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Bloomberg: EU May Probe Bahrain Spy Gear Abuses

By Vernon Silver - Aug 24, 2011

European Union legislators asked the EU to investigate whether companies have aided human rights violations by selling surveillance gear to repressive governments.

Marietje Schaake, who is a Dutch member of the European Parliament, and five of her colleagues in the assembly, requested the probe today after Bloomberg News reported that a monitoring system sold and maintained by European companies had generated text-message transcripts used in the interrogation of a human rights activist tortured in Bahrain. The legislators made their request in writing to EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is also vice president of the European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive body in Brussels.

The probe would determine whether any European security and communications companies contributed to “human rights violations, in particular in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Iran,” the request says.

The surveillance technology in Bahrain was sold by Siemens AG (SIE), and later maintained by Nokia Siemens Networks, followed by NSN’s divested unit, Munich-based Trovicor GmbH, Bloomberg reported yesterday, citing Ben Roome, a Nokia Siemens spokesman. Egypt, Syria and Yemen also purchased monitoring centers from the business now known as Trovicor, according to two people familiar with the installations. The equipment plays a surveillance role in at least 12 Middle Eastern and North African nations, they said.

Supporting Export Ban

Barbara Lochbihler, a German member of the EU Parliament who signed the letter and sits on the Subcommittee on Human Rights, said she plans to speak with company officials about the uses of their products. She supports a European export ban of such technology to regimes that could abuse it, she said.

“As a deputy from Bavaria I´m very interested in the follow up of what happens with the company Trovicor and also with Siemens,” she said in an e-mail. Munich, where Trovicor and Siemens are based, is the Bavarian capital.

The other legislators asking for an inquiry are the Netherlands’ Hans van Baalen, Estonia’s Tunne Kelam, the U.K.’s Sarah Ludford and Slovenia’s Ivo Vajgl, according to a copy of the letter provided by Schaake’s office.

The European Commission will revisit the EU’s corporate responsibility strategy this fall, said Cristina Arigho, a spokeswoman for the commission. She said the EU is also considering how to support the implementation of United Nations principles on business and human rights, passed in June, which say corporations have a duty to respect human rights.

For Law Enforcement

Monitoring centers are sold around the globe by many suppliers, and form the heart of what the industry refers to as lawful interception surveillance systems. The equipment is marketed largely to law enforcement agencies for tracking terrorists and other criminals.

The clusters of computers typically tap into communications networks, scan and sort calls and data -- sometimes by keywords or voice recognition -- and send the results to operators at police and intelligence agencies.

The company behind the Bahraini monitoring center started in 1993 as the voice and data-recording unit of Siemens. In 2007 it became part of Nokia Siemens Networks, the world’s second biggest maker of wireless communications equipment.

NSN, a joint venture with Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), sold the unit, known as Intelligence Solutions, in March 2009. It’s now called Trovicor.

Sold to Iran

Siemens and Trovicor declined to comment for the Bloomberg investigation; Siemens said it no longer had records of the business, while Trovicor said contracts prevented it from disclosing clients or countries where it does business.

NSN said a major reason it sold the business was the risk of human rights abuses. The company has since established a human rights policy and due diligence program, Roome said.

In 2009, the company disclosed that it delivered a monitoring center to Iran, prompting hearings in the European Parliament, proposals for tighter restrictions on U.S. trade with Iran, and an international “No to Nokia” boycott campaign.

NSN issued a statement yesterday reiterating its concern for human rights.

“Nokia Siemens Networks has stated clearly that such abuse, if it has occurred, is wrong and is contrary to its Code of Conduct and accepted international norms,” the statement said.

Tracking Terrorists

“Partly as a result of the issues raised by the potential for misuse of its technology, Nokia Siemens Networks is the first telecommunications equipment provider to adopt a human rights policy specifically addressing the issues of new technologies and privacy, access to information, and freedom of expression,” it said.

NSN’s Roome and Siemens spokesman Wolfram Trost declined to comment on the inquiry request. Birgitt Fischer-Harrow, Trovicor’s head of marketing communications, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment. There was no response at her office phone.

