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Amnesty International: Teenage activist killed in Bahrain protest

31 August 2011

A 14-year-old boy was killed during a peaceful demonstration in Bahrain’s central town of Sitra today, where dozens of demonstrators took part in anti-government protests marking the feast of ‘Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

‘Ali Jawad Ahmad al-Shaikh died from a head injury after being hit by a tear gas canister thrown by riot police, a local human rights group said.

“This tragic death occurred during a peaceful protest where police appear to have used excessive force against people demonstrating against the government,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The police have a duty to uphold the law, but it is completely unacceptable to throw heavy gas canisters at children. The authorities must investigate ‘Ali Jawad Ahmad al-Shaikh’s death immediately in a thorough, independent and impartial manner, and those responsible must be held to account,” he added.

The Ministry of Interior denied there was any police action in Sitra at the time of the boy’s death this morning. It said that ‘Ali Jawad Ahmad al-Shaikh was already dead when he arrived at hospital, but gave no explanation for the cause of death.

However, the boy’s uncle told the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights that police had overreacted to the protests, firing tear gas directly at the protesters at close range.

Many Shi’a villages have held small-scale protests almost nightly since Ramadan began on 1 August. Police have responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

This latest death brings the total number of deaths since pro-reform protests started on 14 February to 34, of whom 30 have been protesters.

It came two days after the King announced that some detainees and prisoners would be pardoned. As of today no further details have been released.

The Shi’a population are the majority in Bahrain but say they are discriminated against by the ruling Sunni dynasty.

At least 500 people have been detained in Bahrain since pro-reform protests began in February and four have died in custody in suspicious circumstances. More than 2,500 people have been dismissed or suspended from work.

On 6 September a military court will hear the appeal of 21 prominent opposition leaders who have been given lengthy prison terms of up to life imprisonment. The charges against them included “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”.

In another case connected to the February protests, the trial of 20 Bahraini health professionals accused of crimes will resume on 7 September before a military court. Amnesty International believes that the 20 health workers are possible prisoners of conscience and that their trial does not meet international standards for fair trial.

Parliamentary by-elections are scheduled in the Gulf kingdom for 24 September.

The polls are being held to fill 18 seats vacated by al-Wefaq, the largest Shi’a Muslim opposition group. The lawmakers resigned in February to protest against the way the authorities handled demonstrations in Manama.

Related

Bahrain: The continued use of excessive force against protesters results in a new death and many injuries

31 August 2011

Today we received news of the death of 14 year old Ali Jawad from Sitra. Ali Jawad was shot straight in the head with a tear gas canister during the Eid protests, which led to his death. According to those who took him to the hospital, those working at the hospital refused to treat the boy. He was announced dead at 9:37am (Bahrain time). This is a picture of Ali: (Graphic) and the place where he he was shot as well as the canister which caused his death. We have time and time again warned that there will continue to be an increase in the number of deaths because of the use of excessive force against protesters, as well as the abuse of weapons carried by the security forces.

These protests, and the ones from the night before it (when a man got shot in the stomach Graphic amongst other injuries), came largely as a response to a speech made by the King, (Map showing some of the areas that witnessed protests) announcing amongst other things the return of sacked workers to their jobs, the need for unity, and that he "forgives" those who insulted him. Since then, a large number of sacked workers attempted to go back to work, but were prevented from entering the buildings by security forces, more teachers got suspended the next morning and unfortunately the charge of "inciting to hatred against the regime" is still upheld.

A 40 year old man was beaten in front of his 9 years old son two days ago by the security forces when they had gone out to buy bread: . Young man who was shot with the bird shotgun: (graphic) .

We are receiving many complaints that the teargas being used now produces a black smoke rather than white, and is a lot stronger than the one security forces used to use. The burning feeling in the chest is sharper, and the skin feels like it is burning (as described by protesters).

