Hamad has only burtal crackdown, banned potests, prisoners, lies and broken promises to show toward “democratic reform”
27 January, 2013 – ABNA.co
The second part of Friday Prayers Sermon for Senior Bahraini cleric Ayatollah Shaikh Isa Ahmed Qassim Imam of the Grand Mosque in Duraz (Imam Al-Sadiq Garand Mosque).
Ayatollah Isa Qassim: Two years since the beginning of the revolution in Bahrain & nor a step toward reform
The politics in Bahrain worked on fueling the spirit of sectarianism and creating sectarian divide as well as sectarian clashes especially when the movement for demands and reform began – and this led to turn the conflict from its political nature to sectarian nature. The dispute which was between government and people turned to a popular conflict between two sects as the authority begs the support from one sect at the expanse of the another sect.
There have been voices which benefit from this situation and therefore they supported the authority’s trend which is based on creating hatreds and igniting the fire of sedition and sectarianism as much as it is possible. This trend serves the sectarian divide in more than one Islamic and Arab country and helps the success of this divide which leads these poor countries to devastation.
However, the opposition here was and still is smart, thanks to its laudable, honorable, and blessed stance as it stood stubbornly against this approach and initially maintained the objective of the national Islamic unity. The opposition did not respond to the provocations of the authority and its followers – who were trying to ignite the fire of sedition and turn the course of events from the political track to the sectarian track. The opposition stepped away from everything that serves this destructive goal or any initiative which is about to burn this beloved homeland.
On the other hand, the provocations of the government and its followers tried to target that street of opposition – however, this street was smarter and did not meet any effort made on the path of that destructive goal. The opposition is pious and devout in a way that it does not accept to start a battle with their brothers in religion and homeland – a battle which the two parties will lose for the interest of the third party which wants to harm both of them – while this third party knows that God does not accept this division and this strife.
The stance of this street which was wanted from it to confront their brothers – was honorable, blessed, and deserves appreciation from each one fair monitor. …more
January 29, 2013 No Comments
By REEM KHALIFA – Associated Press – 24 January, 2013
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Riot police in Bahrain fired tear gas and stun grenades at anti-government protesters whose chants included calls to reject proposed talks aimed at easing nearly two years of unrest in the Gulf nation.
Thursday’s clashes were relatively small, with several hundred protesters demonstrating near Sitra, south of the capital Manama. But they highlight the divides among Bahrain’s Shiite-led opposition over whether to accept the Sunni monarchy’s offers for dialogue.
Appeals to open talks have received a cautious endorsement from main Shiite opposition groups in the strategic nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Other anti-government factions, including youth groups, appear to oppose dialogue, claiming the Sunni leadership is unwilling to give up power.
More than 55 people have been killed in the unrest. …more
January 29, 2013 No Comments
Al Wefaq “ready to partner with ruling family” in talks while thousands remain silenced as Political Prisoners
22 January, 2013 – BBC
Bahrain’s opposition has accepted an offer from the country’s justice minister to resume talks.
Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa issued the invitation to political societies in an apparent bid to break an impasse that has damaged Bahrain’s economy.
A leading member of al Wefaq, the biggest opposition society, was guardedly optimistic about the offer.
The Gulf island nation has been wracked by violence for the past two years.
Khalil al-Marzook, of Wefaq, told the BBC the movement was “ready to partner with the ruling family and the community to find solutions”.
But he added: “We need to be assured that the process is credible, we need detail about how agreement will be reached, where it will go and how the people will ratify it.”
On the 14 February 2011, peaceful protesters took over an iconic Bahraini monument, Pearl Roundabout. Three days later security forces cleared the site using tear gas, batons and birdshot.
In the months following the Pearl Roundabout takeover there have been repeated calls for dialogue but the atmosphere of distrust on both sides is deep.
The opposition rejected an initial offer of talks in June 2011 on the grounds that King Hamad had pre-selected participants. As efforts at dialogue stalled the government responded by demanding the opposition renounce violence.
The opposition did so and then charged the government with more foot-dragging.
What makes this latest offer significant is the call by the justice minister to “resume political discussions.” In the past the emphasis has been on a “national dialogue” which avoided references to political solutions.
This suggests the opposition’s call to reform the political system and move toward a constitutional monarchy has not been dismissed out of hand.
At least two protesters died and hundreds were injured.
As violence escalated 35 people, including five police officers, were killed, hundreds more were hurt and thousands jailed in February and March 2011.
The vast majority were Shia Muslims in a country ruled by a minority Sunni royal family
Since then, opposition and human rights activists say another 45 people have been killed, a figure which the government disputes.
In October last year two policemen died of injuries sustained during clashes with protesters in villages outside the capital, Manama.
Thirteen activists and politicians including the leader of the secular Waad party, Ibrahim Sharif, remain in jail, convicted and in some cases given life sentences on evidence that is widely accepted to have been obtained under torture.
