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Updates: Serious injuries of protesters, medic arrested and student arrested on arrival at Bahrain Airport

Left: Ammar Madan , Right: Hasan AlEskafi

Update 1 Aug 2011

Ammar Madan is still in the hospital. This video shows when he was arrested, and after he was found. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT8jVXURAMo

Ammar's testimony as relayed by Nabeel: "Ammar was kidnapped by riot police on street at 9:30, then taken to Exhibition center police station in Sanabis. He was then tortured & beaten by 2 officers. One of the officers undressed & exposed his privates then urinated on Ammar as he lay in his blood on the floor. They threatened Ammar that if he spoke of what had happened 2 him, he will be tortured again. After fainting Ammar was thrown in the street by the same people who had kidnapped him. Ammar s now in hospital suffering from broken ribs fractured arms jaw & wrist, an injured lung & trauma to his back."

Nabeel Rajab with him when he went to get his testimony:

Ministry of Interior said in a statement: Man attacked by unknown assailants, not security forces.

50 year old Isa AlTaweel died yesterday (31 July 2011) due to teargas suffocation. A teargas canister was shot under his AC which filled his room with smoke. AlTaweel uses a wheelchair and thus was unable to leave his room quickly. Several days later the excess of teargas inhalation caused complications and caused his death yesterday. His family was threatened not to speak about the cause of death. For more related accidents check this report

14 year old boy, Ali Mahdi, beaten and burned with cigarettes yesterday (31 July 2011) was rescued by one of the BICI members who happened to go to the police station

Larger photos

He was called in for questioning today. His 18 year old brother who was arrested with him amongst others last night, is still in detention. Those arrested: Sadeq Abdulla Alghasra, Zuhair Abdulameer Abulwahab, and Hadi Ebrahim Al-arab are in hospital. Hussain Ali Mohd Shakar, Hussain Jaffar Ali Fateel, and Ahmed Habeeb being held in detention. Ali Mahdi was released. Hassan Mahdi, his brother, is still being held.

Following is the testimony of Zainab Alkhawaja who accompanied Ali Mahdi to the police station:

"Just met 14 year old Ali from Banijamra, he was arrested last night and beaten. They burned him with a cigarette on his chest. He has been called now to go to the public prosecution for questioning, I am going with him. This 14 yr old with bruises all over his body is very frightened, his 18 yr old brother arrested with him is still in detention. Ali was released this morning at the time of morning prayer, and is still in shock. His family are trying to re-assure him, telling him "your name is Ali, you are brave, don't fear them". We just saw Hassan, Ali's brother. You should have seen their mothers face as she called for them. Ali and other who were arrested yesterday from Bani Jamra will be released. They're being taken 4 a medical exam now. The group will be taken to Budaiya police station to sign pledges then will be released. I think they were 6 who are taken for medical exams, I hope all arrested yesterday will be released. We're following them to medical examination center. Ali and Hassans elderly aunt wanted to go on the police bus with them. Ali's mum now callin their dad who became ill after hearing both his sons had been arrested last night. We are now at General Directorate of Forensic Science Evidence. We can see hassan from behind a glass door. Hassans brother telling police "look at his innocent face, how can they torture him?" We're in, Hassan said they took them to the fort, they used electric shocks on them in the car. Boys telling us: Sadeq Abdulla Alghasra, Zuhair Abdulameer Abulwahab, and Hadi Ebrahim Al-arab are in hospital. Hussain Ali Mohd Shakar, Hussain Jaffar Ali Fateel, and Ahmed Habeeb are also here with the 2 brothers. The boys have slippers on even tho they were arrested barefoot, they say its from other detainees. Despite the beating and torture, the boys are fasting today. Their lips dry from thirst."

One of the injuries in Aali yesterday: yfrog.com/h7c3wohj

This morning, despite the heat and people fasting, those dismissed from their jobs gathered at the Ministry of Labor demanding to be reinstated. yfrog.com/gyqaetcj

There was a royal pardon for release of a number of prisoners in celebration of Ramadhan, most cases were those held for criminal charges.

Video of riot police breaking a car window: http://s890.vuclip.com/48/65/486..

A compilation of videos from yesterday: http://feb14.5gbfree.com/events..

A new video from March showing one of the head injuries: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGP92B08Oqc



31 July 2011

There were several protests on 30 Jul 2011 in solidarity with the female detainees, and they were attacked by the security forces.