Brazilian teargas being used in Bahrain now: Photo1, Photo2

In other news, most families who had appointments to meet their detained loved ones today received a phone call cancelling all visits which had been promised without any explanation. This comes with the news that a number of detainees held at the Dry Docks prison have started a hunger strike in objection to their detention and ill treatment.

Letter from detained Dr.Ghassan Dhaif's wife: (as received)

"Dr.Ghassan Dhaif wife Letter to all

The situation of detained doctors is very critical.the military courts are back and doctors are still facing serious charges infront of military court despite the royal decree no 62 which diverted all military courts to civil courts. The health condition of the doctors inside jail is very bad.my husband Dr Ghassan Dhaif is having severe depression,suicidal thoughts,on several antidepressants,now on hunger strike so he is not taking his medications.dr Basim Dhaif is having compartmental syndrome from torture and may be having DVT (deep venous thrombosis).nurse ebrahim demestani is having fracture coccycs(lower back bone)he is in severe pain.dr samaheeji was diagnosed with cerebral aneurysm.dr tooblani is having severe depression.dr deewani is having uncontrolled diabetes. All are on hunger strike and we ask the medical organizations to interfere immediately to release them and save them .

Thanks for your support Dr.Ghasan Dhaif Wife 30 August 2011"

The situation in Bahrain is further deteriorating and there is dire need for urgent responses to preserve human rights.

Related - on the death of Ali Jawad

Statement by the spokesperson of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on ongoing trials in Bahrain’s National Safety Courts

EUROPEAN UNION Brussels, 31 August 2011 A 341/11

The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:

"As the holy celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr draw the annual fast to a close for many Bahrainis, the High Representative would like to recall the situation of those who have been moved to mark the occasion by going on hunger strike in protest at what they see as continued unfair trials.

Many cases remain in the hands of the ‘Court of National Safety’, set up in the wake of the antigovernment protests this spring. These include those of members of both the medical and teaching professions. The High Representative is of the firm belief that civilians must be tried in civilian courts, with due process, so that their full rights to a fair trial are upheld. The High Representative urges the authorities in Bahrain to follow through on their commitments and bring the use of these courts – and the harsh sentences they have produced – to an immediate end.”

consilium.europa.eu

Amnesty International: Appeal For Action: 20 Health Professionals To Be Tried By A Military Court In Bahrain

25 August 2011

The trial of 20 Bahraini health professionals accused of felonies will resume on 28 August, again before a military court instead of a civilian court, as previously indicated. Amnesty international believes that the 20 health workers are possible prisoners of conscience and that their trial does not meet international standards for fair trial.

All 20 people are part of the original group of 48 health workers who were arrested in March and April 2011 and include paramedics, nurses and doctors, mostly from al-Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama. The 48 people were previously split into two groups, one of 20 health workers accused of felonies, or more serious offences, and the other group of 28 health workers accused of misdemeanours, or less serious offences. All those accused of misdemeanours had been released on bail by the end of June. Trial proceedings in relation to the two groups started in early June before the National Safety Court of First Instance (a military court).

During a trial session on 13 June at least two medical doctors told the court that they had been tortured and forced to sign confessions while blindfolded. On 29 June, the King of Bahrain issued a royal decree by which all ongoing military court cases in connection with the protests in February and March would be transferred to ordinary civilian courts.

However, on 18 August the King issued a new decree (Decree 28/20011) stating that the National Safety Court of First Instance would continue to deal with felony cases whereas all misdemeanour cases would be referred to ordinary civilian cases. The case of the group of 28 health workers will resume on 24 October before an ordinary court.