The Netherlands’ Schaake helped sponsor and pass a nonbinding parliamentary resolution in February 2010 that called for the European Commission to ban exports of such technology to regimes that could abuse it.

The Bahraini government said it is taking allegations of abuse seriously and an independent committee is investigating alleged torture.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain does not advocate the abuse of human rights,” Luma Bashmi of the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority wrote in an e-mail yesterday to Bloomberg.

“The committee will investigate any allegations regarding the Bahrain Defense Forces” and security operations and submit its report by October 30, she wrote. “At that point the government of Bahrain can and will address all of these issues in a just manner.”


British Medical Association (BMA) action on Bahrain

26 August 2011

Since the outbreak of civil unrest in Bahrain in February 2011, the BMA has been taking action to promote medical impartiality and immunity there.

The BMA has expressed serious concern in letters to the Bahraini Government sent in August, as the trial of 20 healthcare workers before a military court is due to resume on 28 August Read our latest letters

Letter writing campaign The BMA first wrote to the Government of Bahrain in March 2011. This and subsequent letters have expressed the BMA’s profound concerns at attacks on health professionals and other breaches of medical neutrality.

Following the criminal charges brought against healthcare workers, and allegations of torture and ill-treatment used against those detained, we have implored the Bahrain Government to recognise international standards in human rights and medical ethics, and called for an immediate, independent, thorough investigation into the allegations.

In letters to the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, the BMA has urged those with influence in Bahrain to help.

Download PDF copies of the letters on bma.org.uk

Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) debate

The criminal prosecution of medics in Bahrain prompted a policy debate at the 2011 ARM in June.

The motion up for debate, which was passed by an overwhelming majority, reiterated the fundamental duty of doctors to treat patients according to medical need without discrimination of any kind; insisted that political or judicial interference in this duty is totally unacceptable; and condemned any persecution of healthcare staff for fulfilling this duty.

The BMA is continuing to monitor the plight of medical workers, including those on trial, and of individuals requiring medical treatment in Bahrain.


Letter on the Guardian , 28 August 2011

The trial of 20 Bahraini health workers was due to resume on 28 August before a military court, despite assurances from the king of Bahrain that future hearings would be before a civilian court (Bahrain's underclass plays out cat-and-mouse routine of protest and repression, 9 August). A further 28 health professionals are also facing criminal charges. All are charged with felonies or misdemeanours and appear to have been brought to trial solely because they have fulfilled their fundamental ethical undertaking to treat patients according to medical need without discrimination of any kind.

Political or judicial interference in this central duty of the medical profession is totally unacceptable. The BMA is also deeply concerned by reports indicating that the proceedings of the military National Safety Court of First Instance do not meet international standards for a fair trial. Events in the Middle East are a reminder that healthcare workers will always be needed in situations of civil unrest, whatever the political background to the conflict. Healthcare professionals are committed to the deepest humanitarian values that transcend factional interests and political differences. A respect for mediçcal neutrality in times of conflict is of the most profound importance.

Professor Vivienne Nathanson

Director of professional activities, British Medical Association


Irish Times: Bahraini activist duo's trial set for September

29 August 2011 The trial of two Bahraini pro-democracy activists who had been released on bail earlier this week has been postponed until September 7th, writes Niamh Griffin.

Lawyers for Dr Rula al-Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, and Jalila al-Salman, deputy head of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association, asked that the cases be struck out. But this was rejected, according to rights group Front Line.

Jim Loughran, spokesman for the Dublin-based group, said the lawyers had then asked for the pair to be tried by a civilian court instead of a military court, but this was also denied.



Military trial of doctors and teachers, and more updates from Bahrain

28 August 2011

The trial of the doctors took place this morning and was postponed until September 7th when defense witnesses are supposed to be called in. The trial took place in a military court or a "national safety court" as per the government. List of medical staff undergoing military trial (Via BYSHR)

Leaders of the Bahrain Teachers Society, Mr. Mahdi Abu Dheeb (Chairman, detained since last April), and Ms. Jalila Al Salman (Deputy Chair , released last week after 5 months of detention) will be presented before a military court on 29th Aug, 2011.