Hassan AlEskafi after he was shot, in what appears to be a direct shot to the head: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSbbsVHAeA8 AlEskafi was taken to a clinic set up by Doctors without Borders which was operating under the radar to take in patients afraid of going to the hospital. A very short time after AlEskafi was brought into the clinic; the security forces stormed it, taking AlEskafi and arresting the man running the clinic Saeed Ayyad. BYSHR: Bahrain: The Targeting of Employee and Office of "Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières"

Ammar Madan was kidnapped by the security forces 29 July 2011 and found later severely beaten. He was visited today by the BICI (Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry) who said his condition is bad. He has broken ribs, fractures in both his left and right forearms, fractures in the face, fractures in his humerus, injured lung and bruises on his back. This is his before picture: Before and this is his picture after he was found beaten: After (at hospital)

Student Abdulhadi Nabeel Diwani was arrested upon arrival from his studies in the UAE. This shows the continuation of targeting of students and the continuation of arrests in Bahrain.

Video about expelled Polytechnic students: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yiHipcEcdI

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja told his daughter Zainab during last visit: "They brought us from Ras elbarr in car without AC. With sacks on our heads, guantanamo style, felt like we were suffocating". To read more: facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150267916072235

29 July 2011 witnessed one of the biggest demonstrations since mid-March, under the title "the people are the source of authority": Video

Hiring Pakistani mercenaries for Bahrain's security forces: english.aljazeera.net/inde..

HRF: Widener President Urged to Press for Bahraini Alumna’s Release

July 28, 2011

Chester, Pa. – Human Rights First today urged Widener University President Dr. James T. Harris III to call on the United States and Bahraini governments to free an alumna who remains in captivity following the Bahraini Government’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy activists. Roula al-Saffar, who received a master’s degree from Widener University in the late 1990’s and is now head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, is the only female medic still held in detention since Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa launched a series of brutal measures to silence dissent, including widespread torture and at least four deaths in custody. She has been in captivity for more than 100 days.

A letter sent to President Harris from Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who recently returned from a mission Bahrain that included a meeting with al-Saffar’s family, notes, “We are asking you to contact the Bahraini Government (there is an embassy in Washington, DC) to ask for her immediate release, and to urge them to release all detainees who are still being held for exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression during protests earlier this year. We also urge you to contact the U.S. Government to ask that it intercede with the Bahraini authorities to ask that she be released and charges against her dropped, or that she be given a trial which meets international standards.”

Earlier this month, Human Rights First issued “Bahrain: A Tortuous Process,” a report based on research conducted by Dooley during his second fact-finding mission to Bahrain from July 6 -12. In May, the organization issued “Bahrain: Speaking Softly,” a report capturing the findings of Dooley’s May 2011 trip to the region, his first since the Bahraini Government’s violent anti-democracy crackdown began. Both reports contain a series of recommendations for the U.S. Government and its officials, as well as for the Bahraini leadership.

humanrightsfirst.org

HRF: U.S. Should Clarify Position on Discredited Bahrain National Dialogue

August 1, 2011

Washington, DC – Following this past weekend’s release of the Bahraini National Dialogue’s recommendations to King Hamadbin Isa al-Khalifa, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley issued the following statement:

“The U.S. government should clarify its position on the discredited Bahraini National Dialogue that failed to address fundamental issues of reform or human rights. Its recommendations have been met with widespread disappointment from human rights activists within the country. It recommends minor reforms to how the parliament of Bahrain operates, and falls far short of tackling fundamental problems of sectarian discrimination and other human rights violations.

“The U.S. government has not disassociated itself from its earlier support for the dialogue despite the main opposition party, Al Wefaq, walking out of the process halfway through. In addition, many of the opposition leaders remained in detention during the national dialogue and the process went forward despite continued arrests, the detention of political and human rights activists, and shooting of unarmed civilians. The dialogue was a discussion between 300 members of Bahraini society that met a few times a week throughout the month of July.

“At the start of the dialogue President Obama described it as ‘an important moment of promise for the people of Bahrain,’ and he commended the Bahraini King for his leadership in initiating the process. This praise baffled many Bahrainis because six weeks earlier President Obama had told the Bahraini government, ‘You can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.’ Bahraini pro-democracy protestors wonder where the U.S. stands now, and it’s time it made its position clear.

“The U.S. government should clarify whether it still believes this discredited process is the way forward for reform in Bahrain. It should also make clear that for any real meaningful discussion to happen, the Bahraini government must stop shooting protesters, stop arresting and detaining people for their peaceful actions, stop targeting medical professionals who treat the injured, and stop firing workers and expelling students who are suspected of pro-democracy sympathies.”

humanrightsfirst.org

Irish Medical Times: Defending the right to practise


Photo: Irish Delegation with Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR
27 July 2011

Orthopaedic surgeon Prof Damian McCormack tells Lloyd Mudiwa about his eye-opening experiences while answering distress calls from Irish-trained doctors in Bahrain.
The relationship between a medical trainer and the trainee rarely goes beyond the confines of the healthcare setting, but one trainer went above and beyond the call of duty when his former trainees were apparently “kidnapped”.