Among the 20 heath workers due to appear before the National Safety Court of First Instance on 28 August are six women who have been released on bail. They include Zahra Mahdi al-Sammak, Najah Khalil Ibrahim Hassan, Dhia Ibrahim Ja’far, Fatima Salman Hassan Haji and Nada Sa’eed ‘Abdel-Nabi Dhaif. The sixth woman, Rula Jassem Mohammad al-Saffar, the head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, was only released on 21 August 2011, one day after she had been visited in prison by Professor Cherif Bassiouni, the Chairman of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Two health workers are being tried in absentia. They are ‘Ali Hassan al-Sadadi and Qassim Mohammad ‘Omran. The remaining health workers who will appear before the military court on Sunday have all been detained since March and April this year. On 22 August they were visited by Professior Bassiouni in the Dry Dock Prison in Manama. They include doctors ‘Ali Essa Mansoor Al Ekri, Nader Mohammed Hassan Dewani, Ahmed ‘Abdul’aziz ‘Omran Hassan, Mahmood Asghar ‘Abdulwahab, ‘Abdulkhaleq ‘Ali Hussain al-‘Oraibi, Ghassan Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif, Bassim Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif, Najah Khalil Ebrahim Hassan and Saeed Mothaher Habib Al Samahiji; one nurse, Ebrahim Abdullah Ebrahim; one paramedic, Sayed Marhoon Majid Al Wedaei; one laboratory technician, Mohammed Faeq ‘Ali Al Shehab; and Hassan Mohammed Sa’eed Nasser (profession undefined).

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY:

ν Explaining that you are a health professional concerned about human rights; ν Expressing concern that the 20 health workers will continue to be tried before a military court whose proceedings do not meet international standards for fair trial; ν Urging the authorities to carry out an immediate and independent investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment against some of the health professionals, as well as against other detainees in Bahrain, to make the results public, and to bring to justice any officials responsible for the torture or other ill-treatment of detainees; ν Urging the authorities to ensure that confessions obtained under torture are not submitted or used as evidence in the trial of the 20 health professionals or any other trials in Bahrain; ν Expressing concern that, despite the serious charges brought against them, these health professionals appear to have been brought to trial solely because of their peaceful efforts to provide medical assistance to people injured by government security forces during popular protests in February and March, in which case those held in custody would be prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 31 AUGUST 2011 TO:

King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17664587 Salutation: Your Majesty

Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khlaifa Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 175 31 284 Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Social Development, Health and Human Rights Dr Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balooshi Ministry of Social Development P.O. Box 32868, Isa Town, Bahrain Fax: +973 17101955 Salutation: Your Excellency

If you receive no reply within six weeks of sending your letter, please send a follow-up letter seeking a response. Please send copies of any letters you receive to the International Secretariat, attention of the Health Team, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, or email: HEALTH@AMNESTY.ORG

BACKGROUND INFORMATION This is the 6th update of a Health Professional Action on Bahrain. For the original action and earlier updates, please see the documents with the following index numbers: MDE 11/008/2011 (25 February 2011), MDE 11/22/2011 (26 April), MDE 11/25/2011 (11 May), MDE 11/30/2011 (8 June), MDE 11/33/2011 (14 June) and MDE 11/38/2011 (8 July).

amnesty.org

BCHR Letter to the High Representative Catherine Ashton re Spy Gear Abuses

30 August 2011

Dear Ms. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Greetings

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is writing to you to express its serious concern about the report published by the American magazine (Bloomberg)[1] showing that European companies sold surveillances technologies known as Spy Gear which have been used in countries that practice human rights abuses against activists and politicians; tracing their calls and messages and then torturing them in violation of human rights laws and treaties signed by these countries. The Kingdom of Bahrain is one of those countries, and as stated in the Bloomberg report, the Bahraini rights activist, Mr. Abdul Ghani Al Khanjar[2] said that he was subjected to systematic torture while in detention from August 2010 until February 2011; his jailers showed him records of mobile phone calls and text messages while he was interrogated with cruel and degrading treatment.

BCHR stands against human rights violations that occur against any person in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We send you this letter urging you to start immediate and impartial investigations on the sales of such equipment and technology to countries that have records of mass human rights violations against activists and politicians, such as Bahrain. We understand that five European MPs have also requested an investigation [3] into the sale of surveillance systems to the government of Bahrain. We support their calls for an investigation into whether this technology has been used in the commission of offences.

