Tag Archives: Bahrain

Bahrain torture condemned in rights report

Independent commission finds evidence of torture, beatings, threats of rape…

 

Pearl Roundabout re-taken before protests were crushed © Al Jazeera English

 

The commission set up by Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa, charged with investigating rights abuses following protests earlier this year, has found that security forces committed a litany of abuses in the country.

Bahrain dictator al-Khalifa, head of the minority Sunni-ruled kingdom, set up the commission in response to widespread condemnation from rights organisations and the international community.

Commission chairman Prof. Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni said that during the crackdown aimed at clearing protesters, security forces used physical and psychological  torture. This included beatings with iron bars and batons, and threats of rape and electrocution.

Bassiouni said that those responsible for the abuses should be held accountable, no matter how high their position in the government.

In response the King said the country accepted the report and would try to meet international standards of human rights:

We are determined, God willing, to ensure that the painful events our beloved nation has just experienced are not repeated, but that we learn from them, and use our new insights as a catalyst for positive change,

The commission also found that there was no evidence of the idea -pushed by Bahraini authorities and the US administration- that Iran was involved in the protests:

Evidence presented to the commission did not prove a clear link between the events in Bahrain and Iran,

However it also found that there had been violence against Sunnis and foreign workers during the protests, and that a more peaceful outcome may have been achieved if the oppostion had accepted a Bahraini government initiative in March.

Read more at Al Jazeera

 

What now for the Arab Spring?

Tunisia has held democratic elections this weekend, while Libya has celebrated its liberation and the fall of Gaddafi, but what is next for the Arab awakening?

 

The Arab Spring on The Rise © Khalid Albaih

 

When fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in a Tunisian fruit market last December, no one could have predicted how one act would send shock-waves throughout the Arab world.

Less than a year later, Tunisia has held democratic elections, Egypt has seen the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and Libya has declared its freedom following the death of Col Gaddafi.

Syria and Yemen meanwhile have been in a permanent state of uprising for many months, while Bahrain’s democracy movement was crushed but still simmers.

Other countries in the region have also been hit by protests, with reforms for more representative government being implemented in Morocco and Jordan, and unease prompting gestures even in regional powerhouse and Western ally Saudi Arabia.

But what now for the Arab Spring?

Read a country by country analysis at the Independent on Sunday

 

 

Twitter trolls hit the Arab Spring

So-called e-thugs aggressively defending oppressive regimes online…

 

© Al Jazeera English

 

The Arab Spring has been notable in one respect for the harassment and intimidation of commentators on forums such as Twitter, with discussion on Bahrain being perhaps the most extreme example of the activity of the ‘trolls’.

While the country has attempted to counter negative attention by employing public relations firms, at the same time many people including journalists report receiving vitriolic abuse when writing about the regime.

The same pattern has been seen with other countries, though perhaps with less suggestion of state involvement. Even today countless people on Twitter are spreading misinformation about the final battles with Gaddafi loyalists in Libya, apparently sure that Nato and the ‘rats’ are imminently about to be defeated.

Academic Mark Owen Jones studied Bahrain and social media at the height of the uprising, and said:

Twitter itself has seen a huge surge in the number of ‘Trolls’. These trolls are usually engaged in spreading information that is either controversial, offensive or just plain wrong. While one may easily dismiss this as an irrelevant detail, the presence of such disinformation is very harmful in times of conflict, for it is also a time when people are feeling vulnerable, defensive and afraid. I have even seen Trolls termed ‘e-thugs’ in recent days, perhaps not surprising since the term ‘thug’ has now become an important part of the Middle Eastern protest lexicon. The trolls are exploiting both our need for information, which surely increases in times of crisis, and also the dearth of credible information on the issues. This lack of credible official information compounds the issue, and as the government continues to remain absent, the scramble for answers is both desperate and blind.

Bahrain blogger Hussain Yousif says that the ‘trolls’ have a very defined set of characteristics on Twitter. They have very few followers, only push one line of argument, refuse to get into discussions, and clock on and off Twitter at the same time. As if it were a day job…

Read more at The Lede

 

Bahrain medics to be given new trial

Trial comes after international outrage over initial sentences…

 

© Al Jazeera English

 

Following intense international pressure Bahrain has decided to retry a group of medics sentenced to terms of up to 15 years in prison.

According to the Bahrain News Agency, the country’s attourney general announced that:

the Department of Public Prosecutions had studied the judgment rendered by the National Safety Court on September 28 against certain medical personnel, and determined that the cases should be retried before the ordinary courts.

the retrial will be conducted before the highest civil court in Bahrain … the Department of Public Prosecutions seeks to establish the truth and to enforce the law, while protecting the rights of the accused.