Describing his experience as an “eye-opener”, Prof Damian McCormack told Irish Medical Times that he simply heeded the call when some colleagues of two of the doctors from Bahrain whom he had trained contacted him, at some personal risk, in March to tell him that the duo had been arrested. “They asked for help and I helped,” the Orthopaedic Surgeon at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and the Mater Hospital responded, when asked about the motivation for putting his own life at risk.

Speaking on his return from the Gulf state of Bahrain, Prof McCormack claimed that while some of his colleagues in Dublin expressed concern about the behaviour of the authorities in the Kingdom and sympathy for the doctors arrested, most medical organisations had been unhelpful.
Drumming up support Prof McCormack alleged: “[I] wrote to several organisations — the Irish Medical Organisation, who were not helpful. I went in twice personally to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, who told me the situation was complicated and that they were making the authorities over there aware of their concerns, but that’s all they were doing. I wrote twice to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland; I got no reply. I wrote to the INMO [Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation], who replied immediately by return and issued a press release — and they were the first medical organisation to reply.
“So for the first couple of weeks I wasn’t getting very far,” Prof McCormack commented.
The IMO told IMT last week that it had notified Prof McCormack that it wrote to the Bahraini authorities on foot of communication from the World Medical Association, of which the IMO is a member. “The IMO upholds the right of medical personnel to ‘non-combatant’ status in any conflict zone and insists that prompt due process be available to any personnel detained in the course of their work in all such zones,” a spokesperson said.
While the RCSI last week said it was not commenting on the issue, the College has previously said punishing doctors or nurses for treating patients, irrespective of their background, was completely unacceptable. The RCPI, which went on a fact-finding mission in Bahrain to gather “first-hand, albeit limited” information, said it was supporting calls for justice for doctors arrested in Bahrain.
A human rights activist had forwarded Prof McCormack’s email to numerous other individuals in Ireland, and through that contact the surgeon made contact with Front Line Defenders in Blackrock, whom he described as a “fantastic NGO”.
“They [Front Line] agreed to declare the doctors human rights defenders defending the right to health, which they are, and so they got on board.”
Front Line has taken up the cases of all the arrested doctors, including the Irish-trained doctors, Dr Ali Al Ekr, Dr Basim Dhaif and Dr Ghassan Dhaif, whom the NGO says are currently being subjected to an unfair trial before a military court on unsubstantiated charges. For more than two months after their arrest, the doctors were denied access to their families or lawyers, and there is credible evidence of torture, according to the NGO.
Meanwhile, Prof McCormack had contacted several of his local politicians, but the only one to reply was Senator Averil Power, who agreed to help.
He was then invited onto Pat Kenny’s show on RTÉ Radio 1, and subsequently other media. “Pat Kenny, I think, asked me what I wanted to do about the thing and, without really thinking about it I suppose, I said at that stage that I would like to go and see my friends.”
By the time an Irish delegation went a month later, the families of the detained doctors were getting anxious, because they felt that the story was being forgotten about and there was insufficient international media support, Prof McCormack said. He said his colleagues in the Mater and Temple Street kindly covered his shifts during the visit.
He asked Front Line to initially pay for flights and accommodation for their delegation, but gave them personal guarantees that the cost of all of this would be on the medical community in the country.
The orthopaedic consultants in the Mater Group have given €10,000, but while he has also written to all of the orthopaedic consultants in the country asking them to donate €200 each, very few have responded to date, he said, adding that the campaign had cost approximately €70,000 to date, which included a full-page advert in The Irish Times and some UK national newspapers.
Ambassadors His delegation, including former Minister for Foreign Affairs David Andrews, Marian Harkin MEP, Senator Power, and Prof Eoin O’Brien, managed to meet the Bahraini officials (see IMT July 22, http://bit.ly/p9NCPF), as well as three ambassadors from Switzerland, Poland and Austria, who were there on similar fact-finding missions. Prof McCormack said: “The ambassadors had only met the Government officials and they had no real insight into the true nature of the torture and human rights abuses, so we had time to relay what we had heard directly from the detainees or their families, which shocked them.”
He also alleged: “We also asked the families of the detained and the released if any of them had been approached by the College of Surgeons or the College of Physicians. The College of Physicians said they went on a fact-finding mission, but they haven’t had any contact with the Irish graduates.
“We also met a girl, a doctor, who worked as a lecturer for three years in the College [of Physicians], who was abducted, tortured and threatened with rape, and so on, and then released on bail for trial. And she had no contact at all with the College. So she was very much involved with the College, she was one of their staff, but her immediate former boss… nobody contacted her. There was no contact, which upsets her greatly.”
Prof McCormack said the team had initially felt uneasy at passport control because the immigration officers took their passports and they were unsure if the officials were going to release them, admit them or detain them.
He said they had also felt unsafe when they were mobbed at a press conference they held in a hotel, especially when they heard that Dr Nabeel Al Ansari, Chairman of the Bahrain Medical Society and a supporter of the Bahraini regime, allegedly photographed the car which brought them to the conference and published the registration number.
“We had just come from the house of a human rights activists and that house had been attacked on several occasions, and he has been beaten up on several occasions… the only reason he has not disappeared is that he is in constant communication via Twitter with the world and everybody knows him.
“But some of his family had brought us back to the hotel, so it was very threatening and very frightening — those last few hours — because we were not sure if we could exit the hotel safely, and it seems they had obviously put out word on the street to intimidate us,” Prof McCormack concluded.

