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Bahrain trials bear marks of ‘political persecution,’ says UN human rights office

24 June 2011 – The United Nations human rights office today spoke out against the harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, handed down this week to several activists in Bahrain, saying their trials bear the marks of “political persecution.” On Wednesday, Bahrain sentenced 21 activists and opposition leaders reportedly for plotting to overthrow the Government, which has been has engaged in a violent crackdown against protesters calling for greater democracy, as witnessed in other countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is writing to King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to convey her concerns, her spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, told reporters in Geneva.

“There are serious concerns that the due process rights of the defendants, many of whom are well-known human rights defenders, were not respected and the trials appear to bear the marks of political persecution,” said Ms. Shamdasani.

She added that, according to reliable sources, the Lower National Safety Court has convicted more than 100 individuals since March this year, mostly for crimes allegedly committed during the protests.

“We urge the authorities to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, particularly regarding the right to due process and a fair trial,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

“We call for an immediate cessation of trials of civilians in the Court of National Safety, and an immediate release of all peaceful demonstrators who were arrested in the context of the protest movement in February.”

Up to 1,000 people reportedly remain in detention, according to the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), which has received “worrying” reports about the way they are being treated.

Ms. Shamdasani noted in particular that four individuals previously arrested reportedly died in detention due to injuries resulting from severe torture. She called on the Government to urgently conduct an independent investigation into these allegations.

OHCHR’s comments echo those of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who voiced his deep concern at the sentences handed out this week. In a statement issued yesterday by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged Bahraini authorities “to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, including the right to due process and a fair trial.”

www.un.org

Bahrain: Ban voices deep concern at lengthy jail terms handed out to activists

23 June 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today spoke out against the lengthy jail sentences given to 21 political activists, human rights defenders and opposition leaders in Bahrain earlier this week.

Mr. Ban voiced deep concern about what he called “the harsh sentences,” which include life imprisonment in some cases, handed out by the courts in Bahrain, where the Government has engaged in a crackdown against demonstrators and others calling for greater democracy. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged Bahraini authorities “to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, including the right to due process and a fair trial.”

The unrest in Bahrain reflects similar popular protest movements in countries across North Africa and the Middle East this year, notably including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.

In today’s statement Mr. Ban expressed hope that Bahraini authorities “will do everything possible to create an environment conducive for the start of a concrete national dialogue,” which is slated to begin on 1 July.

He said the dialogue “should be genuine, inclusive and lead to tangible outcomes which address the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.”

www.un.org

UK Parliamentarians express concern for Bahrain activists

23rd June, 2011

Politicians in the UK have been speaking out against the showtrials of opposition leaders in Bahrain. Lord Avebury, a long-time human rights activist who has been supporting the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain since the mid-1990s, wrote to Foreign Secretary William Hague, saying:

“We should have realised long ago that you can’t hold a dialogue with a man whose foot is on your neck, and I suggest that we ask the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Bahrain and report to the world on the human rights situation, and particularly on the state of health of the people convicted, most if not all of whom have apparently been tortured. May I also ask you to protest to the authorities about the trial and life sentence passed on the British citizen Saeed Al-Shehabi, who wasn’t notified of the charges against him, let alone represented by a lawyer of his choice. This was a grossly irregular process, and one that I hope you will publicly condemn.”

Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt also reiterated that the government is ‘concerned’ about the situation in Bahrain[1]. However, the UK government has been expressing concern for some time now, and even the addition of Bahrain to the US list of human rights abusers[2] has not proved embarrassing enough for the authorities to change their hard-line stance. Lord Avebury told BCHR that ‘action needs to be taken at the level of the Secretary of State [William Hague]’, and that the UK needs to do more than just continually express ‘concern’ about the situation.

Bahrain has already agreed ‘in principle’ to a visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights[3], and we would like to see a date set in the near future for this to happen.