Several released detainees have told activists that they have been threatened by prison security guards that they will be tortured after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry leave.

Recently we have been receiving numerous cases in which riot police enter villages at very high speeds and run over protesters with their cars. The following are pictures and videos of the victims. (Advise: Graphic)

youtube.com/watch?v=_YU8ycQx88s youtube.com/watch?v=YunIlcBrTJ0 youtu.be/Arjy5-Qxy_s yfrog.com/kgaammdj

Ministry of Interior announced that two Asian workers were attacked in village. An individual from the same village then released a video showing what appears to be men in civilian clothing accompanied by riot police arranging metal rods and water on ground for incriminating photo of the alleged incident.

Young child being taken away by riot police: video

Bahrain authorities now block the twitcam Internet feature which allows people to take videos and directly upload them to the internet through Twitter.

Video taken via a hidden camera during one of the disciplinary committees' interrogations which caused hundreds of dismissals (Arabic): youtube.com/watch?v=LTFNnN1lXSo

Video taken via a hidden camera at a check point (Arabic): youtube.com/watch?v=chB7hflEOjo

University of Bahrain president today announced the return of 389 of the expelled students, and the referral of 38 others to the courts.

Bahrain Polytechnic announced the reinstating of 31 expelled students.

In a case that raises serious concern armed thugs opened fire and severely beat other civilians (MOI Statement). It is very disturbing that pro-government groups now have access to guns that are being used in violence against other civilians. The threat of widespread violence is quickly increasing due to the regime's policies and the way they have dealt with the recent uprising. Especially with the latest information about the arming of groups.

Summary translation of victim testimony from AlWasat newspaper:

At the Bahrain International Circuit after 12pm on the 26th August, a fight started after an event at the circuit, after which the victim and his friends decided to leave. On their way out a man in civilian clothing in a pickup told them they were not allowed to leave, and when they tried to leave he shot at them with a gun. They were then chased and stopped, after which they were taken to a secluded area where they were severely beaten and forced to insult political opposition figures. They were also asked if they had taken parts in the protests that took place in February/March. Others arrived in other cars carrying different types of weapons and took turns beating them. The assailants then received a call telling them to let them go, after which they were going to drive the victims back to their car but received a call not to go to that area as there were police units there. They let the victims go and told them to run, and when they did, they started shooting their guns. The victim giving the witness account suffered an injury to the head. Another witness said that the shooting that took place at the circuit happened in front of the police units. Another young man was shot several times in the leg.

One of the most widespread protests in months, Bahrain buying weapons from Russia and other updates

27 August 2011

On night of 26/27 August, the security forces have heavily attacked numerous areas in Bahrain where there were protests, starting with the weekly "rally for self-determination" and we have received news of injuries: A protester in Duraz got shot in the eye with rubber bullet Another protester injured in the head in Sitra.

The riot police, according to many of the injuries reported in the past several weeks, are clearly targeting the head and upper body of the protesters. The riot police are extensively shooting teargas into people's homes and this is a picture of a child who was subjected to the teargas.

According to our sources on the streets, alongside the regular teargas the riot police are using a strange looking teargas which is much more powerful and affects the nerves.

So far we know that two boys, 15 and 18 were arrested on that night.

What one person collected inside their home: tear gas collection

A house in Noaim caught fire due to the teargas being shot directly at peoples homes. This is not the first instance of homes burning due to teargas attacks.

With the rising sectarian tension in the country, and especially with people like Adel Fulaifal, former torturer and right hand to Ian Henderson, and Mohammed Khalid, former member of Parliament, calling for violence; the news of Bahrain buying Ak103 Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers from Russia is very disturbing.

There has been news about forming armed "protection units" with Adel Fulaifel in charge of training them in the local media, and this raises concern about a drastic increase in violence we may witness in Bahrain. Adel Fulaifal has been on Twitter for some time, where he writes against the Shiaa, and calls for violence. In one instance he wrote: (translated) AlMuharraq is nothing but an island and soon the corpses of Wali AlFaqih and all his followers will float (in its waters). To read his account: (Arabic) @ADEL_FELAIFIL

The appeal hearing of the 21 prominent figures has been changed from the 9th of September to the 6th.