Irish Medical Times

Aljazeera: Pakistani troops aid Bahrain's crackdown

Foundation linked to the Pakistani army has been providing Bahrain thousands of soldiers for its crackdown on protests.

by Mujib Mashal, 30 Jul 2011 Published on aljazeera.net

In March, as a government crackdown on pro-democracy protestors intensified in Bahrain, curious advertisements started appearing in Pakistani media.

"Urgent requirement - manpower for Bahrain National Guard," said one.

"For service in Bahrain National Guard, the following categories of people with previous army and police experience are urgently needed," said another, with "previous experience" and "urgent need" underscored.

The categories included: former army drill instructors, anti-riot instructors, retired military police, and former army cooks.

In the following two months, on the back of visits to Islamabad by senior Saudi and Bahraini officials, sources say at least 2,500 former servicemen were recruited by Bahrainis and brought to Manama, increasing the size of their national guard and riot police by as much as 50 per cent.

"We know that continued airplanes are coming to Bahrain and bringing soldiers from Pakistan," Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

"We do not know the exact number, but we know that it is much more than 1,500 or 2,000 people."

Recruited into the special forces, the national guard, and the riot police, the Pakistani citizens are tasked with suppressing Shia protesters that are reportedly demanding equal rights after years of alleged oppression at the hands of the royal family, part of Bahrain's Sunni minority.

"Our own Shia cannot join the security forces, but the government recruits from abroad," said Rajab.

On the ground in Pakistan, the recruitments were handled by the Fauji Foundation, one of the largest conglomerates in the country with close ties to the Pakistani military. In addition to the Overseas Employment Services, which is tasked with providing job opportunities for retired military personnel, the foundation owns large cereal and gas companies, sugar mills, security firms, as well as hospitals and universities.

One of the adverts placed in Pakistani papers, reading: 'Urgent Need for Bahrain National Guard'

The Fauji Foundation did not respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment.

"Pakistanis, particularly Baluchs, make up a large part of the Bahraini force," said Fahad Desmukh, a former resident of Bahrain who now lives in Pakistan.

"They are extremely visible on the streets - so visible that the protestors were recently responding to the police in Urdu, knowing they did not speak Arabic." [Watch the video of protesters chanting 'police are crazy' in Urdu here.]

A small country of roughly 800,000 people (including about 235,000 non-nationals), Bahrain has a Defence Force of about 12,000 and a National Guard of 1,200, according to the US State Department.

The National Guard, which is in the foreront of the crackdown, seems to have been more than doubled by the recent recruitments of mostly Baluch servicemen.

"What it shows is that the Bahraini government has little trust in its own citizens to conduct security operations," Michael Stephens, a Qatar-based Bahrain specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, told Al Jazeera.

"So they rely on foreign recruits to unquestioningly carry out orders of violently suppressing protests."

While Arab nations have a long history of leaning on Pakistan for military expertise as well as foot soldiers, the recent increase in recruitments come at a tricky time. Pakistan has struggled to quell widespread ethnic violence and a robust insurgency on its own streets.

In the region, too, the country faces tremendous challenges.

"It has certainly put Pakistan in a very awkward position, where it has to balance its relationship with Iran on the one side and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on the other," Stephens said.

Iran, a leading Shia country, has repeatedly denounced the Bahraini government's crackdown on the Shia - while Saudi Arabia has remained Bahrain's closest ally.

Inside Bahrain, the recruitments have brought dangers to the South Asian diaspora, where ill-feeling towards Pakistanis has increased, reportedly because they are seen as the main vehicle in the crackdown.

The influx of Sunni mercenaries has also increased fears that the government might be naturalising the new recruits in its efforts to change the country's Shia-majority demographic.

Importing expertise

Video footage of Bahraini protesters chanting: 'Our police are Pakistani'. Al Jazeera cannot be held responsible for content hosted on third party sites [YouTube]: youtube.com/watch?v=Pjt2AiTu8EE

"In the 1970s and 80s, many Arab countries flushed with oil money bought state of the art equipment, but [the] local population lacked technical skills," said Hamid Hussain, a long time analyst and historian of the Pakistani military.

"A number of Pakistan army and air force personnel were deputed to several countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. "

The recruitments varied from a dozen advisors to thousands of trainers and operators of complicated equipment.

The most prominent cases of such partnership was in 1970, when then Brigadier Zia ul Haq helped the Jordanian forces suppress Palestinians in what became known as "Black September".