Street protests and gatherings are illegal and human rights defenders are routinely detained for activities that include tweeting criticism of the king and his government. …more
January 22, 2013 2 Comments
Bahrain King begs for democratic reform dialogue while holding those who called for promised reforms Prisoner
By REUTERS – 7 January, 2013 – NYT
DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain’s highest court upheld prison sentences against 13 leaders of the 2011 uprising on Monday, a defence lawyer said, a ruling that could stir up further unrest in the U.S.-allied Gulf Arab state.
The case has drawn international criticism from rights groups and come under scrutiny from U.S. officials keen for acquittals to help restore calm in a country it counts as a regional ally against Iran.
Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, has been in political turmoil since a protest movement led by majority Shi’ite Muslims erupted in February 2011 during a tide of revolts against governments across the Arab world. Bahrain accuses Shi’ite power Iran of encouraging the unrest.
The sentences, originally handed down by a military court in June 2011 and upheld by a civilian court in September last year, range from five years in prison to life sentences.
“This verdict is final, there are no more appeals possible, it is the last stage of litigation,” lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi told Reuters by telephone from Manama.
Twenty uprising leaders had been sentenced but only 13 filed appeals. The remaining seven men had been tried in absentia because they were out of the country or in hiding, Jishi said.
Bahrain’s main opposition Al Wefaq condemned the decision. “These judgments confirmed the rulings issued before by the military court which were condemned by the whole world. I think it is accurate to call these rulings political persecution,” Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman told Reuters.
“It confirms that the Bahrain regime is refusing to take its chances to reform and seems to be deepening its own human rights crisis,” said Brian Dooley, director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at U.S.-based group Human Rights First.
The men who received life sentences – 25 years in Bahrain – included rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and opposition leader Hassan Mushaimaa, who has advocated turning the kingdom of Bahrain into a republic.
Ibrahim Sharif, leader of the opposition Waad party and the only Sunni among those convicted in the case, is serving a five-year sentence.
The hearing was attended by a number of foreign diplomats, Jishi said, highlighting fears that the outcome could have an impact on unrest in the island kingdom.
Several protesters gathered in front of the court on Monday in support of the uprising leaders, Wefaq said via Twitter.
ACCUSED SAY THEY WANTED ONLY DEMOCRATIC REFORM
The Sunni Muslim ruling Al Khalifa family, backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and police from the United Arab Emirates, put down the uprising with martial law. Thousands were arrested and military trials were conducted during the martial law period.
Washington has called on its ally to talk to the opposition, but unrest has continued. Police and demonstrators clash almost daily and each side blames the other for the violence.
The main charges the convicted men faced were “forming a terrorist group with intent to overthrow the system of government”, as well as collaboration with a foreign state.
The men deny all charges, saying they wanted only democratic reform in the Gulf Arab monarchy. …more
January 7, 2013 No Comments
29 November, 2012 – By Brian Dooley – Middle East Voices
Outside of Bahrain government supporters, it’s hard to find anyone who thinks the country’s reform process is going okay.
To mark last week’s anniversary of the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), the report ordered by the King of Bahrain into human rights violations in early 2011, the regime evaluated its own progress. It insists it has made great strides “to complete the legislative framework required to consolidate the rule of the law, protect public freedoms, respect human rights, promote security and stability across the nation, strengthen the democratic march and maintain national unity.”
insight hrf INSIGHT: Bahrain Reforms Stuck in ReverseDespite that claim, those of us who have witnessed Bahrain’s police using excessive force and its sham court trials know there is often a chasm between the country’s PR version and reality. That is why the Kingdom’s response on the BICI anniversary was met with disappointment and frustration – but not surprise – inside and outside the country. The Bahraini government’s claims to be promoting freedom of expression, protecting defendants’ rights and holding to account those responsible for torture is wholly unconvincing to those of us closely following what’s happening there each day.
Human Rights First and other international NGOs knew the government would present a positive gloss on its record, but the irrefutable consensus from the world’s leading human rights organizations is that things have gotten worse in recent months, not better.
Some of the protests have taken on a violent edge, with police and a minority of protestеrs involved in regular clashes. Some protestеrs are throwing gasoline bombs and other missiles at the police. Evidence of police using excessive force, including large amounts of tear gas, continues to be reported. Just in the last few weeks, the Kingdom has banned all public gatherings, sent several people to jail for criticizing the King on Twitter, intensified attacks on civil society figures and stripped 31 Bahrainis of their citizenship.
“No senior official has been prosecuted for the thousands of arrests or held accountable for those who were tortured in custody.” – Brian Dooley, Human Rights First
It’s not just NGOs who are frustrated with the lack of reform in Bahrain. Bahrain has drawn criticism from other governments and international bodies, too. “We are concerned by some of the recent decisions taken by the Bahraini Government, particularly on human rights,” said British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt. A senior U.S. State Department official observed, “What’s unfortunately happened, on accountability, on the hardest issues, is the government has not followed through. … We see people held in prison, prosecuted for demonstrating a year and a half ago, and there’s still not been meaningful police reform.” The United Nations is dispatching a human rights team to Bahrain to examine the situation next week.