The Arab Spring is a golden opportunity for both the West and the Middle-East. It threatens established dictatorships because it is largely secular in character. It concentrates on rights and freedoms, not on the establishment of purely religious states[4]. The revolutions are cosmopolitan, and concentrate on the things we all share – a need for peace, security, the ability to find work and practice freedom of religion, speech, association and other liberties which should not be the monopoly of Western states but are universal rights that apply to all people and societies. This is what scares dictators, because they could not survive in a society which was truly free.

Please stand with the people of Bahrain who suffer discrimination and persecution, and call for the release of political prisoners and a true and genuine dialogue on reform in Bahrain.

John Lubbock Advocacy Officer, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights London, June 23, 2011


[1] http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=620365982 [2] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-15/u-s-lists-ally-bahrain-with-human-rights-violators-iran-syria.html [3] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38641&Cr=bahrain&Cr1= [4] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/22/bahrain_doesn_t_want_stability?page=0,0

Freedom House: Continuing Abuses by Bahraini Government Demand Stronger Response by U.S. and International Community

WashingtonJune 17, 2011 Freedom House welcomes yesterday’s statement by the United States at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva listing Bahrain as one of several countries that should receive additional scrutiny by the body and urges stronger U.S. and international action in response to the ongoing abuses in that country.

Despite a violent crackdown by the Bahraini government, in which at least 31 people have been killed since demonstrations began in February, responses by most countries to the abuses taking place in the Gulf country—including by the United States—have been muted. Just last week, President Obama personally met with Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and reaffirmed the “strong commitment of the United States to Bahrain.”

“Freedom House welcomes yesterday’s call by the U.S. to focus the Human Rights Council’s attention on serious human rights violations occurring in the midst of protests by peaceful activists seeking political reform,” said Charles Dunne, senior program manager for Freedom House’s Middle East and North Africa program. “However, as an important ally to Bahrain, the United States must do more to stem the Bahraini government’s continued violence against and arrests of activists, journalists, medical professionals and demonstrators. We further urge the Bahraini government to cooperate fully with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to investigate all allegations of violence in an accountable, just, and transparent manner.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has been outspoken in response to the abuses, strongly condemning the actions of Bahrain’s government to crack down on demonstrators and hospital workers back in March and requesting a formal UN investigatory mission to the country. While Bahrain has agreed in principle to the visit, a date has yet to be scheduled.

In addition to the 31 individuals killed in the violent crackdown by the Bahraini government, many protesters have been threatened, lost their jobs or homes, or been prevented from continuing their studies. The government has taken extreme measures to silence both critics and journalists attempting to provide information to the outside world, including intimidation and torture of their family members.

“Bahrain’s attempt to restrict coverage of the widespread demonstrations has included a crackdown on traditional and online journalists, who have been deported, arrested, held incommunicado, and some reportedly tortured,” said Courtney C. Radsch, Freedom House’s Freedom of Expression officer. “Freedom House calls on authorities to take measures to ensure the rights of its public to information and due process and to end its persecution against those demonstrating for political reform.” Yesterday, lawyer Mohammed Al-Tajer was arrested after he defended human rights activists in court. Earlier this week, three Bahraini women were arrested after staging a sit-in in the U.N. building. At least 48 medical professionals have been arrested and put on trial in recent weeks, after being accused of playing a role in the uprising that has been going on since February.

Bahrain is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.

For more information on Bahrain, visit:


freedomhouse.org

Regional and International rights groups condemn verdicts against the activists after unfair trial

The martial court issues verdicts on 22 June 2011 against 21 rights activists and political opposition leaders after months of detention.

The verdicts were immediately condemned by rights groups who said all those found guilty had been campaigning to end discrimination at the hands of the Sunni dynasty.

Rights groups have urged Bahrain to halt the special military court proceedings, with Human Rights Watch deeming them a violation of international law.