Zia ul Haq, in one of the interesting paradoxes of the Pakistani military, later became a feared dictator who introduced a swift process of "Islamisation".

Pakistan's security relationship with Saudi Arabia, in particular, has put it at odds with Iran, its neighbour to the west. The two nations have been stuck in a Shia-Sunni rivalry for decades and have battled proxy wars across the region.

During the 1991 Gulf war, much to Saudi Arabia's apparent dismay, Pakistan turned down their request for preemptive help, in case Saddam Hussain launched attacks.

Reviving the relationship since has taken a long time, but when the uprising in Bahrain brought fears of unrest knocking on Saudi doors, the chairman of the Saudi National Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, made two quiet trips to Pakistan to seek their support in case protests erupted at home.

"Potential need for foreign troops in case protests spiral out of control has forced Saudis to work with current Pakistani civilian government for whom they have nothing but utter contempt," said Hussain.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani told Prince Bandar that his country supported the Saudi stance in the Gulf and the Middle East and would stand by Riyadh for regional peace, according to Pakistani media.

Al Jazeera's Fault Lines examines why the US supports protests in Libya - but not in Bahrain: youtube.com/watch?v=3vSfxI-Kvxo

"The president and prime minister of Pakistan, faced with grim economic situation of the country and army brass uncertain about continued US funding, are delighted at the potential of a cash windfall from Saudi patrons," said Hussain.

Also on Prince Bandar's agenda was gaining Pakistan's support for the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force that deployed to Bahrain for helping the Kingdom.

The trip was followed by visits from the Bahraini foreign minister and the commander of their national guard.

Then, recruitment adverts appeared in Pakistani media.

Baluchistan, where most of the recruits come from, is a province of six million in Pakistan's southwest. For decades, an armed movement for self-determination there has been met with a severe government crackdown.

Baluch nationalist fighters expressed their dismay at the recruitment long before the recent escalation.

"We call upon the Baluch nation not to become part of any tyrant or oppressive army, at a time when the Baluch nation is living in a state of war … and are struggling against the tyrants ourselves," Basham Baluch, a spokesman for Baluch Liberation Front said in a 2009 statement.

"Instead of turning the young Baluch into hired killers, they should join the national armies [Baluch Liberation Front, Baluchistan Liberation Army] to make the independence of their homeland a reality.

"We do not want the Baluch people to be used and turned into mercenaries."

The backlash

Bahrain is home to a large population of foreign labourers. The majority of the work forces there comprises South Asian migrants, particularly Pakistanis.

"Our country has a history of appreciation for the help Pakistanis have provided in development. But more recently we have seen crimes directed at Pakistanis, and that is worrying," said Rajab, the human rights activist.

He points to the fact that thousands of people have been arrested and hundreds of houses have been looted by government forces. Since Pakistanis make up at least 30 per cent of the security forces, he says, when people think of the crackdown they think of Pakistanis.

"The poor Pakistani labourer who has nothing do with security forces suffers from all this."

Human rights activists and analysts also fear that the government is swiftly increasing the rate of naturalisation for Sunni immigrants in recent months in order to tip the ethnic balance of the country.

With a clear Shia majority, the country has been ruled by a royal family from the Sunni minority.

"What needs to be closely watched is the number of these recruits who will be naturalised in the coming months and years ahead," said RUSI's Stephens.

"Many will not return home to Pakistan, and recent statistics show that South Asians make up a big majority of the foreign citizens naturalised in Bahrain."

While many believe Pakistan is providing workers and soldiers to Bahrain in return for much needed economic aid, activists such as Rajab remain perplexed by the decision.

"What I wonder is how the Pakistani government allows this many people to be brought here and used as mercenaries," said Rajab.

"We know that many of these recruits are poor, uneducated, and are just looking for a job. They don't know what they are signing up for. But the Pakistan government certainly knows, so why are they allowing this?"

aljazeera.net

FPIF: Bahrain and Human Rights

Foreign Policy In Focus By Anthony Newkirk, July 22, 2011

It is becoming painfully obvious that the United States is hostile to the “Arab Spring.” In Egypt, U.S. military aid programs remain in force, and in Yemen a “secret” U.S. war may be in the offing. In the United Arab Emirates plans may be afoot to develop a for-profit rapid reaction force (to crackdown, surely, on UAE citizens for “publicly insulting” their leader). The U.S. government continues to support the Israeli blockade of Gaza. But perhaps the quintessential example of U.S. reactionary policy is in the tiny Kingdom of Bahrain.

July 1 marked the beginning of a “National Dialogue” in Bahrain that King Hamad Isa bin Al Khalifa called to promote reconciliation in his strife-torn land. But it is unclear what the point of the National Dialogue is when the king is also attempting to silence Bahraini civil society. The country’s ongoing domestic conflict between an unpopular Sunni elite and a Shia majority came to a boil in February when mostly Shia Bahrainis began protesting against long-standing discrimination. The ruling family offers the pretext that over half of the country’s 500,000 citizens are under the thrall of Shia Iran. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been proclaiming that the United States will stand up for human rights in Bahrain and also ensure its status as a “major non-NATO ally.”