November 30, 2012 No Comments
20 November, 2012 – BNA
London-Nov20 (BNA) The Kingdom of Bahrain and the UK today signed a key memorandum of understanding, establishing a joint work team.
Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa and British Foreign Secretary William Hague sealed the deal.
Under the agreement, the two sides pledge to bolster deep-rooted historic relations and step up political and diplomatic coordination.
They also committed to coordinate stances regarding security, the fight against terror, trade, investments and regional cooperation.
The annual meetings of the joint Bahrain-Britain work team will be held alternately between both sides
Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa stressed Bahrain’s firm resolve to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
He affirmed the Kingdom’s keenness on working in tandem with all parties to renounce violence and promote a favourable environment conducive to a comprehensive national dialogue.
Mr. Hague commended the Government of Bahrain for its efforts to overcome the challenges resulting from last year’s unrest as well as its firm commitment to implement the (BICI) recommendations.
He also reiterated the UK support for the Kingdom of Bahrain, stressing joint cooperation to build competences in all sectors.
The British minister lauded the role of Bahrain and the GCC member states regarding key Mideast causes as well as their efforts to address pressing issues amid mounting upheavals.
He also underscored the importance of coordinating international stances to promote security and stability in this highly-strategic and volatile region of the world. AHN …source
November 21, 2012 No Comments
The Street Defenders emerged out of a black bloc sort of protest movement in Bahrain as a defensive force as Police raped children and routinely attacked Women, even those with infants, in the streets and conducted raids on the Villages with theft, indiscriminate chemical gassing of homes and wanton destruction of personal property. The Villages were overrun by Bahrain’s foreign national (mercenary) police force. The police reveled in unchecked and indiscriminate violence against Shia Villages. The scale of police violence is clearly and directed effort not just a few random “bad cops”.
Hamad’s or rather Secretary Clinton’s, BICI report and the regime hiring of US Chief Timoney had “fuck-all” to do with the cessation of these despicable acts by Hamad’s mercenary police. Now imprisoned Human Rights activists, documented regime crimes for the whole world to see, exposing the criminal police and disenfranchised youth took charge of the Streets as the West turned “deaf ears” and “blind eyes” to a rampant genocidal “crackdown” by the regime. Chief Timoney’s greatest teaching seems to be, how to effectively wound and maim Street Protesters with Birdshot so they can be collected latter at the Hospital or Morgue. Police reform in Bahrain is a myth and will remain so as long as the al Khalifa’s operate mercenaries to police their “kingdom”.
The State Department in Washing has fallen asleep regarding Bahrain and left the crisis to ‘spookish’ Ambassador Krajeski to look after. The State Department’s spokes person, Mark toner, recently had harsh words for the regime in his press conference but that had never been any diplomatic contact until that point with the regime. Toner’s rhetoric feeds Western media demand while al Khalifa’s Public Relations campaign that embellishes stories of opposition bombings and weapons caches that go unsubstantiated but provide a firewall for the regime to continue its unimpeded crackdown.
To be certain the “uprising” in Bahrain comes at an inopportune time for President Obama as he tries to help prop up a failing economy with hundreds of million of dollars in weapons sales supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the US to the al Khlaifa potentate, al Saud. Obama’s war efforts with Syria and Iran put a set of unpredictable dynamics in the mix – though some pentagon asshole will swear “we can do it” given time, money and enough force. The al Saud’s in the meantime provide cheap oil to the US as a firewall in support of US imperialist aggression launched through its ‘democracy wars’ and nation imploding throughout MENA. This is an ugly road ahead and Michael Stephens could do much better rethinking the political realities rather than arguing an Obama-esque ‘third way’ to be found in successful economic reform. Phlipn out.
BY MICHAEL STEPHENS – 7 November, 2012 – Foreign Policy
The island kingdom is descending into violence, and nobody has a plan to restore order.
Violence is once again rearing its ugly head in Bahrain. The coordinated detonation of five home-made explosive devices in the capital of Manama on Nov. 5, resulting in the death of two people and the maiming of another, was not some crude attempt to celebrate Guy Fawkes night, but an escalation of bloodshed that threatens to tip the island kingdom into chaos.
The attack appears to be an amateurish attempt to cause terror and mayhem, achieving no result other than killing innocent expatriate labourers. The quality of the explosive devices was poor, suggesting that the attacks were the work of unsophisticated actors working with little institutional support.
Four individuals were arrested for the bombing just one day after it occurred, with Bahrain officials warning darkly that the attacks “bear the hallmark” of Hezbollah. The link to the Lebanese militant organization is crude: Poorly constructed pipe bombs are not Hezbollah’s style — one need only look at the July attack on the Bulgarian city of Burgas to see the group’s devastating efficiency in killing innocents. So while it is possible that the individuals responsible may hold some affinity for the group, it is highly unlikely a Hezbollah cell is to blame for this act.
