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Amnesty International: Bahrain, First executions in more than six years a shocking blow to Human Rights

In response to the execution today of three men accused of killing three police officers in Bahrain Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Campaigns in Beirut, Samah Hadid said:

“This is a dark day for human rights in Bahrain. These executions – the first to be carried out since 2010 - are a deeply regressive step for a country whose authorities’ have repeatedly trumpeted their commitment to human rights. 

Read More Here.

Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen questioning the Foreign Minister on HRD Abdulhadi Alkhawaja

MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen

On 11 January Member of the Parliament Lars Aslan Rasmussen used the open session in Folketinget (Danish Parliament) to inquire on the actions planned by the Danish Foreign Minister to secure the release of Danish Bahraini citizen and human rights defender Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. Alkhajawa has been serving a life sentence in prison since 22 June 2012 by a military court.

See below the trascript of Rasmussen and ForeIGN Minister Anders Samuelsen (translated from Danish by BCHR staff).

English verion

1.4) Question number S 475: Regarding help for the Danish citizen and human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

How does the foreign minister intend to help the Danish citizen and human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is a political prisoner in the dictator state Bahrain?

Anders Samuelsen, Foreign Minister:

As the person who is asking the question will know, this is an individual case and is bound by confidentiality. The nature of the case limits what I am able to say in this forum. Let me also remind you that the case has been under ongoing, confidential treatment in the Foreign Policy Committee, which is the proper place to discuss cases like this. Now for my answer. Changing Danish foreign ministers have since 2011 worked actively to find a humanitarian solution, which would involve a release of the Danish-Bahraini citizen, and rehabilitation and treatment for the torture he has been subjected to during his imprisonment. Naturally I intend to continue this policy. The work being done to solve the case is both political and diplomatic, in the shape of contacts in Bahrain and international cooperation. The dialogue with Bahrain is taking place out of the public eye in the interest of finding a solution. Denmark has also raised the issue numerous times at meetings in UN’s Human Rights Council, last time on the 19th of September 2016, where Denmark called for Bahrain to release imprisoned political prisoners including the Danish-Bahraini citizen. Simultaneously, the ministry of foreign affairs provides consular aid through the embassy in Riyadh by visiting the mentioned person regularly in prison, as is done normally when Danish citizens are imprisoned abroad. Finally, the ministry of foreign affairs is in regular contact with the family. We continue the work unrepentantly; however, unfortunately I can’t promise a quick solution.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

Thank you, of course I completely understand and the minister is also new and a lot of stuff is being done. I want to ask whether the foreign minister is aware that there has been and action against this prison in Bahrain a week ago in which 7 political prisoners escaped and that the regime has since tightened its grip further, is the ministry of foreign affairs aware of this situation?

Anders Samuelsen, Foreign Minister:

The embassy in Riyadh is not aware that the circumstances in the prison in general or specifically for the Danish-Bahraini citizen have worsened since the escape.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

So that means I am to take it that you will continue the same policy as previously where, of course there have been some visits, but I think it would be fair to say that not a lot has happened. I know that all the foreign ministers want al-Khawaja freed, but is it possible that the new foreign minister might go into the case more actively than previously seen?

Anders Samuelsen, Foreign Minister:

I will continue the intense focus on this case as previously.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

And that will exclusively be on the matter of al- Khawaja or can maybe from the Danish government expect a general criticism of the fact that this is one of the countries with most political prisoners in in the world?

Anders Samuelsen, Foreign Minister:

I have nothing further to add. The policy will continue and we will follow up on the case. That is the opinion of the minister.

 

Dansk

1.4) Spm. nr. S 475: Om hjælp til den danske statsborger og menneskerettighedsaktivist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

Hvad har udenrigsministeren tænkt sig at gøre for at hjælpe den danske statsborger og menneskerettighedsaktivist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, der sidder som politisk fange i diktaturstaten Bahrain?