Send in the Marines

On March 16, one month after the demonstrations began, King Hamad imposed martial law and police attacked Pearl Roundabout, where most of the protesters were camped out. Two days earlier, at least 1,000 Saudi troops and 500 UAE police attached to the Peninsula Shield Force (PSF) entered Bahrain. Although part of the occupation force may have already left Bahrain after the official end of martial law last month, the PSF presence in Bahrain may last long-term in order to “protect its borders.”

A report recently issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) details ongoing human rights violations, including torture, disappearances, and a systemic crackdown on the majority Shia. Such matters should be of grave concern to the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which officially plays a key role in formulating U.S. human rights policy.

But the Obama administration sees the situation quite differently, regardless of Secretary of State Clinton's statements about human rights and administration declarations about “the rule of law.” In this case, actions are a much more dependable guide to U.S. policy. On March 1, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General James F. Amos informed the House Armed Services Committee that a Marine Expeditionary Brigade headquarters for operations in the Middle East and Africa had already been established in Bahrain. Both former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen visited Bahrain amid the protests. Bahrain, of course, hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet and is the naval headquarters of U.S. Central Command.

The administration's actions suggest that it is closer to the perspective of such private sector representatives as S. Rob Sobhani, president of Caspian Energy Consulting. Sobhani, a member of the right-wing Committee on the Present Danger reconstituted in 2004, has characterized King Hamad as a “thoughtful and progressive leader” committed to “economic growth” and “stability.”

And Kick Out the Diplomats

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has been quite active of late in Bahrain, but given the bureau’s name, not in the way that one might expect.

The State Department does have a track record of concern about human rights in Bahrain. George W. Bush’s State Department wrote in the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report that “the Government of Bahrain does no fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making a significant effort to do so.” The U.S. embassy was also pursuing opportunities for American corporations in Bahrain at this time. According to WikiLeaks cables, King Hamad requested Patriot missile batteries in 2008 and asked for help attracting aircraft manufacturers to the Bahrain Air Show several months later.

Three weeks after the declaration of the state of emergency, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor announced the release of the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The section on Bahrain in the 7,000-page document clearly shows there were cases of religious and gender discrimination, police brutality, torture of detainees, and press censorship in Bahrain well before the Arab Spring and the declaration of martial law. Thus, U.S. officials’ comments of disappointment about the Bahraini government’s behavior this spring are disingenuous.

Notwithstanding this documentation, the State Department is sending out disturbing mixed signals. On May 13, the administration “declined” to send diplomats to a hearing held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Capitol Hill about the situation in Bahrain. Lest critics accuse the State Department of insensitivity to Congress, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner did appear before the same committee in July to testify about repression in Syria. It remains unclear why the former human rights lawyer cited HRW and Amnesty International reports on Syria but has said nothing of their work on Bahrain.

On May 26, the State Department evacuated Ludovic Hood, its human rights officer in Bahrain, apparently in reaction to an ongoing campaign of criticism and veiled threats against him and his family by pro-government Bahraini groups. On May 31, State Department spokesman Mark Toner stated during a press conference that Hood’s departure was merely a regularly scheduled reassignment. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs categorically denied government involvement in anything that may have happened to “a diplomat from the United States.”

In the following two weeks, Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and Secretary of State Clinton met in Washington, and Posner and high-ranking Bahraini officials gathered in Manama. Neither Clinton nor Posner referred to the Hood incident in their prepared statements. But Posner did observe that there were “several positive developments” to achieve “respect for human rights and pursuit of national security interests” in Bahrain. He cited “the release of some prisoners” and the fact that Bahrain “promised to investigate allegations of mistreatment.”

Mixed Messages

Nevertheless, Bahrain’s largest Shiite political party pulled out of the National Dialogue talks due to a lack of confidence that the government was negotiating in good faith. Furthermore, many in the United States have pointed out contradictions in U.S.-Bahraini relations. The AFL-CIO and the International Labour Organization have voiced concerns about Bahrain’s violations of labor standards recognized in bilateral agreements and in international law — a state of affairs aggravated by the declaration of martial law in March.

The State Department is fully aware of this. The 2011 Trafficking in Person Report prepared by the Office to Monitor Trafficking in Persons claimed that Bahrain “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” as set out in U.S. law. The report indicates, for instance, that the Bahraini government has admitted that 65 percent of foreign workers in the country did not see their employment contracts and 89 percent did not know what their rights were. However, “significant efforts” are being made to correct these infractions.