BCHR welcomed your condemnation of the violations and brutal repression committed by the Bahrain authorities in dealing with peaceful protesters and their legitimate demands since February. We would like to call on the EU to take further part in preventing violations of human rights in our country. Therefore, we recommend the following steps:

- An investigation into the issues raised by the Bloomberg report.

- Urging those countries and companies developing such technology to stop supplying it to states that do not comply with international human rights norms and practices.

- Sending a letter urging the government of Bahrain to achieve neutral investigations in these cases of torture and the illegal use of technology to track and monitor human rights activists and politicians.

Yours Sincerely

Mr. Nabeel Rajab President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Manama – Bahrain

[1] www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-.. [2] http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/4549 [3] www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-24/eu..

UN demands Bahrain release prisoners detained for exercising freedom of speech

30 August 2011 – The United Nations today demanded the release of Bahraini civilians who may have been arrested during recent anti-Government protests merely for exercising their rights to freedom of speech, and called for civilian trials for those whose cases go forward.

“We stress that civilians must be tried in civilian courts and that every detained person must be charged with a recognizable criminal offence, with adequate access to a lawyer and enough time to prepare a defence,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva, noting that at least 264 cases remain pending, many of which may be tried in the Court of National Safety, effectively a military court.

“We are concerned that most of the defendants in these cases may be prisoners of conscience, detained only for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. All such detainees must be released. We also call on the Government to release the names of all those arrested since 15 March, including their places of detention and details on the charges and status of their trials.”

Mr. Colville noted that thousands of employees have allegedly lost their jobs because of their alleged participation in anti-Government protests. “We call on the national authorities to order the immediate reintegration of such individuals and to ensure that they are compensated for their lost income,” he said.

He added that the Court of National Safety had issued harsh sentences against protesters with charges ranging from participating in an illegal gathering, or expressing hatred of the Government, to actual crimes such as murder and destruction of property.

Sentences imposed by the court in the 124 cases that have so far received verdicts include two deaths sentences and prison terms ranging from one year to life. Sixteen people were fully acquitted, and seven others were acquitted of some charges but convicted of others.

OHCHR had already spoken out in June against harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, handed down in the cases of 21 activists, saying their trials bear the marks of “political persecution.”

www.un.org/apps

Briefing notes on Bahrain

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville Location: Geneva Subjects: Libya and Bahrain

30 August 2011

(2) Bahrain We continue to receive reports of the repression of small protests in Bahrain, and understand that at least 264 cases involving protestors remain pending before the courts, many of whom may be tried in the Court of National Safety, which is effectively a military court.

We stress that civilians must be tried in civilian courts and that every detained person must be charged with a recognizable criminal offence, with adequate access to a lawyer and enough time to prepare a defence. We are concerned that most of the defendants in these cases may be prisoners of conscience, detained only for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. All such detainees must be released. We also call on the Government to release the names of all those arrested since March 15, including their places of detention and details on the charges and status of their trials.

Thousands of employees have allegedly lost their jobs because of their alleged participation in anti-government protests. We call on the national authorities to order the immediate reintegration of such individuals and to ensure that they are compensated for their lost income. In response to a question about the nature and conviction rate of the Court of National Safety: The Bahraini authorities issued a decree establishing the Court of National Safety in March. The Court is headed by a military judge, along with two civilian judges. All three judges are directly appointed by the Bahraini Defence Force commander-in-chief, while the cases are prosecuted by the military public prosecutor. According to our sources, defendants have had limited access to lawyers, and in most cases, lawyers did not have enough time to prepare their respective client’s defence properly. OHCHR has even received reports of detainees calling their families a day before the hearing asking them to appoint a lawyer.

The Court of National Safety has issued harsh sentences against protesters with charges ranging from participating in an illegal gathering, or expressing hatred of the government, to actual crimes such as murder and destruction of property. The sentences imposed have ranged from one year to life imprisonment. According to our sources, nearly 124 cases brought before that court have received verdicts so far. These include two people who were sentenced to death, 16 who were fully acquitted, and seven others who were acquitted of some charges but convicted of others.

ohchr.org

Bahrain’s authorities strive to muzzle and intimidate the independent channels that cover the violations in Bahrain

Bahrain is involved in jamming and pressuring on the satellite channels covering human rights condition in Bahrain, such as Al-Jazeera English and Lulu channel.

