudi officials claim they are under attack from Shia Iran and have cracked down hard on domestic dissent.
Saudi authorities are responsible for the death of 15 people and 60 injured since February 2011, according to Waleed Sulais of the Adala Center for Human Rights, the leading human rights group in the Eastern Province. He says 179 detainees remain in jail, including 19 children under the age of 18.
The government finds new ways to stifle dissent, according to Sulais. Several months ago the government required all mobile phone users to register their SIM cards, which means text messaging about demonstrations is no longer anonymous.
Abu Zaki, another activist requesting anonymity, says demonstrators now rely on Facebook and Twitter, along with good old word of mouth. Practically everyone at the recent Qatif protest march carried iPhones. Some broadcast the demo in near real time by uploading to YouTube.
Organizers hope their sheer numbers, along with government incompetence, will keep them from being discovered. “The government cannot follow everybody’s Twitter user name,” says Abu Zaki. “The authorities have to be selective and, hopefully, they don’t select my name.”
When protests began, demonstrators called for reforms. But now, younger militants demand elimination of the monarchy and an end to the US policy of supporting the dictatorial king.
Abu Mohammad, Abu Zaki and several other militant activists, gather in an apartment in Awamiyah, a poor, Shia village neighboring Qatif. In this part of the world a village is really a small town, usually abutting a larger city. Awamiyah is one such town, chock full of auto repair shops, one-room storefronts, and potholed streets. It is noticeably poorer than Sunni towns of comparable size.
Strong, black tea is served along with weak, greenish Saudi coffee. The protest movement in Qatif, they observe, resembles the tea more than the coffee.
Abu Mohammad tells me protests have remained strong because residents are fighting for both political rights as Saudis, and against religious/social discrimination as Shia.
Shia face discrimination in jobs, housing and religious practices. Qatif has no Shia cemetery, for example. Only four Shia sit on the country’s 150-member Shura Council, the appointed legislature that advises the king.
“As Shia, we can’t get jobs in the military,” says Abu Mohammad. “And we face the same political repression as all Saudis. We live under an absolute monarchy that gives us no rights and steals the wealth of the country.”
The government denies those claims of discrimination and repression. In Riyadh, Major General Mansour Al Turki, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, is the point man who often meets with foreign journalists. Al Turki is smooth and affable and practiced at the art of being interviewed by Westerners.
He dismisses Shia charges of discrimination as simply untrue. “These people making demonstrations are very few,” he tells me. “They only represent themselves. The majority [of Shia] are living at a very high level.” …more
March 23, 2013 No Comments
U.N. Think Tank Opening Office in Bahrain, with Bahraini Government Funding
by Justin Elliott – ProPublica – 18 March, 2013
As Bahrain enters the third year of a crisis sparked by Arab Spring protests in 2011, the government continues to bar many human rights advocates and journalists from entering the country.
But one non-profit group is not only being welcomed into the tiny Gulf kingdom, it’s opening an office there. And it’s doing so with funding from Bahrain’s ruling monarchy.
The International Peace Institute, a New York-based think tank closely associated with the United Nations, announced last month an agreement to open the office to “promote development, peace and international security.”
The announcement comes at a time when Bahrain’s image-conscious government is still under international scrutiny amid continued pro-democracy protests. Human rights groups have criticized the government’s at times violent crackdown on the protests and failure to follow through on promised reforms.
Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen, a veteran diplomat in the Mideast who is also a United Nations under-secretary-general, told ProPublica that the new office would be a positive force in Bahrain and the region.
He compared the think tank to United Nations programs that operate in or receive funding from countries that are in crisis or face criticism.
“Problems related to peace and security are in difficult countries,” Rød-Larsen said.
Bahrain appeals to the institute as a location for an office because “along many dimensions it’s an open society,” he said, citing the status of women and “freedom of religion.”
International Peace Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen signs an agreement with Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa. (mofa.gov.bh)
International Peace Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen signs an agreement with Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa. (mofa.gov.bh)
Rød-Larsen said that taking money from Bahrain’s government would not compromise the institute’s work. He declined to say how much money Bahrain is providing.