Is the Obama administration concerned about human rights in small countries like Bahrain? On one hand, the security of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf and U.S. economic influence is of paramount concern to the administration (as with previous administrations). But citizens should also ask if such priorities are consistent with the principles of democracy and justice. The stakes are not a naval base or a Patriot missile battery but America’s dignity as a defender of justice.

www.fpif.org

BYSHR: Bahrain: The Targeting of Employee and Office of "Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières"

Photo: Saeed Ayad

July 29th, 2011

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) expresses its concern regarding the targeting of a local employee and the office of Doctors Without Borders’ ” Médecins Sans Frontières”

On the 27th of July 2011, Mr.Hassan Aleskafi, a protester, was transferred to the office of Doctors Without Borders ” Médecins Sans Frontières” with an injury to the head (VIDEO) due to being attacked by Riot Police with a canister (possibly teargas) while participating in a peaceful protest. Doctors Without Borders called the ambulance due to the severity of the injury, and he was transferred to the hospital.

On the 28th of July 2011,Security forces stormed the office of Doctors Without Borders, confiscated medicines, surrounded the building and arrested local staff member “Mr.Saeed Ayad“.

On the 29th of July 2011,The local employee, from Doctors Without Borders, was charged with: opening of an unlicensed clinic, aiding an injured defendant escape,false reporting of an incident.

byshr.org

Further Information:

(MSF) staff member "Saeed Ayad" was previously detained for weeks in Bahrain and was released uncharged on June 11. Neither his lawyer nor family were granted access to him throughout his detention period. On 29th July he was arrested for the second time.

Since March 2011, MSF has seen close to 100 people too afraid to leave their homes to seek care in health facilities. MSF raised concerns about the loss of neutrality of Bahrain’s medical facilities, and the related deprivation of care to numerous sick and wounded people in a report issued in April, 2011.

doctorswithoutborders.org

ICG Report: Bahrain’s Rocky Road to Reform

Manama/Washington/Brussels | 28 Jul 2011

Unless all sides to the conflict agree to an inclusive dialogue in order to reach meaningful reform, Bahrain is heading for prolonged and costly political stalemate.

Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (VIII): Bahrain’s Rocky Road to Reform, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the situation in the island kingdom five months after the outbreak of the mass protest, which was followed by brutal government repression. The spasm of violence further polarised a society already divided along sectarian lines and left hopes for genuine political reform in tatters, raising serious questions about the state’s stability.

“While mostly calling for political reform leading to a constitutional monarchy in the uprising’s early days, protesters steadily began to embrace the more radical demand for the regime’s replacement with a democratic republic”, says Joost Hiltermann, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director. “Feeling threatened, the regime lashed back. This spelled the end of talk about dialogue and reform and weakened dialogue’s main protagonists”.

In February and March 2011, Bahrain experienced peaceful – predominantly Shiite – mass protests that triggered a severe response from the regime headed by the Sunni Al Khalifa royal family. Under pressure from its Western allies and seeking recovery from the shock to its economy, King Hamad bin Isa lifted the emergency law in June and ordered a “national consensus dialogue”. However, while on their face these are positive developments, they appear designed more to placate those same allies than to significantly alter the regime’s approach toward its own citizens. Repression has eased but not ended, and none of the worst excesses – the lengthy prison sentences for political offences, job dismissals based on participation in peaceful protests, destruction of Shiite mosques – has been reversed. On a more constructive note, the king agreed to an independent international investigation of the events of February and March.

For a real dialogue to start in earnest and achieve a sustainable solution, the regime should first free those arrested for their participation in peaceful protest. It should also end its stigmatisation of the Shiite community as well as the practice of destroying or damaging Shiite religious structures. Nothing short of such steps could even begin to restore a measure of basic trust, without which no genuine dialogue, much less national reconciliation, can take place. For its part, the opposition should make great effort to reassure the royal family, and the Sunni community that supports it, that it seeks an expansion of political rights, not the monarchy’s overthrow.

Western states and notably the U.S. will have to play a key role. Washington, which has enormous assets and interests in the Gulf, including Bahrain, should press the regime to cease its human rights violations and institute meaningful reform.

“There is reason to fear that Bahrain is heading for prolonged political stalemate, enforced by a heavy security presence backed by foreign troops and punctuated by protests when circumstance permits”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “Further repression and violence will not unlock this complex political equation or defuse this combustible situation. The better alternative is for the parties to find a path to dialogue and inter-communal accommodation”.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS FULL REPORT (PDF)

crisisgroup.org

Bahrain/Washington: Nabeel Rajab Awarded the 2011 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award

by the Washington based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Published on frontlinedefenders.org 28 July 2011

Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has been awarded the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award by the Washington based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Further Information

The History and Public Policy Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars is pleased to announce that the 2011 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award will go to Nabeel Rajab, co-founder of the Bahrain Human Rights Society and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights because he "has worked tirelessly and at considerable personal peril to advance the cause of democratic freedoms and the civil rights of Bahraini citizens".