14 August, 2011

Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern about the permanent campaigns by the government of Bahrain that muzzle, blur the facts and restrict publishing the information and freedom of media, which have increased in the last years and worsen since the beginning of the brutal repression campaign against the protesters last February and after imposing the state of emergency, that ended in the beginning of June 2011. The latest jamming was on lulu channel, Bahraini opposition channel broadcasting from London, also, pressuring on Al-Jazeera English to prevent re- broadcasting “Bahrain shouting in the dark", that shows the repression campaign against pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain.

According to the information Bahrain Center for Human Rights has received, the Bahraini opposition Lulu channel which started broadcasting last month from London (July 17, 2011) had been jammed intensively after 4 hours of broadcasting, and according to a report by a telecommunication company, the jamming signals are from Kingdom of Bahrain. It seems like Bahraini authorities are trying to prevent what this channel broadcasts to Bahrainis, especially after broadcasting scenes of deaths ,arrests and attacks on the current and ongoing protests in Bahrain, and at the same time preventing any different media from Bahrain’s official television , which the citizens and observers questions its reports that are characterized with inciting violence against protesters , moreover , inciting sectarian, fabrication and falsification, and which described killing protesters as “cleansing.”

According to the Lulu founders' statement, Lulu channel was not allowed to broadcast from Bahrain, forcing them to start broadcasting from abroad. However, the continuous jamming, despite their continuous attempts to re- broadcast on different frequencies, resulted to remove the channel from the satellite channels [1].

The channel sought to highlight the other opinion which is against the Bahraini government and broadcasting scenes and news of the current events in Bahrain, which are not covered by any official media but only slightly and called sabotage.

On the other hand, Bahrain’s government pressured on Al-Jazeera English after broadcasting a documentary film about the events of Bahrain’s revolution on August 4, 2011. Exactly after broadcasting it, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister attacked Qatar and Al Jazeera on Twitter, also the son of King Hamad Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad described the channel indecently, calling it “A despicable channel”, this however, warned of a diplomatic crisis between the two countries led to stop re-broadcasting [2] the documentary, "Bahrain shouting in the dark" after what Al-jazeera website has posted times of re-broadcasting the film on Monday ,Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, but all these times were omitted without giving any explanation.

Click for a larger view

The 50 minutes film documents the revelation’s events in Bahrain and the subsequent brutal repression, deaths, attacks on medical staff, military control on the hospitals and torturing wounded protesters by Bahraini and Saudi security forces. Mr. Al Anstey, managing director of Al-Jazeera English said: “The film-maker was not given access to many things. We were not given free access. We were denied comment by the Bahraini authorities. Our producer (of the documentary) was unable to access certain areas. Some sections of society also refused to comment. ” he also said “Many times we have requested Bahrain but denied (permission and access)”[3].

Bahrain’s government controls the media in the country especially audio-visual media, and there is not any independent privet channel broadcast from Bahrain. The authority had blocked Al Wefaq’s National Islamic Society website last September 2010 after announcing its intention to launch a visual and audible media via the Internet [4], at the same time Alwasat newspaper was denied from broadcasting audio and video reports on its website [5]. Furthermore, some activists were imprisoned [6] just because they sent some videos and pictures about the violations in Bahrain to the media outside Bahrain; Lots of detainees were imprisoned and sent to military court in this recent security campaign with charges related to speaking to the international media [7]. It is worth mentioning, that is the last appearance of an opposition critic on Bahrain’s television was in 2008, Ibrahim Sharif, Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society - Wa'ad (detained since March and was sentenced to five years in prison for the moment) and after broadcasting the show, Minister of Information Jihad Bukamal was isolated from his office, and it’s currently managed by Shaikh Fawaz Al Khalifa who oversees the exclusionary sectarian policy and non-professional in Bahrain TV.