Zainab Al-Khawaja visited her husband in prison and here is her account of the visit about the torture and his trial amongst others is at the bottom of this email.

As copied from Twitter: "Visited my husband Wafi a couple of hrs ago at Dry Dock prison, he told me about what happened in court & the charges against him. The charges against Wafi are 8 or 9, among them: participating in illegal gatherings in many places including at the roundabout. Another one of the charges against my husband is: writing msgs that spread hatred against the regime The one Wafi laughed about was "حرض على الصمود والثبات" These are the exact words, they even asked him if he did it. Among the charges against Wafi: asking ppl to go on strikes and spreading information about civil disobedience. There are 13 ppl in the same case as Wafi & with similar charges: Isa Ahmed Thaani Khamis, Hameed Abbas Abdulwahad Al-Saafi, Ali Hassan Salman Hassan Al-Sitri, Jaffar Hassan Salman Hassan Al-Sitrim Abdulla Hassan Abdulla Al-Saif, Mohd Ali Ebrahim Aal-Hmaid Mohammed Hassan Yousef Saif, Hussain Abdullah Yousef, Hussain Ramadan Mohammed, Hamza Hassan Alhawaj, Abdulwahab Nasser Kadhum The 13th person is Canadian citizen. Wafi told us today about when he was detained underground at fort. He was tortured so badly he coudnt stand for days. He had to crawl Wafi said he urinated blood for weeks, and was hospitalized for 4 days after severe torture He says those 4 days in the hospital, every night at 12 police would come in throw them of their beds and beat them badly He said he was electrocuted not only at the fort but also when he was brought to Dry Dock Even tho Wafi hadnt told us much be4 abt being subjected to torture, we assumed that he had been. Most if not all prisoners are"

Bahrain Inquiry Receives 5,200 Complaints So Far

26 August 2011

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) announced today, 26th August 2011, that the final date for the submission of complaints will be 30th September 2011. Thus far, in excess of 5200 complaints have been received by the BICI, all of which are being examined and cases investigated according to the Commission mandate. The final report is due to be submitted on 30th October to HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and will be made public in its entirety. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry was established on 29th June 2011 in the Kingdom of Bahrain pursuant to Royal Order No. 28 by His Majesty, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The BICI is mandated to “investigate and report on the events occurring in Bahrain in February/March 2011, and any subsequent consequences arising out of the aforementioned events, and to make such recommendations as it may deem appropriate”.


IFEX: Governments attack Twitter activists

24 August 2011

The governments of at least three Arab countries - Egypt, Bahrain and Kuwait - have launched investigations into or prosecuted Twitter activists, provoking other countries in the region to follow suit, reports the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI). In Egypt, activist Asmaa Mahfouz faces a military investigation for her comments on Twitter and Facebook, in addition to a phone call she had made to a religious satellite channel, that "insulted the military," report ANHRI and Human Rights Watch. Mahfouz had criticised the military for failing to intervene to protect protesters on 23 July. Although she was released on 20,000 Egyptian Pounds (US$3,400) bail, Mahfouz still awaits trial.

The Mahfouz case is the latest in a series of moves prosecuting critical expression by Egypt's military, which is increasingly setting narrower and narrower limits on what is permissible, Human Rights Watch said. According to Human Rights Watch, military courts have sentenced at least 10,000 civilians since January 2011 after unfair proceedings.

Bahrain started targeting Twitter users last April when it investigated well-known rights activist Nabeel Rajab for publishing a picture of a Bahraini citizen who allegedly died after being tortured in police custody. According to ANHRI and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), of which Rajab is president, another investigation is planned into Rajab's tweets.

Last week, Rajab was called in for questioning for allegedly "deliberately posting sensational propaganda and false information on his social networking site likely to disrupt public order, spark fear among people, damage public interests and defame authorities." He had recently posted a letter critical of the head of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. Rajab stands by his posts and said he will continue to tweet. Read his posts here: @NABEELRAJAB

In Kuwait, blogger Nasser Abul was arrested in June for allegedly threatening state security in Twitter messages, report ANHRI and Human Rights Watch. Abel had posted tweets that sharply criticised and mocked the ruling families of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for the military crackdown on anti-government protests in Bahrain, supported by Saudi troops. His lawyer said that Abul denied writing some of the more inflammatory tweets, and that hackers had posted the messages.