By virtue of the retrials, the accused will have the benefit of full reevaluation of evidence and full opportunity to present their defence.

Following the initial verdicts, after a trial in which the medics were accused of plotting against the state during democracy protests, Amnesty Internation denounced the outcome as “travesty of justice”, while the US State Department said it was “deeply disturbed”.

A number of those detained allege that they were tortured in custody, a practice thought to be widespread in the aftermath of the protests which were crushed earlier in the year.

Watch video response from Bahrain’s opposition al-Wefaq party here

 

UK downplaying human rights abuses

Human Rights Watch director says UK action doesn’t live up to Cameron’s rhetoric…

 

© UK Department for International Development

 

David Mepham, the head of HRW in the UK, has said that the British government is downplaying the human rights abuses committed by its allies:

David Cameron is right to say that too many governments look the other way or find reasons for inaction when people are being slaughtered and human rights violated. But does the UK’s own record match up to Cameron’s soaring rhetoric?

While the UK is more assertive about human rights than many other countries and more willing to exert diplomatic and other forms of pressure in defence of them, UK action is far from consistent

On Bahrain he says:

The authorities there have been responsible for large-scale repression of popular demonstrations for democracy and the rule of law…many of the several thousand detained have claimed that they were tortured. Yet the UK’s response to these abuses has been timid and ineffectual…meaningful dialogue has little chance in a climate of repression and intimidation, when those guilty of human rights abuses have not been brought to account, where opposition figures are fearful of speaking out and the media is unable to report freely.

And on Saudi Arabia Mepham says extensive links with the UK prevent ministers using the same language of condemnation that they used with Libya or Egypt:

A similar silence characterises UK policy towards Saudi Arabia…While the UK calls for democratic reform, human rights and the rule of law in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria, and has taken some significant and high-risk action in defence of them, it seems unwilling to speak out about major and systematic human rights violations in Saudi. Saudi Arabia continues to treat women as second-class citizens, with male guardians determining whether a woman may work, study, marry, travel or undergo certain medical procedures. Shia Saudis, a religious minority of around 10 percent of the population, are also treated as second-class citizens and migrant workers remain beholden to their employers in law and practices, and are sometimes kept in conditions resembling servitude.

Read it at HRW

 

 

Bahrain medics sentenced to 15 years

Bahrain’s campaign against medical staff who helped injured protesters sees no signs of stopping. With many medics on trial for crimes against the state, 13 of them have just been sentenced to 15 years in prison. A number of others received lesser sentences.

Video via Al Jazeera

 

 

Saudi women to vote, but still can’t drive

Women to get the vote in 2015, other reforms not forthcoming…

 

© HerryLawford

 

Saudi Arabia dictator King Abdullah has announced voting reforms for the country’s women, allowing them to vote and run in local elections from 2015.

Though the move is a dramatic reform in the deeply conservative kingdom, women face still face serious restrictions on their personal liberty. They are unable to drive, to serve as cabinet ministers, or to travel abroad without the permission of a male relative.

Remarking on the fact they will have to wait another four years for the voting reforms to be implemented, Saudi feminist Wajeha al-Hawaidar said:

Why not tomorrow?

I think the king doesn’t want to shake the country, but we look around us and we think it is a shame …when we are still pondering how to meet simple women’s rights

The reforms come as the Kingdom’s ruler attempt to come to terms with the Arab Spring happening around them. Saudi troops have been involved in crushing dissent in neighbouring Bahrain, while at the same time condemning Bashar al-Assad’s repression in Syria.

Read it at The Washington Post

 

Bahrain at UK arms fair

Invited to the Defence Security and Equipment International arms fair in London, despite abuses…

 

© Al Jazeera English

Bahrain is among a number of repressive regimes that have been invited to, and will attend, the arms fair that sells weapons systems from 46 countries.

This is despite the fact that recent months have seen it brutally suppress pro-democracy protests, killing protesters.

In light of such criticism, UK defence secretary Liam Fox said:

Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are mandatory considerations for all export licence applications, which we consider on a case-by-case basis.

However MPs pointed out back in April that licences had been granted to Bahrain for items including small arms and armoured personnel carriers, and the regime’s security forces have killed unarmed civilians in recent demonstrations.

 

Death and the salesmen: London hosts arms fair

In the line of fire: A date with despots at Britain’s arms fair

An invitation for Bahrain – despite human rights violations

 

 

 

Bahrain medics on hunger strike

Medical staff in Bahrain -in custody for six months awaiting trial for ‘offences’ committed during democracy protests- have begun a hunger strike.

Domestic and international human rights groups have criticised the trials as a farce, and some of those held say they have been tortured into making confessions.