Furthermore, Bahrain’s authorities have jammed several other satellite channels which broadcast news reports on the events in Bahrain in February and March, including “Al-Alam” an Iranian channel and “Al-Manar” which is Lebanese [8].Also, blocked PressTv’s website in Bahrain that broadcasted numbers of English reports and talk shows about the protests in Bahrain.

The official visual and audio media had played a serious role in fueling sectarian strife and incitement among the society sects, hit the internal fabric, endangering civilians in danger, falsification the facts and information, establishing public trials and hold dissidents and protesters on TV, not allowing any contrary voice with the authority to speak on TV, but disconnected every call criticizing those shown on the television [9] in the recent months. Many victims have fallen to this role, dozens of citizens have been subjected to various types of harassment including raids on their houses at night and arresting them after these televised trials [10].

This organized campaign restricting freedom of visual media and flowing of information contradicts Bahrain as a member in Human Rights Council and its claim in respecting freedom of speech and opinion, and violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bahrain, which provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the government of Bahrain represented in the media the following:

• Stop all forms of harassment by the government on the independent media and their crews and allow them to operate and broadcast news about Bahrain. • Cancel all procedures that would restrict flowing of information and freedom of speech and opinion. • Release all those who were arrested because they exercise freedom of speech and to deal with the media. • Bahrain’s government has to restrict with its international obligations and respect for all forms of freedom of expression and publication as provided in the international covenants and treaties. • Punish all those who are responsible in spreading lies and inciting sectarian and removed them from their offices in the Information Affairs Authority and Bahrain Tv . • Oblige to codes of ethics on the media and all the international treaties and conventions, especially the International Covenants on Civil and Political, Social and Cultural Rights. • Give all spectrums of the society the same amount of freedom to express their views about various issues without excluding any category based on the basis of sectarian or ideological or political.

--

[1]http://english.aljazeera.net/vid.. [2]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/wo.. [3]http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/index.php?id=40.. [4]http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3366 [5]http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3327 [6]http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3513 [7]http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/4260 [8] http://manamavoice.com/news-news_read-6708-0.html [9] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkgN51pEAnk [10]http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/4121

The Morning Star: It's business as usual for merchants of death

Ridha Buhmaid, killed with live ammunition by the Bahraini army on Feb 18, 2011

29 August 2011 by Paddy McGuffin, Home Affairs Reporter

A huge surge in British arms exports to the Middle East and north Africa shows that for all its talk it is "business as usual" for the government, campaigners said today.

The Foreign Office has pledged to revoke export licences to regimes where they may have been used to suppress democratic protest during the "Arab spring" uprisings. But the most recent figures show that arms exports between February and June increased by almost 30 per cent on the same period the previous year.

And while the Foreign Office revoked an estimated 160 armaments export licences in February, around 600 remain in place - including licences to sell shotguns and ammunition to Bahrain where the monarchy has brutally suppressed peaceful protests.

In the second quarter of 2011 Britain exported £30.5 million worth of armaments to countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.

Among weapons sold to the regimes were sniper rifles and other small arms, ammo and sub-machine guns.

Concerns were first expressed by campaigners earlier this year that the weapons - sold by British arms manufacturers and granted export licences from the government - may have been used in the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests across the Middle East and north Africa.

Reports that armaments sold to Bahrain and armoured vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia had been used to quell demonstrations against the Bahraini monarchy led to the Foreign Office promising an urgent review of all military exports to the region.

But campaigners said the new figures showed that Britain continued to breach its own arms export rules, which state that the government will "not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression."

Campaign Against Arms Trade spokeswoman Kaye Stearman told the Star: "This is very, very shocking, but sadly not surprising. It just goes to show that all the government's fine words about defending democracy and not selling arms to tyrants were just that - words. It is business as usual."