"Nasser Abul has been held for more than a month on the basis of a few tweets that clearly constitute protected speech," said Human Rights Watch. "His detention appears to be an illegal effort to punish him and intimidate others who might dare be critical about Kuwait's fellow Gulf monarchs."

Kuwaiti authorities should immediately investigate allegations that Abul has been mistreated in detention, having reportedly been subjected to sleep deprivation, held in solitary confinement, and denied family visits and legal counsel, Human Rights Watch added.

Kuwait's "Al-Siyasah" newspaper reported that a member of Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa family plans to file a defamation suit against Abul on behalf of the royal family.

Meanwhile, security services in the United Arab Emirates are closely monitoring activity on social networking sites, says ANHRI.

Anyone posting false and malicious news or statements that would harm public security would be punished with imprisonment of one month to three years, the Ministry of Interior announced on 17 August.

"It seems that Arab governments have run out of values like tolerance, dialogue, or respect for freedom of opinion and expression, and have settled for police repression as a means to deal with different and critical opinions," said ANHRI. "It has become crystal clear that a war is raging between speech and the police."


AP: Bahrain soccer stars pay price for protesting


By Michael Casey The Associated Press Posted: Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011 SITRA, Bahrain – When anti-government protests broke out in Bahrain, Alaa and Mohammed Hubail hunkered down in their family compound and refused to take part. They feared their reputations as top soccer players would make them easy targets for police.

But Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa soon came out in support of peaceful protests. It was the green light the Hubail brothers were looking for and they joined a march of several hundred athletes to Pearl Square, the epicenter of Shiite-led protests against the Gulf nation's Sunni rulers.

It was a tragic miscalculation.

Two weeks after the February march, the 31-year-old Alaa Hubail was interrogated on state-run television and called a traitor. He and his 29-year-old brother were arrested a day later along with national team goalkeeper Ali Saeed Abdullah as they trained at their Al Alhi soccer club. They were among six players from the country's national team who were hauled into jail, where they say they were tortured for taking part in the protests.

Mohammed Hubail was tried and sentenced to two years in jail. He is out of jail while he appeals the sentence. Alaa's case is pending. They have gone from celebrities to pariahs among Bahrain's pro-government factions — barred from playing on the national team and blacklisted from the local league for what they contend was simply following the advice of the crown prince.

"I served my country with love and will continue as much as I can," Alaa Hubail, nicknamed the Golden Boy after the prolific striker was the top scorer in the 2004 Asian Cup, told The Associated Press at his home in the Shiite-dominated village of Sitra in the first interviews the brothers have given to foreign media.

"But I won't forget the experience which I went through for all my life" he said. "What happened to me was a cost of fame. Participating in the athletes' rally was not a crime."

The backlash against the Hubail brothers was part of a sweeping, government crackdown in a bid to snuff out opposition to the regime. Besides the arrest of hundreds of citizens, students were expelled from universities, government employees were fired, and doctors and nurses put on trial for treating injured protesters.

Protesters were denigrated and interrogated on state television and then accused of anti-state conspiracies in trials before a secretive, security court. Even some of the slightest infractions were dealt with harshly, including a 20-year-old woman who was sentenced to a year in prison for reading a poem critical of Bahrain's king.

Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain's Shiite majority took to the streets Feb. 14 to demand that the country's more than 200-year-old Sunni dynasty loosen its control on top government and security posts. After days of mostly peaceful protests, the regime cracked down on the protesters, resulting in the death of more than 30 people and the detention of thousands.

Of all the demonstrators, athletes would have seemed to be the least likely to be targeted. Many had close ties to members of the royal family and were involved in the regime's campaign to raise its global profile through sports.

It was a strategy that resulted in the kingdom securing the region's first Formula One race — the Bahrain Grand Prix — and being added this year to the European Tour schedule with the Volvo Golf Champions. The protests, however, forced the cancellation of this year's Bahrain GP and the next Volvo golf tournament.