"Most defendants hauled before Bahrain's special military court are facing blatantly political charges, and trials are unfair," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch's Bahrain researcher Faraz Sanei told Channel 4 News from New York agreed that the court appears to operate as a military tribunal in everything but name.

"These trials do not conform to international standards for fair trials, they are a travesty of justice," he said.


CPJ: In Bahrain, extraordinary tribunal sentences bloggers to life New York, June 22, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's politicized verdict in which 21 bloggers, human rights activists, and members of the political opposition were found guilty of plotting to topple the monarchy. Today's court ruling further cements 2011 as the worst year for press freedom in Bahrain since the island kingdom declared its independence in 1971. Continue reading

FIDH / OMCT: BAHRAIN: Heavy sentences for human rights and dissenting activities The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) express their utmost concern regarding this decision, as they consider that the charges are politically motivated and the right to a fair trial has been disregarded. Accordingly, FIDH and OMCT call for the immediate and unconditional release of those detained. Continue reading

Amnesty International: Bahrain military court sentences Shia activists in unfair trial Amnesty International believes that some of the defendants may be prisoners of conscience.. “These sentences are extremely harsh, and they appear to be politically motivated, since we have not seen any evidence that the activists used or advocated violence,”“Civilians should not have been tried in a military court, and these trials have been patently unfair." Continue reading


RSF: One blogger sentenced to life imprisonment, another to 15 years in jail “The only crime committed by Abdulemam and Al-Singace was freely expressing opinions contrary to those of the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These sentences, handed down at the end of trail that flouted defence rights, are typical of the intransigence that the authorities have been showing towards those identified as government opponents, who have borne the full brunt of their repression. The international community must call the government to account on its strategy of stifling all dissent.” Continue reading


HRF: Show Trial Verdicts Further Stain Bahrain’s Reputation “This was not a fair or proper legal process by any standard—there was evidence of torture, denial of proper contact with lawyers and failure to provide basic legal safeguards. This was a sham trial, another stain on Bahrain’s already discredited human rights record,” said HRF’s Brian Dooley, who was refused entry to observe the court hearings on May 12. Continue reading


ANHRI: Bahrain: Vindictive sentences against human rights activists, bloggers & reformists Close road of national reconciliation “ The ongoing of exceptional trials and the aggrandizements of punishments against activists, that it came to life imprisonments is a very dangerous matter. It also reflects the declining human rights’ situation in Bahrain, after the outbreak of protests and the peaceful demonstrations demand political reform”. Continue reading


Bahrain: Front Line condemns life sentence for the organisation's former Protection Coordinator Abdulhadi Al Khawaja “This trial was a total legal charade and followed the brutal arrest and torture of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja for exercising his legitimate rights to freedom of expression and association by campaigning for democracy and human rights in Bahrain” said Ms Lawlor. Continue reading


English PEN: Bahrain: Activist and blogger Abdul-Jalil Alsingace sentenced to life imprisonment English PEN is shocked by the life sentence handed down to academic and human rights activist Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace on 22 June 2011 for his peaceful opposition activities. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain for the peaceful exercise of their opinions, including Dr Alsingace, and seeks immediate guarantees of their safety. Continue reading

Bahrain: Systematic Attacks on Activists’ Relatives to Pressure Them to Stop Their Activity

Some relatives who have been arrested, from right to left: Hassan AlMahfoodh, Wafi AlMajid, Hussein Ahmed, Ghazi Farhan

June 15, 2011 The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the escalation of the fierce campaign against the political activists and the human rights defenders, which has reached a dangerous level. Family members and relatives have been assaulted, arrested and harassed in a desperate attempt from the regime to put pressure on the activists to stop their activities.

On June 8, 2011, airport authorities prevented the wife of human rights activist Abbas Al-Omran (member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights who is residing abroad) from travelling with her children for summer vacation. The authorities did not give any justification for the ban and refused to inform her of the authority responsible. Mrs. Omran is a mother of three children and has no political activities, but the pace of harassment against her increased after her husband appeared in the media to talk about abuses occurring in Bahrain. She was dismissed from her position at Bapco in April, her house was raided at dawn on May 19, 2011 by the security forces, then she was summoned for interrogation for several hours at the criminal investigations department on May 20, 2011.