Anders Samuelsen, udenrigsminister:

Som det vil være spørgeren bekendt er der tale om en personsag, som er underlagt tavshedspligt. Det giver i sagens natur begrænsninger på, hvad jeg kan oplyse i dette forum. Lad mig også erindre om, at sagen løbende er blevet behandlet i fortrolighed i udenrigspolitisk nævn, som er det rette sted at drøfte denne type sager. Nu til mit svar. Skiftende danske udenrigsministre har siden 2011 arbejdet aktivt for at finde en humanitær løsning, som indebærer at den dansk-bahrainske statsborger kan løslades og få rehabilitering og behandling for den tortur som han har været udsat for i forbindelse med den fængslingen. Jeg vil naturligvis fortsætte den linje. Arbejdet med sagen foregår både på politisk og diplomatisk niveau, i form af kontakter med Bahrain og internationale samarbejdspartnere. Dialogen med Bahrain foregår uden offentlighed af hensyn til muligheden for at finde en løsning. Danmark har også taget sagen op adskillige gange ved samlinger i FN’s menneskerettighedsråd senest d. 19. september 2016, hvor Danmark opfordrede Bahrain til løsladelse af fængslede politiske fanger herunder den dansk-bahrainske statsborger. Samtidig yder udenrigsministeriet via ambassaden i Riyadh konsulær bistand til omtalte i form af regelmæssige fængselsbesøg som det også sker med andre danske statsborgere der er fængslet i udlandet. Endelig har udenrigsministeriet regelmæssig kontakt med familien. Vi fortsætter arbejdet ufortrødent, men jeg kan desværre ikke love en hurtig løsning på sagen.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

Tak, jeg har selvfølgelig fuldt ud forståelse og udenrigsministeren er også ny og der bliver gjort en masse ting. Jeg vil spørge om udenrigsministeren er opmærksom på, at der har jo været en aktion mod det her fængsel i Bahrain for en uge siden hvor 7 politiske fanger flygtede og at regimet siden har strammet grebet yderligere, om det er en situation som man er opmærksom på fra dansk udenrigsministeries side?

Anders Samuelsen, udenrigsminister:

Øhm, ambassaden i Riyadh er ikke bekendt med at de generelle forhold i fængslet eller for den dansk-bahrainske statsborger skulle være blevet forværret siden fangeflugten.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

Det vil sige, at jeg skal forstå det sådan at vil man lægge den samme linje som man hele tiden har gjort hvor der er, der har selvfølgelig været nogle besøg, men der er ikke sket så meget kan vi også godt sige og jeg ved godt at alle udenrigsministre gerne vil have al-Khawaja fri, kunne man forestille sig, at den nye udenrigsminister måske ville gå endnu mere aktivt ind i sagen end det hidtil har været tilfældet?

Anders Samuelsen, udenrigsminister:

Jeg vil fastholde samme intense fokus på den her sag som der har været hidtil gældende.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (S):

Og det vil så udelukkende blive holdt til al-Khawaja eller kan vi også måske fra den danske regerings side forvente en generel kritik af at det er et af de lande i hele verden der har flest politiske fanger?

Anders Samuelsen, udenrigsminister:

Jeg har ikke noget yderligere at tilføje. Linjen vil blive forfulgt, vi vil følge op på sagen løbende og det er det der er indstillingen herfra.

HRW: World Report 2017 - Bahrain

There was a marked deterioration in the human rights situation in Bahrain in mid-2016, when authorities dissolved the main political opposition group, al-Wifaq, jailed the country’s leading human rights activist, and harassed and prosecuted Shia clerics who peacefully protested the arbitrary revocation of the citizenship of al-Wifaq’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Isa Qasim. This orchestrated crackdown on the rights to free expression, assembly and association undermined prospects for a political solution to Bahrain’s domestic unrest.

Authorities made little progress in holding officials accountable for the mistreatment and torture of detainees, continued to arbitrarily strip citizenship from Bahrainis who have been critical of the government, and subjected civil society actors to arbitrary travel bans.

Read the report in full here.

Bahrain: Accelerated Repression Jeopardizes Activists

Bahrain stepped up its repression of activists and government critics during 2016, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2017. The government dissolved the main political opposition group and prosecuted leading human rights activists and Shia clerics.

The authorities also prevented numerous activists from leaving the country and deported six Bahrainis, including a human rights lawyer, after arbitrarily stripping them of their citizenship. This orchestrated crackdown on the rights to free expression, assembly, and association was a marked deterioration in the human rights situation and further undermined the prospects of a political solution to Bahrain’s domestic unrest.

Read more here.

Human Rights abuses in Bahrain cast shadow over £2m UK aid support

The government is facing fresh questions about Britain’s aid strategy after it emerged that a controversial multi-million pound programme of support for Bahrain’s security and justice system is being bolstered this year, even as the Gulf state reverses reforms to a key intelligence agency accused of torture.