Government officials and some of their more hard-line supporters have at times stretched the truth in describing actions by anti-government factions as terrorism, and very rarely has the opposition’s strategy of civil disobedience strayed into violence. But let’s be clear: the Nov. 5 bombings were acts of terrorism, committed by terrorists. The government would be justified in prosecuting the offenders to the fullest extent of the law.
The important question to ask is why terrorist actions are now increasing to what appears to be a sustained level. The fact is, this latest attack is the result of a political reconciliation process that is going nowhere and is radicalizing the Bahraini population in the process. The Interior Ministry’s Oct. 30 decision to ban all protests and the Nov. 7 decision to strip 31 activists of citizenship are just the latest in a series of measures taken in the kingdom that appear oppressive, and serve only to further harden the political battle lines in this deeply divided country.
There is, fortunately, a silver lining amidst this grim news. Some of the reforms proposed by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which the monarchy commissioned to investigate the abuses committed during last year’s uprising, have been implemented: Security reforms have been comprehensive, and some police units’ performance has improved significantly — instances of police brutality have dropped significantly in recent months. Furthermore police units still acting irresponsibly will have to face an independent ombudsman who will judge their actions without political or ministry interference. Additionally, five Shia mosques that were inexplicably razed to the ground last year are also in the process of being rebuilt, with two more scheduled for reconstruction, though there are still 32 lying in rubble. …more
November 7, 2012 No Comments
October 31, 2012 No Comments
Jonathan Powell’s NGO has organised meetings for Bahraini government and opposition, applying lessons of Northern Ireland
Ex-Blair aide advising Bahrain on conflict resolution
30 October, 2012 – guardian.co.uk
Bahraini government and opposition figures are being trained in negotiation and conflict resolution techniques by Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell, the Guardian can reveal.
Powell, who played a key role in securing the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998, was asked to undertake the work when Bahrain approached the UK Foreign Office for help with implementing the recommendations of an independent report on the Gulf state’s unrest last year.
Since leaving government in 2007 Powell has run InterMediate, a small NGO working on conflicts across the world. According to sources in Manama, Powell’s team has organised a series of discreet meetings in London and Northern Ireland for Bahraini officials and opposition figures, applying the lessons of the province’s sectarian divide in a Middle Eastern context.
A spokesman for InterMediate said that for reasons of confidentiality it does not comment on any of its projects, and refused to confirm or deny that it was involved in Bahrain. He stressed that as a matter of principle the charity does not accept funding from the government of any country in which it works.
Bahrain is known for employing expensive western PR agencies to present its case. It also buys security expertise. Last year it secured the services of John Yates, the former Metropolitan police commisioner, who is an adviser to the interior ministry. Another adviser is John Timoney, a former Miami police chief.
October 31, 2012 No Comments
By: Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi - 3 November, 2011
In the mid 20th century a majority of Arabs lived in monarchical states, some dating as far back as several centuries. However, by the 1960s, the monarchies of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq and Yemen had transformed into republics. Today, eight Arab monarchies remain, namely, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar and the Sultanate of Oman.
The reason some Arab monarchies ceased to exist varies from popular revolutions to military coups. However one feature they shared is their lack of ability to adapt to the changing geopolitical environment of surrounding countries from South Asia to Africa, gaining their independence and empowering their people as well as their own citizens.
The need to adapt to a changing environment is now more necessary than ever. The 2011 popular Arab uprisings that are spreading throughout the region will affect every single country in the region, if not in the short term then several years down the line. For instance, citizens of nominal republics such as Sudan will not continue to tolerate their dictators while they witness history being made by their Egyptian neighbors preparing to vote in the next few months. The eight Arab monarchies, even those whom, as I have argued earlier, have scored highly on human development reports will similarly have to face new realities that are taking shape both within their borders and in the region.
Due to the varied nature of these monarchies such an evolution into constitutional monarchies will likely occur in three cycles. The first cycle will include Kuwait, Jordan and Morocco, the second Bahrain and Oman, and the third Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Setting up constitutional monarchies has been attempted in the past. Half a century ago, as Arabs were rising up against their governments and mere months after it gained its independence from Britain, Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem unveiled a constitution that even today, is decades ahead of both Arab monarchies and republics alike. The constitution guaranteed Kuwaitis freedom of religion, speech and the press. Additionally, while enshrining a role for the Emir, it specifically stated that Kuwait’s system of rule is democratic with an elected assembly.
The managing editor of a Gulf based English newspaper told me he believes that the current controversial Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Nasser Al Sabah (71), will be the last premier to be appointed directly by an emir and the last to be chosen from the royal family. Sheikh Nasser was forced to resign by opposition MPs six times since his appointment in February 2006. Rhetoric that is not often heard used against members of Gulf ruling families is casually employed against Sheikh Nasser, with news wires quoting an MP at a recent 10,000 strong rally demanding his sacking describing him as “incompetent,” and saying that he “cannot be trusted”. These are some of the reasons that indicate Kuwait will likely be the first Arab monarchy to officially transform into a constitutional monarchy. …more
June 4, 2012 No Comments
2 June, 2012 – UPI
MANAMA, Bahrain, June 2 (UPI) — Bahrain has offered to resume negotiations with the opposition al-Wefaq party in a bid to solve the ongoing political crisis, an official said.