The purpose of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy.

The award strives to enrich the intellectual environment in which ideas about democracy and democratic change circulate, both within and beyond Washington. Sponsored in cooperation With the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation (London, UK) and the Ratiu Center for Democracy (Turda, Romania), the award expresses the deep commitment to democracy ofthe late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician and.intellectual as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide.

The Ion Ratiu Democracy Award was established in 2005 as a way to recognize the importance of the work carried out by democracy activists around the world. Since 2006, the Award ceremony is hosted at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Previous awardees include Oleg Kozlovsky (Russia, 2010), Adam Michnik (Poland, 2009), Eleonora Cercavschi (Moldova, 2008), Anatoli Mikhailov (Belarus, 2007), Saad Ibrahim (Egypt, 2006), and Sergio Aguayo (Mexico, 2005).
Bahrain Center for Human Rights takes this opportunity to ask the Bahraini government to stop abuses against human rights defenders across Bahrain, especially since they are receiving international recognition of the workmanship and respect from the international community. Their government should have been the first to recognize and protect them and to uphold its commitments to international treaties particularly the Human Rights Defenders Declaration of 9 December 1998 by the United Nations and in particular article 12.2 of it which states: “The state must make all the necessary arrangements for the protection of individuals, by the respective authorities, alone or with others against any violence, threats, vengeance, hostile discrimination in practice or by law, pressure or any other arbitrary act due to their practice of their legitimate rights mentioned in this Declaration”.

A Copy of The Letter of Award

More

A summary of Rajab's activism work: Wikipedia

Because of his work as a human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab has become the target of several orchestrated attacks by the regime in Bahrain for years, however those attacks have intensified in recent months:

You can follow Nabeel Rajab on

Front Line registers Bahrain Center for Human Rights activists as “Human Rights Defenders”

Left: Sayed Yousif Al Mohafdah, Right: Laywer Mohammed Al Jishi

18th July 2011

In an international recognition of the efforts of the human rights defenders in Bahrain, a number of members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) received certificates from Front Line registering them in the organization as “Human Rights Defenders”. The registered members were Sayed Yousif Al Mohafdah (board-member in BCHR) and Lawyer Mohammed Al Jishi (attorney for detainees in political cases). Front Line is an international foundation operating from Dublin for the protection of human rights defenders globally. According to its definition of “Human Rights Defenders” they are individuals who through peaceful means work for the preservation of rights declared by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and others. Front Line strives to provide rapid and practical support to human rights defenders who are in danger and works to increase their identification and recognition as individuals under threat. Front Line has a Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations [1].

“Human rights defenders are people who make extra-ordinary sacrifices, often putting their lives at risk for the human rights of others. They are usually either on the move or on the run and they are the people who change society - that is why they need and deserve our support and why Front Line is so pleased to welcome this cross party support for human rights defenders today” said Mary Lawlor, Director Front Line [2].

Andrew Anderson said that the foundation granted membership to human rights defenders to encourage them to continue their brave work in shedding the light on human rights abuses in Bahrain and to provide some sort of international cover for them due to the dangers they are faced with. Moreover, the foundation installed a security system on the house of the Head of BCHR Nabeel Rajab which was attacked with tear-gas twice in the past two months.

Registering these human rights defenders is considered a recognition and appreciation of their brave work in defending human rights despite the dangers of assault and arrest faced by them. Particularly with them being constantly targeted such as the attempt to arrest Sayed Yousif Al Muhafdah who became active in recent years as a defender of human rights in Bahrain and a human rights blogger. His house was raided in the early hours of the morning and he was banned from travel and was delayed in other instances. Moreover, Lawyer Mohammed Al Jishi was also previously banned from travel and went through interrogation with other lawyers working in cases that were brought before the Military Prosecution in relation to participation in a lawyers’ demonstration at Lulu Roundabout demanding the rule of law on those responsible for the death of many young men in the past February. This comes after a long list of assaults they went through (see BCHR detailed statement [3]) and continued their activities despite them to document the abuses made by the Bahraini regime who took advantage of the “State of National Safety”.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights would like to take this opportunity to ask the Bahraini government to stop abuses against human rights defenders across Bahrain, especially since they are receiving international recognition of the workmanship and respect from the international community. Their government should have been the first to recognize and protect them and to uphold its commitments to international treaties particularly the Human Rights Defenders Declaration of 9 December 1998 by the United Nations and in particular article 12.2 of it which states: “The state must make all the necessary arrangements for the protection of individuals, by the respective authorities, alone or with others against any violence, threats, vengeance, hostile discrimination in practice or by law, pressure or any other arbitrary act due to their practice of their legitimate rights mentioned in this Declaration”.

--- [1]http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/ar/about/frontline [2]http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/ar/front-line-award-human-rights-defenders-risk [3]http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/3972