In the first quarter of 2011 Britain approved export licences to Bahrain for components for assault rifles, combat aircraft and machine guns.

During the same period it approved licences for the export of components for combat vehicles, military helicopters, sniper rifles and military support aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

The government claims that it has some of the most rigid and transparent export controls in the world, a claim rejected by campaigners.

War on Want chief executive John Hillary said: "It is outrageous that Britain should still be exporting arms to a region in such crisis. We've seen the murderous consequences of these arms exports in country after country.

"It is unacceptable for the government to be supporting arms export licences to the Middle East."

morningstaronline.co.uk

Human Rights Watch: Arbitrary arrests central to rights crisis in Bahrain

Opinion: Challenging Manama’s narrative

Egregious violations of Bahraini rights have occurred in the wake of the protests.

Faraz Sanei - August 29, 2011 GlobalPost

NEW YORK — On the afternoon of April 12, plain-clothes security officials arrested Ghazi Farhan, a businessman, in his office parking lot.

They blindfolded and handcuffed him and took him to a detention facility, where officers interrogated him, beat him with a hose, and forced him to sign a confession that he had participated in anti-government demonstrations. Authorities kept Farhan in incommunicado detention for 48 days, and prevented him from meeting with his lawyer and his family to prepare his defense. Today Farhan is having trouble sleeping. Until recently he shared a two-person cell in Jaw prison with a convicted murderer. On Aug. 6, after his family complained, authorities moved him to another cell. But as recently as July 27, Farhan asked his family to cancel a visit because prison guards were beating and harassing him, presumably to stop his wife from talking about conditions inside the prison.

Farhan’s case is typical of the hundreds of Bahrainis caught up in Manama’s campaign of retribution, which began on March 17. That is when security forces began their massive crackdown, targeting nearly everyone associated, however tenuously, with the anti-government protests in February and March.

It is this calculated campaign of arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, serious allegations of abuse in prisons, and show trials before special military courts that is at the heart of the rights crisis in Bahrain today. It is this reprisal campaign that Manama has tried desperately — and some would say successfully — to hide from world attention.

By most accounts, Farhan was not really involved in the protests and was instead busy running his businesses. Perhaps he was arrested because his wife, Ala’a al-Shehabi, was a familiar face at the Pearl Roundabout, the center of anti-government protests and activity for a month. And his father-in-law, Saeed al-Shehabi, is the London-based leader of an opposition group. (On June 21, the special military court sentenced Saeed al-Shehabi, in abstentia, to life in prison, along with seven other prominent opposition leaders and activists.)

On May 30, two days before King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared an end to martial law, a military prosecutor brought Farhan before a special military court and charged him with two counts of participating in illegal gatherings and one count of spreading false information. Both his wife and his lawyer met with him for the first time since his detention after the two-minute court session ended. On June 9, Farhan had his second court session. The court did not permit Farhan’s lawyer to meet with him to prepare his defense, but the judges did allow him to present three witnesses on Farhan’s behalf.

Twelve days later, on June 21, the court sentenced Farhan to three years in prison. His wife, who reviewed his case file, said the court convicted Farhan based on a two-line forced confession regarding his participation in protests, a Facebook printout with a highlight around the words “the people are demanding their freedom from the government,” and four messages he had sent from his private email to his work account that included YouTube links and pictures of anti-government protests.

Since mid-March, Bahraini authorities have mounted an aggressive public relations campaign aimed at advancing a narrative that focuses exclusively on what allegedly happened during the protest period between Feb. 14 and March 16 — and ignores everything that has happened since.

Officials obsessively harp on what they claim protesters did, the “human rights” they violated, and the crimes they allegedly perpetrated. Yet the majority of those sentenced by the special military courts were essentially convicted for speaking out against the government. This despite the fact that the crown prince had publicly stated at the time, on several occasions, that the demonstrations at the roundabout were not against the law.