Information Minister Samira Rajab said Bahrain leaders are trying to find some common ground with al-Wefaq “despite insurmountable obstacles and unfeasible conditions” in a bid to pave the way for dialogue, CNN Arabic reported Saturday.
Akhbar al-Khaleej newspaper said state officials and leading members of al-Wefaq have already met “unofficially” to iron out the details of the dialogue and discuss prerequisites.
Al-Wefaq, which represents Bahrain’s Shiite community, pulled out of the national dialogue in 2011 after violence exploded in the kingdom.
June 4, 2012 No Comments
May 7, 2012, WSJ
MANAMA, Bahrain, Last week, Bahrain’s Embassy in Washington, D.C. held a workshop in conjunction with the Association of International Educators’ Embassy Dialogue Committee to report on the country’s progress with reform.
Held at the embassy, more than 100 people attended the workshop, including U.S. Department of State officials, embassy officials in Washington and university faculty.
In a speech to participants, Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Houda Nonoo said she understands that “outside perspectives and measured disagreement are important for an emerging democracy.”
“Bahrain values this transition and understands our path to democracy will take time. Meaningful democratic change cannot happen overnight,” she said.
Since last March, the country has taken “many steps to heal the wounds” through efforts like the National Dialogue, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and ongoing reform in security services, Ambassador Nonoo said.
“Through confronting a very difficult situation, Bahrain has become a better and more democratic nation,” she said.
In 2001, Bahrain began its reform process with a National Charter that made the country’s political system more representative.
SOURCE Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
May 8, 2012 No Comments
May 7, 2012 – Lebanon Now
The United States said Monday Syria’s parliamentary election “borders on the ludicrous” as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad continues its violent crackdown on its people.
“It’s not really possible to hold credible elections in a climate where basic human rights are being denied to the citizens and the government is continuing to carry out daily assaults …on its own citizens,” State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said.
“To hold a parliamentary election in that kind of atmosphere borders on ludicrous,” Toner told reporters.
Syrians were voting on Monday in the country’s first “multiparty” parliamentary election in five decades, being held against a backdrop of violence and dismissed as a sham by the opposition.
Young and old cast their ballots in neighborhoods of the capital and various other regions, while in opposition strongholds residents boycotted the vote, instead holding protests and a general strike.
The election was being held despite unrest that has swept the country since March 2011 when Assad resorted to force in a bid to quash a revolt against his autocratic regime.
The vote, initially scheduled for last September, was postponed to May 7 after Assad announced the launch of a reform process backed by a referendum. …more
May 7, 2012 No Comments
4 May, 2012 – AFP – Lebanon Now
Thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets on Friday in a demonstration called by the opposition to protest against constitutional reforms that they say are not enough.
The demonstration was called by the Shia-led opposition under the slogan “Sacrifices for freedom.”
Protesters marched from the village of Shakhurah to the village of Sar just outside Manama, according to the social networking website Facebook page of Al-Wefaq opposition group.
Images posted on the page showed symbolic coffins being paraded carrying pictures of people killed during protests that erupted in February last year.
Amnesty International says nearly 60 people have been killed since the protests began in February 2011.
“I am Bahraini and dictatorship does not represent me,” said one banner in a picture posted on the social network page.
The protest was staged to denounce constitutional reforms ratified on Thursday by King Hamad.
The amendments are aimed at defusing tension as the strategic Gulf kingdom has failed to return to normality after authorities quelled pro-democracy protests in March last year.
According to the amendments, the king now has to consult the heads of the elected parliament and the appointed Consultative Council before dissolving the legislature.
The elected chamber alone now has the right to vote to withhold cooperation from the prime minister and refer its decision to the king, who then has the final choice on whether to dismiss the premier or keep him in the post.
But the amendments fall far short of the demands of the opposition, which has been pushing for an elected government, not one named by the monarch, and the scrapping of the appointed upper house.
May 4, 2012 No Comments
Doha Debates Revisited – BICI Revisited – more state violence with impunity, more detainees, where is reform?
April 23, 2012 No Comments
WAN IFRA – 2 April, 2012
Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, the people of Bahrain took to the streets on 14 February, 2011 demanding change. More than a year after protests began on Pearl Roundabout, the epicentre of the Bahraini revolution, many argue that little has changed for the better. For the press, this sentiment is echoed most acutely.
A number of organisations have conducted missions and produced reports that investigate the state of freedom of expression in Bahrain, only to come up with one common result; things are getting worse. Journalists and human rights defenders have faced military trials, life imprisonment, torture, harassment, and in some cases even death whilst in the custody of the Bahraini authorities.