Rød-Larsen has been a frequent visitor to Bahrain in recent years, regularly meeting with government officials both in his capacity as the institute’s president and as a U.N. official.
With New York offices across from the United Nations, the institute counts many former U.N. officials among its staff and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is honorary chair of its board. Rød-Larsen has also traveled with a U.N. staffer on some of his trips to Bahrain, the U.N. news site Inner City Press has noted.
During his visits Rød-Larsen has repeatedly been cited in Bahrain’s state media praising the government, though he disputes the accounts.
“Larsen lauded [the] return of calm to Bahrain which indicates the kingdom’s success in overcoming the crisis,” the official Bahrain News Agency reported in April 2011, just two months after the protests began.
“The U.N. official lauded the climate of freedom, democracy and institutional development in Bahrain,” said another November 2011 report on a meeting between Rød-Larsen and the foreign minister.
Rød-Larsen said that media outlets often attribute inaccurate statements to him on his diplomatic travels.
“If I should dispute all stories like this, it would be full time work,” he said.
Rød-Larsen said that, in reality, he believes Bahrain’s government has made mistakes.
As for what the International Peace Institute’s new office in Bahrain will do when it opens, Rød-Larsen on a recent trip discussed “plans for a renewed national dialogue in Bahrain,” according to the institute.
Khalil Almarzooq, a spokesman for the main opposition group al-Wefaq, told ProPublica that the group had not heard from Rød-Larsen anytime recently. Almarzooq said whether the institute will be a positive force in Bahrain all depends on how it uses the money the government is providing.
Organized as a nonprofit charity in New York, the institute had a budget of nearly $11 million in 2011 and Rød-Larsen received about $495,000 in compensation.
According to the group’s 2011 annual report, its major donors that year included the United States, several governments in Europe, as well as Bahraini regional allies Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The institute’s international advisory council includes Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence. Saudi Arabia sent troops to help put down the protests in Bahrain in 2011.
Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment. …source
March 19, 2013 No Comments
Researchers Find 25 Countries Using Surveillance Software
By NICOLE PERLROTH – Huffington Post – 14 March, 2013
Last May, two security researchers volunteered to look at a few suspicious e-mails sent to some Bahraini activists. Almost one year later, the two have uncovered evidence that some 25 governments, many with questionable records on human rights, may be using off-the-shelf surveillance software to spy on their own citizens.
Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, and Bill Marczak, a computer science doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the e-mails contained surveillance software that could grab images off computer screens, record Skype chats, turn on cameras and microphones and log keystrokes. The word “FinSpy” appeared in the spyware code. FinSpy is spyware sold by the Gamma Group, a British company that says it sells monitoring software to governments solely for criminal investigations.
Now, one year later, Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak have found evidence that FinSpy is being run off servers in 25 countries, including Ethiopia and Serbia, without oversight.
Until Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak stumbled upon FinSpy last May, security researchers had tried, unsuccessfully, for a year to track it down. FinSpy gained notoriety in March 2011 after protesters raided Egypt’s state security headquarters and discovered a document that appeared to be a proposal by the Gamma Group to sell FinSpy to the government of President Hosni Mubarak .
Martin J. Muench, a Gamma Group managing director, has said his company does not disclose its customers but that Gamma Group sold its technology to governments only to monitor criminals. He said that it was most frequently used “against pedophiles, terrorists, organized crime, kidnapping and human trafficking.”
But evidence suggests the software is being sold to governments where the potential for abuse is high. “If you look at the list of countries that Gamma is selling to, many do not have a robust rule of law,” Mr. Marquis-Boire said. “Rather than catching kidnappers and drug dealers, it looks more likely that it is being used for politically motivated surveillance.”
As of last year, Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak, with other researchers at Rapid7, CrowdStrike and others, had found command-and-control servers running the spyware in just over a dozen countries. They have since scanned the entire Internet for FinSpy. …more
March 14, 2013 No Comments