Having athletes take to the streets, though, appears to have touched a nerve among several ministers. They launched attacks in state media calling the sportsmen disloyal and ungrateful after many had been rewarded with cushy jobs, houses or luxury cars.

Then, the arrests began.

More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees from soccer to pingpong were jailed after a special committee, chaired by Bahrain Football Association chairman Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, identified them from photos of the protests. A half-dozen soccer clubs, all from Shiite villages, were fined $20,000 each and remain suspended.

Most athletes have since been released, but those interviewed by the AP remained stunned by the government's actions — especially the jail terms, the alleged beatings and the charges of being agents of Iran or Hezbollah.

Many had for months refused to speak to the international media and only spoke to the AP reluctantly, admitting they feared their comments could get them longer jail sentences. But most felt the time had come to speak out after all they had endured.

"I only went to the roundabout for 30 minutes. I never said bad things about the government, especially the king," said Tariq al-Farsani, a well-known former bodybuilder who was arrested April 15 and spent about two months in jail. "The sports people only went there because they want freedom for the people. Everybody went there. It wasn't a big thing."

And despite the regime's call for unity in the divided nation, athletes continue to suffer.

All of those interviewed told the same story — they are now jobless, running out of money and living in a legal limbo. Most have not been allowed to return to government jobs, all are banned from playing for the national team and are still awaiting a date for their trials to resume.

"When I saw all this happen to me, I feel like I'm nothing. They don't care about anyone who served the country, who made history for this country," said Saleh Hasan, a nine-time Bahrain pingpong champion who was banned as a national coach and lost his job at the Ministry of Education.

"Seventy days in jail. This is their appreciation to me," he said. "I'm thinking a lot of ending my sportsman career. ... The things they do to me has given me another chance to think. All my history was a big mistake for this country if they will treat us like this."

Several athletes are still behind bars, including brothers Mohammed and Ali Mirza, who played for the country's handball team that went to the 2011 World Cup in January, and 16-year-old Iraqi soccer player Zulfiqar Naji, who played for Al Muharraq's junior team.

"This has been really hard," said Naji's mother Montaha Kassim, who brought her family to Bahrain eight years ago and plans to return to Iraq once her son is released. "When we were in Iraq with Saddam, nothing like this happened to us. I don't want to stay here anymore."

In a statement about the athletes, Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority said no one was jailed because of their profession, but that it "was their understanding that people have been detained for various reasons to do with the maintenance of public order or threats to national security."

It said Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry is investigating the allegations, including claims of torture, and a report is due at the end of October. As for whether athletes can return to their teams, it said this was a matter for individual clubs and team managers to sort out, not the government.

"The idea that there is some kind of conspiracy against sports people is ludicrous," the authority said. "Bahrain is proud of its patriotic sports men and women and looks forward to seeing their talents on display at the forthcoming Gulf Cooperation Council Games in Bahrain (in October)."

Like most Bahrain athletes, the Hubail brothers say they never dabbled in politics. Soccer, by far the most popular sport on the island, was all that mattered to them.

"Football is our life; the third thing after water, after food," said father Ahmed Hubail, laughing as he talked in the sparsely decorated family room of their modest, two-story villa. "Me, too. I'm an old man and I play football."

The brothers' arrival on the national team in 1998 came at an opportune time.

Bahrain had dropped to 139th in the FIFA world rankings and was on the verge of becoming a laughing stock in the Gulf. But a young team led by Alaa Hubail and several other Shiite stars sparked a run to the 2004 Asian Cup semifinal and lifted the team as high as 44th in the rankings.

The team twice was one match from qualifying for World Cups — losing playoff games to Trinidad and Tobago in 2006 and New Zealand in 2010 in what is still considered a remarkable achievement for a country of 525,000. Along the way, the boys were given the celebrity treatment in Bahrain. Alaa, a stern-looking father of one, had his portrait plastered all over Manama as part of a Pepsi advertising campaign.

"I'm very proud my sons were part of making history for the country," Ahmed Hubail said. "It's good. We try hard to just get our country up and to be famous in the world. We didn't expect they would be put in prison for doing nothing. They did nothing. They just participated in the march."