Despite this, Manama named itself the Capital of Arab Press for 2012 (it has been awarded the status of Capital of Arab Culture for 2012 by the Arab League as part of UNESCO’s cultural capitals programme), and recently hosted the Arab Youth Media Forum under the patronage of King Hamad Al-Khalifa. “This choice is the result of the freedom of the press enjoyed by Bahrain thanks to the reform project of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa as well as IAA attraction of Arab and international media institutions to operate from Bahrain,” said Information Affairs Authority President Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa in an interview with the state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA). Shaikh Fawaz also pointed out that “the King has asserted on many occasions that no journalist will be imprisoned nor will any newspaper or media establishment be closed,” adding that “approving a modern press and publication law reflects HM the King’s full support to Bahrain’s press.” The choice seems incongruous at best given the numerous attacks against independent journalists documented throughout 2011 – and that are reportedly still on-going.
Newspapers in Bahrain are mostly state-controlled, with the exception of Al-Wasat whose staff have certainly paid the price for being the only opposition newspaper. On 12 April 2011, Al-Wasat founder Karim Fakhrawi died after spending a week in police custody. Bahrain’s official news agency published on its Twitter page the news that Fakhrawi died of kidney failure, however photographs later emerged online showing the body identified as Fakhrawi’s covered in extensive cuts and bruises. Mansoor Al-Jamri was forced to resign from his position as Editor-in-Chief after being found guilty by a Manama court on 8 November 2011 of publishing false news and “harming Bahrain’s image” along with Managing Editor Walid Noueihed, Local News Director Aqeel Mirza, and Senior Editor Ali Al-Sherify. The four men each had to pay a fine of 1,000 dinars (US$2,650). …more
April 2, 2012 No Comments
29 March, 2102 – POMED
Al-Jazeera reported that the government argues that it has fulfilled the obligations of the BICI report released in November, but rights groups argue the opposite: the government has largely ignored “critical recommendations” and has yet to deal with “accountability for torture and relief for those unjustly imprisoned during the uprising.”
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting dozens of cases of citizens imprisoned simply for speaking out and demanding change. “No high-ranking officials have been investigated for their role in rampant torture or unlawful killings,” said Joe Stock, the deputy Middle East director at HRW.
Reports of abuse question the decision being contemplated by Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone to carrying out the grand prix. AA poll taken in F1 Racing Magazine shows that nearly 60% of international fans said it was “not right” for the gran prix to proceed. About 24% said it was right. The ethical questions surrounding F1’s decision have only been made worse by recent reports that show the conditions of the country may be worsening.
Today, Human Rights First testified before congress documenting the continuing human rights abuses as the government of Bahrain unremittingly oppresses its people. This testimony questions the morality of another decision: the decision to re-consider a new arms sale to Bahrain. “The Department of defense plays an important role in demonstrating leadership abroad,” said Sadia Hameed of Human Rights First urging the committee members to protect American values. …more
March 29, 2012 No Comments
Bahrain police install cameras to curb abuse
By Andrew Hammond – 22 March, 2012 – Reuters
MANAMA (Reuters) – Bahrain is installing video cameras in police stations to try to clean up its human rights image after crushing a pro-democracy uprising last year, but activists say off-camera abuse continues in other locations.
At al-Hoora station in Manama, closed circuit television will record police interrogations in rooms with padded grey walls. Rooms without cameras are set aside for detainees to consult lawyers. Other areas of the station are also monitored.
“We chose the color grey because it’s an international standard and it calms people. Anyone in a state of violence has to be calmed down,” said Brigadier Mansour Alhajeri, a police officer conducting a tour for journalists.
He said seven other stations were now being fitted with the monitoring system and all 33 stations would be covered by October.
But the cameras, introduced after an inquiry led by international jurists uncovered five deaths under torture last year, will not be installed in at least five riot police bases where activists say youths have been beaten.
“They don’t detain anyone, any arrests will be handed over to police,” police chief Tareq al-Hassan said when about the absence of cameras in the bases from where riot police using jeeps and armored vehicles move to handle protests.
The United States, which sees Bahrain as an ally in its conflict with Iran, has held up arms sales, including anti-tank missiles and armored humvees, until the Gulf island state shows progress in implementing human rights reforms.
Bahrain has been in turmoil for over a year as opposition parties dominated by the Shi’ite majority population demand an end to the Al Khalifa family’s hold on power and Shi’ite youths clash daily with Sunni-dominated riot police, many of them foreign hires.
Banking, tourism and real estate have slowed as the unrest scares off investors and strains the economy, while the clashes have intensified in the past three months.
Police say they show restraint in the face of rioters who attack them with petrol bombs and iron bars, damaging vehicles and wounding personnel.
But opposition and rights activists say 32 civilians have died since June, many from the effects of tear gas or direct hits by tear gas canisters and sound bombs.
The government questions the causes of death and their attribution to the political conflict.
The U.N. High Commission on Human Rights said this week it was concerned about a disproportionate use of force and excessive use of tear gas and would investigate the death toll.
Bahraini rights activists list three informal detention centers where Shi’ite youths are beaten up by riot police before release, while others are beaten in the street.