The family of detained human rights activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, (former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and former Director of the Middle East in the Front Line) was subjected to various types of harassment, which affected a number of family members. On June 2, 2011, his daughter Zainab Khawaja (27 years old, mother of a one year-old child) was summoned for interrogation for several hours at a police station in Hoora. AlKhawaja’s Family has already learned that the authorities have exercised strong pressure on Mr. Abdul Hadi, to force him to apologize to the king in front of the camera, threatening the arrest of his daughter Zainab and the rape of his other daughter, Maryam Al Khawaja, both human rights activists. In addition, his two sons-in-law, Wafi Al Majid and Hussein Ahmed, are detained in prison after being arrested with him on April 9, although they are not involved in any political or human rights activities. In addition, on May 2, 2011, his wife Khadija al-Musawi was dismissed from her work as director at the School of Kanoo at the request of the Ministry of Interior.

Mrs. Farida Ismail, the wife of activist and Secretary General of the National Democratic Action (WAAD) Ibrahim Sharif, detained since March 17, was dismissed from her work at the Ministry of Education on 31 May 2011 without going through the investigation committee. She was told that the investigation will be scheduled later, but was not scheduled until this day.

On May 7, 2011, the riot police attacked house of Mrs. Zahra Atiya’s father. She is the wife of Sheikh Yasser Saleh son of Sheikh Abdullah Saleh, Vice Secretary General of the Islamic work Society. During the raid, police threw a sound bomb and broke into the house where Mrs. Atiya was severely beaten and threatened with assault to force her to disclose the whereabouts of her husband and his father. Her father was handcuffed and beaten, her mother was threatened with electric shocks and with the raping her daughter if she did not tell them the Sheikh’s location. In addition, Mrs. Zahra was arrested and investigated for several hours. On the evening of May 8, 2011 their house was attacked again; her father was the only one there and he was beaten and threatened with his daughter’s assault.

The Bahrain Center has documented in detail in previous statements the attack against the family home of human rights activist and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, on April 18, 2011. The attack included tear gas bombs that caused asphyxiation of Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s family, especially of his mother who lives with him in the house. She is advanced in age and has chronic diseases, including shortness of breath, and would have lost her life had it not been for the oxygen equipment kept in the house that prevented asphyxiation. In a direct threat to their lives, a second tear-gas bomb attack occurred at dawn while the family slept on May 21, 2011 at his home and the home of his brother, Nader Rajab. (See previous statement) [1]

A number of sons of detained Dr. Abdul Jalil Singace (political activist and head of the human rights office at HAQ oppositional movement) were either arrested or summoned to interrogation. His son, Hussein, was arrested after a night raid on the house on March 25, his daughter, Zahra, was summoned for interrogation, followed by the arrest of his other son, Hassan, from his workplace on May 11, 2011.

Because he is living abroad, the authorities have failed to arrest the activist Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a member of the Shura of Alwefaq political society and a prominent speaker on international media regarding developments in Bahrain. They resorted to raiding his house at three in the morning on 23 March and arrested four of his sons (Hamed, Taher, Khalil, Jihad (15 years)), four of his sister’s sons as well as two other relatives. Later, two of his sons (Hamid and Khalil) were accused of kidnapping a policeman and sentenced to 20 years in prison. [2]

Members of Sheikh Riadh Alheni Alstrawi’s family were also subjected to harassment and detention, he is one of the members of the media center of the Revolution of February 14 in Bahrain. His mother was arrested from her home in Hamad Town for several hours on April 26, 2011, although she is over the age of 65 and has chronic diseases. His brothers, Hani and Khaled, were also arrested on the same date, and his wife was later summoned to the police station, all to force him to surrender himself to police.