Data provided under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that Bahraini authorities will this year receive a further £2m of British funding, including aid money drawn from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, a pot of aid money currently the focus of an investigation by UK MPs.

Read more here.

Former PM David Cameron visits Bahrain amid speculation he may follow Blair's lead

David Cameron visited Bahrain this week to meet with the Kingdom's Crown Prince and business leaders, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The visit, which saw Cameron thanked for his “prominent role” in advancing Bahrain-UK ties, comes after recent reports that the former Prime Minister is following in the footsteps of Tony Blair and has set up a private firm to handle his post-10 Downing Street affairs.

The former Prime Minister, whose period in office saw ever closer diplomatic and military ties with Bahrain despite ongoing human rights concerns, arrived in the country on Tuesday and held meetings with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Read more here.

Trial of Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya’s Reporter Nazeeha Saeed Begins Monday

On 16 January 2017, a Bahraini court will begin hearing the trial of the correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24, Nazeeha Saeed, who was was charged on 17 July 2016 with “practicing journalism without a license.” We, the undersigned human rights organizations, condemn the judicial harassment of Saeed for her work as a journalist and call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against her and suspend its campaign against foreign reporters.

The case against Nazeeha Saeed was filed based on a Ministry of Information Affairs complaint that Saeed was reporting for an international press body without a license. Saeed applied to renew her foreign media work permit in March 2016, in accordance with the Bahraini press law. The Ministry of Information Affairs rejected Saeed’s license renewal without providing legal grounds.

Saeed has been charged under the “publishing crimes” chapter, in Article 88 of Law 47/2002, under which all Bahraini journalists working for foreign news agencies are prevented from freely conducting their work without first acquiring a license from the Ministry of the Information Affairs, which must be renewed annually. The law provides no criteria or definitive timelines for the renewal process, nor does it provide any means for transparency of the process.

Saeed is a torture survivor. Describing her torture in police custody in 2011, Saeed said she was blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession. Although she had three independant medical reports - two of them issued by Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior - and she was also able to identify her five torturers, no one was held accountable for her torture. During June and July 2016 Saeed faced further harassments the government imposed a travel ban on her without any explanation. The ban was later lifted.

In addition to Saeed, the Ministry of Information Affairs has denied license renewals to at least three other Bahrain-based reporters for Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press. Since 2011, Bahrain has placed extensive restrictions on foreign media access to the country, having denied over 100 journalists entry to the country in an effort to stop international media coverage of the ongoing political and civil unrest.

Bahrain’s actions to prosecute and silence foreign correspondents is in violation of the freedom of expression as protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We therefore express our deep concern about the Government of Bahrain’s continued efforts to undermine the right to freedom of expression and call on the government to:

  • Drop all charges against Nazeeha Saeed;
  • Allow all journalists and reporters to conduct their work freely and independently, and to fully respect their right to freedom of expression.

Signed,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

UK trains Bahraini troops as May puts trade before human rights

British commandos trained Bahrain’s security forces in small arms and sniping tactics just two days after Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would not “snipe” from the sidelines over human rights concerns in the county, Middle East Eye can reveal.

An investigation by MEE has revealed that the controversial training for Bahraini forces - which violently put down pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring in 2011 - took place during Pearl Dagger 2016, an infantry exercise held in the country in December.

Read more here.

UK helped train Saudi unit accused of whitewashing Yemen war crimes

The British military has provided training to a Saudi war crimes investigations unit headed by a Bahraini judge accused of sentencing peaceful protesters to lengthy jail terms, where they were often tortured.

Campaigners say the training, which was detailed in Foreign Office documents released on Monday, make the British government complicit in both whitewashing abuses in Bahrain and the failure to properly investigate potential war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The appointment last year of Colonel Mansour al-Mansour, a military lawyer, as a legal adviser to the Saudi-led Joint Incident Assessments Team (JIAT) was heavily criticised by human rights groups at the time, who said the military judge was complicit in torture in the wake of pro-democracy protests in 2011. 

Colonel Mansour was the presiding judge of the National Security Court, which activists claim, oversaw the lengthy detention of more than 300 protesters in what amounted to military trials. 

Many of the protesters went on to claim they were tortured while in custody. The court also oversaw the trial of the so-called “Bahrain 13”, a group of leading human rights defenders and politicians who were arrested from March to May 2011 and subjected to torture while in custody.

Read more here.