“More than 160 people have been beaten in these places,” said Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, naming one site as a youth hostel in Sanabis which police acknowledge has been transformed into a riot police base.
Maskati said abuse had moved out of the range of cameras.
“In the past four months I never heard of anyone abused in a police station. They are hit before they reach there, that is the technique they use now,” he said, citing 10 teenagers mistreated in an unused building in Dar al-Kulaib this week.
A 16-year-old was abducted on Wednesday in Sanabis and found unconscious several hours later with his hands tied, underpants removed and trousers pulled down. His family filed a complaint to public prosecutors, blaming plainclothes detectives.
The interior ministry said it was investigating the incident.
John Timoney, a former Miami police chief hired to advise on the reforms, acknowledged that monitoring of detainees before they arrive in police stations was a relevant concern.
“If an arrest is effected, they should be taken to the nearest police station in that area. I take your point – police officers are directed to take them to the nearest police station,” he said when questioned at a news conference.
He added: “If anybody has any information on secret locations of that nature, we want to hear it.” …source
March 22, 2012 No Comments
By CNN Wire Staff – 20 March, 2012
(CNN) — The United Nations called on Bahrain on Tuesday to investigate reports of protesters and bystanders killed by security forces.
The announcement came as Bahrain’s king announced progress in making reforms, and an opposition member said new protests are scheduled for Friday.
“We have been receiving worrying reports of the disproportionate use of force by Bahraini security forces, including the excessive use of tear gas, the use of bird shot pellets and rubber bullets,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
“The use of tear gas in particular has reportedly resulted in a number of deaths of protestors and bystanders — and that number has reportedly risen in recent months,” he said. “Reliable sources indicate that the civilians who died from tear gas suffered complications from gas inhalation, and that security forces have been firing metal tear gas canisters from grenade launchers into crowds.”
The statement also expressed concern about “the health of human rights defenders who are on hunger strike in protest against their imprisonment for participating in last year’s mass demonstrations.”
It came shortly after King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said he welcomes changes made in the country since a critical report was released in November about his nation’s crackdown on protesters.
“The government carefully studied the recommendations and received leading international legal, policing, media and other experts, to advise decision-makers on the most appropriate way for Bahrain to implement the structural and legislative reforms necessary,” Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority said. “The king welcomed the ‘significant and broad progress’ that has been made.”
Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Inquiry issued the report that was highly critical of the authorities’ reaction to the protests, which began in February 2011, spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. …more
March 21, 2012 No Comments
Bahrain praises ‘progress’ toward reforms
20 March, 2012 – AlJazeera
The government says it has begun planning an independent “ombudsman’s office” to oversee the police.
Bahrain has claimed “significant and broad progress” toward reforms in a report following up earlier recommendations to correct widespread abuse committed during the government’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests last year.
The report, submitted by the country’s National Commission to King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Tuesday, is meant to gauge what progress the government has made since November, when an independent investigation concluded that security forces had killed unarmed protesters and tortured and abused prisoners during the crackdown.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Iniquity (BICI), led by human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouny, recommended in November that the government investigate and punish instances of torture, end arbitrary detention, and review cases that had been tried in military courts.
The National Commission claimed in its report that progress had been made, citing the creation of a new police code of conduct and an independent office to oversee and prosecute the police. The report also said the government had begun to rebuild Shia places of worship and reinstate Shia workers who were fired during the unrest.
King Hamad welcomed the National Commission’s evaluation, saying it represented “significant and broad progress” and an “impressive beginning”.
Reforms have included “security and judicial reform, enhancing educational curricula, establishing a detailed plan to reform the media, [and] working tirelessly to ensure that employees are reinstated,” the king said.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Manama, said King Hamad “gave a very clear, strong statement about the improvements that have been taking place”.
The government has conducted police trainings, released prisoners, improved prison environments and set up a fund to compensate torture victims, Vall said.
Al Wefaq, the country’s largest Shia opposition bloc, has pointedly refused to take part in the National Commission’s work, and the body is made up mostly of pro-government figures. Ali Saleh al-Saleh, the commission’s chairman, is the head of the upper house of parliament, which is appointed by the king.
Saleh said he “received utmost co-operation and transparency from the government” and singled out long-serving Prime Minister Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa, viewed by the opposition as the symbol of the monarchy’s corruption and anti-Shia policies, for praise.
The government says it has fulfilled most of the requirements, and a new website touts its progress.
“I would say about 90 per cent of the recommendations have been implemented. It’s been hard. We’ve had to swallow a lot of pride,” said Abdelaziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, an official from Bahrain’s information affairs authority.
Bahrain’s main opposition groups, however, said little progress and no efforts at dialogue had been made. Many in the opposition have said they would only negotiate with the government after all political prisoners are released.
“Torture is still going on in Bahrain,” said Ali al-Aswad, a former member of parliament. “So whatever [the government] says, it is something only written on the websites or in the paper.”