Among those arrested include Mustafa, son of Sheikh Abdul Jalil Miqdad (active member of Alwfa oppositional movement), Ghazi Farhan, son-in-law of dissident and political activist in London, Said al-Shihabi, Ahmed and Hussein Ayad, nephews of human rights activist Said Ayyad, Hasan (16 years old), son of al-Shaykh Muhammad Ali Al Mahfoddh, the Secretary-General of the Islamic Action Society.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Mushaima, son of the detained opposition leader in the HAQ movement, Hassan Mushaima, has been detained since September 2010. He was sentenced in February 2011 to one year imprisonment for his conviction on charges of delivering images of the events in Bahrain to foreign channels after the court ignored complaint that the detectives had taken his confession "under torture, beatings and coercion [3]."

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights finds that the targeting of relatives of human rights activists and politicians through night raids on their houses, detention, assault, harassment, dismissal from employment and travel bans, reveals the heightened pressures faced by activists and defenders in Bahrain. In addition to arrests, torture and abuse they face personally, they are pressured through the targeting members of their families, showing the desperation of the authorities to stop political activism and media, despite all the campaigns of security, and acts worthy of street gangs, not state institutions or the law. The above mentioned acts can only be seen as a direct violation of agreements signed by Bahrain, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Defenders of 1998, which promises not to pressure, threaten or retaliate against activists who exercise their legitimate rights.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:

- All forms of targeting and prosecution of relatives of political and human rights activists in Bahrain be stopped, and those affected be compensated for harassment. - The cease of harassment and release of all detained activists, giving them full freedom to exercise their human rights activities as guaranteed by international conventions. - Commitment in all cases, to the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, in particular article 1 which states that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels,” and article 12.2 which states that "the State shall take all measures necessary to ensure that everyone has the protection of the competent authorities, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination facto or de jure, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a result of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in this Declaration.” - Respect ensured for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the right to privacy in all circumstances in conformity with international standards of human rights and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Discrimination and deprivation of religious freedom in Bahrain

Bahraini Security forces and army destroying mosques and religious facilities of the Shiite sect, some dating back over a century.


8 June 2011

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the actions of the Bahraini authorities - backed by Saudi Arabia - of dreadful crimes against places of worship and other religious establishments of the Shiite sect since the declaration of the so-called ‘State of National Safety’ (martial law). Many of them have been totally demolished without any prior notice or taking into account the presence of copies of Holy Quran, which in turn were burned. According to official statistics issued by the Department of al-Awqaf al-Jafería (Administration of Shiite Religious Sites) [1] at least 35 mosques were demolished and vandalized as well as 8 places of worship and two cemeteries. These numbers were correct at the time of preparing the statistics, while more infringements occurred later.

The Bahraini government has justified these crimes - which are classified as crimes of genocide under the UN Convention on Genocide (1948) – by claiming that those mosques and facilities were not licensed and that some had been built on lands owned by the state. There are official documents that prove the ownership of these mosques by al-Awqaf al-Jafería and the building of some of them dating back for decades before the establishment of departments of authentication and authorization. This is proof of the validity of the allegations made by the Shiites during decades of discrimination and a denial of freedom of religious practice and also preventing them from building their own mosques in many areas and cities. The recent attacks began when the security forces on Friday 25th March 2011 attacked Kowaikebat Mosque [2] in the Koura region and burned it and then returned to remove the rubble.


Sayeda Zainab Mosque was also attacked by unidentified people at dawn of Thursday, 31st March 2011 with Molotov cocktails, which led to the burning of the mosque's walls and furniture. Authorities did not conduct any investigation to uncover the perpetrators.