Pressure from FIFA helped gain the Hubail brothers' release in late June, but their ordeal didn't end there. The brothers were put on trial for protesting. They were left off the list of players for the team's 2014 World Cup qualifiers, although coach Peter Taylor told the AP he wouldn't rule out adding them at some point.

The uncertainty over their fate has left the family angry and bitter — much like many Shiites in their neighborhood of narrow lanes and mostly drab, one-story homes.

Neighborhoods like this have become the epicenter of the lingering protest movement against the government, places where the walls are alive with graffiti denouncing the royal family and a game of cat and mouse ensues nightly between truckloads of heavily armed riot police and stone-throwing youths.

On a recent night, the loud booms of stun grenades mingled alongside the sounds of elderly women banging huge pots in a sign the protest was about to kick off. Drivers beeped their horns in alliance with the protesters as the acrid smell of tear gas drifted across the rooftops.

The Hubail brothers aren't taking part in the protests any more and spend most of their days at the family compounds. Alaa has recently signed a deal to play for an Omani football club, but Mohammed is still searching for a team. He refused to return to former club Al Alhi after it insisted he sign a statement admitting to his crimes.

Mohammed Hubail still can't get over his treatment in jail — claiming he was blindfolded, handcuffed and kicked and beaten with hoses relentlessly by the police — and is angry that neither the executives from Al Alhi nor any of his fellow players stood up for him.

Mohammed has begun to question whether he will ever play soccer again. Even if the charges are dropped and the national team offers him a spot, Mohammed Hubail isn't sure he wants to wear Bahrain's red and white jersey.

"Sure, I want to play. But first we need a solution to all of this," he said. "I need to know what is going to happen to me. For our community, the nation, how long are we going to be like this?"



apt: Government of Bahrain Urged to Prevent Torture

25 August 2011

Geneva, 25 August 2011. The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) calls upon the Government of Bahrain to urgently take measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment. If the Government of Bahrain has a political will to improve human rights protection for detainees, it should publicly demonstrate this by ratifying the UN torture prevention treaty before the end of 2011.

Ensuring non-repetition of violations in the future constitutes a form of reparation for victims and contributes to reconciliation, the APT writes in a public submission to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry submitted yesterday. The Geneva-based human rights organization therefore calls upon Bahrain to install mechanisms for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, as part of a process of establishing truth and rendering justice for human rights violations that have taken place since February 2011 in Bahrain.

Bahrain should sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) before the end of 2011 and create its implementation mechanisms without delay, the organization recommends. This treaty prevents torture in its State’s Parties through creating a system of regular visits by independent experts to all places of deprivation of liberty.

The APT further urges Bahrain to improve safeguards against torture in national law and practice. "Provisions should be taken immediately to abolish the use of incommunicado detention. All persons deprived of liberty need to be given the opportunity to meet an independent lawyer from the outset of their detention", the submission highlights.

The submission to the Bahrain Independent Inquiry Commission "Installation of mechanisms for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment" is available on APT’s website.


HRF: Kansas City Mayor Urged to Revoke Medal from Bahraini King

August 18, 2011

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First is urging Mayor James of Kansas City, Missouri, to request the return of the Kansas Medal of Freedom from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in light of his regime’s continuing violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists. The King received the award in the early 1970’s, according to the Bahraini Embassy’s website. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has overseen a series of brutal measures since March, in which hundreds have been detained—some of them doctors and other medical professionals—and there has been widespread torture and at least four deaths in custody. On June 15, U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe citied Bahrain as one of the countries where there had been “violent repression of peaceful protests”. In response to the King’s appalling human rights record, Human Rights First has asked current Kansas city Mayor Sylvester James to consider revoking the King’s medal to make clear that the people of Kansas City do not support such acts.

A letter sent to Mayor James from Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who recently returned from a mission in Bahrain, notes, “We want to bring to the Mayor’s attention how his office and constituents are publicly associated with the Bahraini King at a time when his regime is internationally recognized as having committed serious human rights violations”.

“We hope the gesture in asking the King to return the medal will help the positive international pressure to stop human rights abuses,” added Dooley.

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.