Some protesters may have committed crimes of violence, and those who did should face justice. But most of those arrested, detained and put on trial were, like Farhan, denied a fair trial and are now sitting in prison, awaiting trial or convicted on politically motivated charges. Authorities say they will continue to try some of the detainees in special military courts after King Hamad issued a decree on Aug. 18 allowing these courts to retain jurisdiction over certain criminal cases.

The new decree seems to override an earlier one, issued by King Hamad in late June, which seemingly transferred all cases pending before the special military courts to civilian courts. Human Rights Watch opposes prosecution of civilians in these special military courts and believes that civilians charged with genuine criminal offenses should be tried in an independent civilian court that meets fair trial standards.

The Bahraini government has made some positive steps. An independent international commission of inquiry is looking into human rights violations associated with the period of unrest. Al-Wefaq, the largest legal opposition group, has held several large rallies without interference. And authorities have released a few hundred detainees during the past several weeks, though most are merely out on bail and charges have not been dropped.

But even the positive steps will count for little as long as people like Farhan remain unjustly imprisoned, abused, and deprived of their rights with impunity.

Except for the clearly excessive use of lethal force against peaceful protesters prior to March 17 that left seven protesters and bystanders dead and hundreds of others injured, the most egregious and systematic rights violations occurred in Bahrain after security forces violently suppressed the public protests.

To lose sight of this is to miss the mark on the rights crisis that is unfolding in Bahrain today. And squander the opportunity to provide real justice and accountability for the victims of this campaign of retribution.

Faraz Sanei is a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch

GlobalPost

Bahrain’s Use of NSN Technology to Torture Activists Shows Need for Corporate Accountability and Home Government Oversight

By Meg Roggensack Senior Advisor, Business and Human Rights Human Rights First

29 August 2011

Nokia Siemens Networks is once again in the headlines for its role in providing technology that enabled a repressive government to surveil, interrogate and detain activists. In 2009, the story focused on Iran’s brutal repression of pro-democracy activists. Now, the focus is the Bahraini government’s brutal interrogation of human rights campaigners using intercepted private communications. A story by Bloomberg Markets raises fresh questions about the responsibilities of companies that sell this technology, and whether home governments should adopt some oversight of these sales. In 2009, NSN responded that it was required as a condition of sale to provide intercept technology, a standard feature of such contracts to serve legitimate law enforcement purposes; that on balance, the company believed that providing mobile communications technology would benefit the citizens of Iran by enabling greater communication; and that the technology provided had restricted functionality. NSN subsequently sold this business unit, acknowledging that the technology had both good and bad uses and that the company should have better understood the human rights implications associated with these sales. NSN has since adopted policies in an effort to address these concerns. In addition to a specific human rights policy on product misuse, the company says it will beef up its human rights impact assessments to identify prospective sales raising the risk of misuse, and to ensure more thorough due diligence and senior management involvement in any decisions on requests to disclose communications.

NSN competes for this business with a range of other US, European and Asian companies. In the absence of meaningful home government oversight or regulation, it’s up to these companies to police themselves. As Bloomberg’s report outlines, there are significant human rights risks associated with sales of intercept technology to governments with poor human rights records. At a minimum, these companies should have policies and procedures in place to ensure that they can identify which sales raise the potential risk of misuse, and to lay out procedures for advance review of such sales, and, as possible, the inclusion of safeguards in any service contracts.

Both US and European governments should take the opportunity to investigate whether existing contracts, particularly ongoing service arrangements, pose similar risk of abuse by governments seeking to stifle popular expression. In addition, home governments should determine what level of ongoing oversight may be appropriate, consider how best to collaborate with other home governments on a common strategy, and assess possible regulatory and diplomatic responses to this challenge.

Bloomberg’s story is a wake up call – to industry and to home governments. “Business as usual” has given repressive [Mid East] regimes a potent tool to track and suppress dissent, undermining the global community’s shared interest in promoting peaceful democratic transition in the region. It’s time for a new strategy, rooted in respect for human rights and greater transparency and accountability.

humanrightsfirst.org