Abdul Jalil Khalil, the head of Al Wefaq, told Al Jazeera he was not happy with the reforms and that even “full implementation” of BICI’s recommendations might not be enough to satisfy them.
“BICI deals with violations and human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini security forces in cracking down on protests. But, what the opposition really wants is more serious political change that will give them more say in parliament and government,” he said.
Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the kingdom’s predominantly Shia population took to the streets in February 2011, demanding greater freedoms in the Sunni-led kingdom and an end to widely perceived corruption. …more
March 20, 2012 1 Comment
Of Course it seem most obvious demand absent form the list, the immediate removal of Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah. And perhaps it loses something in the translation, but the majority opposition groups said the results of the dialogue should be agreed by the public and insisted that the outcome should be “revealed to the people so that an agreement can win popular and legal legitimacy.” Is this to mean deals made would be offered for public acceptance after the fact? Watch out for those devils in the details. We know everyone has Bahrain’s future in mind but be careful to ask whose future Bahrain? Phlipn.
Bahrain: Opposition ready for dialogue with monarchy
20 March, 2012 – The Muslim News
Bahrain’s opposition political leaders said they were ready for dialogue with authorities on Monday in a bid to end the political deadlock in the Gulf kingdom, but demanded a referendum on the outcome.
The five main opposition associations, led by the Al-Wefaq party, said in a statement that the two sides of the dialogue should agree beforehand on its “agenda, mechanism, and time frame, in order to help create initial confidence.”
The groups also demanded that the dialogue include opposition leaders jailed in the wake of a brutal crackdown last year on a month-long protest demanding democratic change.
The opposition acknowledged that they have not received any invitation for talks, but said they were preparing in case negotiations were initiated and had agreed to form a “joint delegation” for any future talks.
The groups said they welcomed any dialogue “leading to a political resolution guaranteeing justice and equality and protecting interests of people from all walks of life in the country in the absence of a security solution with its adverse consequences.”
The statement was released following a meeting of the groups, including the National Democratic Action Association, or Waed in Arabic, the Nationalist Democratic Rally Association, Alekha National Society, and National Democratic Assembly.
Political parties are banned in Bahrain and licensed associations act as de facto parties.
The five groups said the results of the dialogue should be agreed by the public and insisted that the outcome should be “revealed to the people so that an agreement can win popular and legal legitimacy.”
They reiterated that the dialogue should be based on the offer tabled by Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa days before the clampdown in March last year.
The crown prince had said he supported vesting the parliament with full powers and pledged to tackle naturalization, administrative and financial corruption, and sectarian tensions. …more
March 20, 2012 No Comments
March 19, 2012 No Comments
March 19, 2012 No Comments
March 19, 2012 No Comments
18 March, 2012 – Bahrain Freedom Movement
More than eight months since the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was established, the government has failed to implement most of the recommendations, activists say.
Following mass pro-democracy protests between February and March 2011, the Bahraini government was accused of leading a severe crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.
The kingdom’s leader, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, ordered that an Independent Commission of Inquiry be set up.
The commission was tasked with determining “whether the events of February and March 2011 (and thereafter) involved violations of international human rights law and norms, and to make the recommendations that it deems appropriate,” according to its website.
Months after the publication of the BICI’s report, however, activists and opposition leaders say the government has failed to implement most of the recommendations.
A new website and organisation called Bahrain Watch has even set up an “implementation tracker” explaining which recommendations the government has failed to carry through.
Some of them include the authority’s failure to establish an impartial, national independent mechanism to punish those responsible for death, torture, and mistreatment, to provide audio-visual recordings of all official interviews with detainees and to conduct effective investigations of all deaths attributed to security forces, as well as all allegations of torture and similar mistreatment.
Among some of the most pressing concerns, Bahrain Watch says police and security forces continue to commit torture and abuse with impunity, claims supported by Bahraini activists.
Bahrain Watch has exposed the case of a 16-year-old boy who says he was kidnapped and tortured just last month.
“He told me that this was the third time he was kidnapped and that before 14 February, 2011 he was imprisoned for one month in a political case. On 15 February, 2012 he received a phone call from a blocked number and they told him they were coming to get him,” said Irish activist Elaine Masons, who cleaned the boy’s wounds.
“He was outside his home in the village when a car with four hooded men grabbed him, put a bag over his head, tied his hands behind his back and drove off to an unknown location. They cut his body and beat him and then drove back to his village and dumped him out of the car on the road. They did not sexually assault him on this occasion, but did sexually assault him on the previous occasions,” she said.
“After the incident, the people that did this to him posted a tweet of what they had done and named him in the tweet,” she added.
The Bahraini government has created a web site where it provides an official account of the progress that has been made on implementing the BICI’s recommendations and reiterated its commitment to proceed with reforms.
“His Majesty King Hamad committed that we would implement these recommendations in their entirety and meaningfully. We will do this by the end of February 2012. Tangible progress made on each recommendation is daily updated in the Progress Section of this website”, a statement on the site read. …more
March 19, 2012 No Comments