Security forces proceeded to Um Albanein Mosque at roundabout 13 in Hamad Town [3] on Tuesday, 12th April 2011 and removed it completely. Shiite residents of Hamad Town have been complaining for years of the prohibition on them building their own mosque, especially as they constitute a large proportion of the inhabitants of the town. There are only a very small number of Shiite worship places in Hamad Town, while there are dozens of mosques belonging to the Sunni sect. This shows a clear systematic discrimination.


On the afternoon of Thursday, 14th April 2011, the Bahraini and Saudi Forces vandalized Kareem Ahl Albait Mosque and destroyed the speakers. They also demolished Abo Talib Mosque at roundabout 19 in Hamad Town.


At around 11 p.m., a large masked group of Bahraini security forces - mostly from other Arab and Asian countries and working as mercenaries - entered many Shiite villages in civilian clothes, carrying arms and accompanied by a troop of the army of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia with armored vehicles and bulldozers. Without any prior notice, they started demolishing and dismantling multiple Mudhayef (small cabins where people distribute free food on religious occasions and celebrations) that were under the care of Shiite worship places. Among the properties that have been demolished: Mudheif Alqasim under the care of Imam Ali Maatam (a maatam is a the place where Shiites gather for religious occasions), Ali Alakbar Mudheif that belonged to the Alhasaweiah Family that lived in the area for more than 60 years and Lovers of Hussain Mudheif near Aqeela Zainab Maatam. They also broke the tin roof of Mahooz Maatam and destroyed religious signboards and statues and public utilities of some Shiite mosques and maatams.

On the same day, the security forces removed the flags that symbolize religious rituals of Shiaa and Mudhayef from Zing area to Khameis area.


They also demolished a newly built Mudheif in Sanad Town.

Bahraini police forces - backed by Saudi forces - headed towards several areas on Friday, 15th April 2011 and sabotaged many mosques and tampered with their contents:

Sitra (15/4/2011): Abid mosque [4] was demolished. Mohammad Jamil el-Ghazal, who is in charge of the mosque, told us that the mosque is old and was established in the early fifties. Its location was a small hill surrounded by four flags marking the location and size of a grave. Mohammad Jamil along with some people of the region built a fence around the mosque and started the official registration process with the Awqaf and ministry of the municipality. After many reviews, the municipality visited the site and it was registered as a mosque and tomb after referring to the documents, aerial photographs and maps that proved the existence of the mosque for several decades. Security forces also went to Sheikh Mohammad Mosque [5] and damaged its contents.

Registration document of the mosque

Hamad Town (15/4/2011): Imam al-Hassan al-Askari Mosque [6]which is a cabin at roundabout 22 and Salman al-Mohammadi Mosque at roundabout 19 were demolished after a militant group attacked the worshipers there at about 9 p.m. and asked them to evacuate the mosques in preparation for demolition at 11 pm.

Nuwaidrat (15/4/2011): 10 mosques were demolished, including: (1) Al-Moamen Mosque, which is one of the most famous and oldest mosques in Bahrain. During the process of demolition without any prior notice, the walls were knocked down onto the bookshelves that contained hundreds of copies of the Holy Quran [7]. They have also cut down all the trees surrounding the mosque and the adjacent garden [8].

(2) Al-Imam al-Baqir Mosque [9]: It includes a grave for a martyr of the Hashemites (i.e. descendent of the prophet Mohammed). It was built as a rectangle with a mihrab (place where Muslim Clerk will lead prayers) at the front. It is located between Al-Moamen Mosque and Salman the Persian Mosque.

(3) Al-Imam al-Jawad Mosque [10]. (4) Al-Imam al-Hassan Mosque [11].

(5) Salman the Persian Mosque [12]. (6) Abo Dhar al-Ghafari Mosque. (7) al-Imam al-Hadi Mosque. (8) al-Imam Asadiq Mosque. (9) Shaikh Yousuf Mosque (10) Al-Dowaira Mosque. [13]

On Sunday afternoon, 17th April 2011, the Bahraini and Saudi Forces demolished al-Rasool Al-Adham Mosque [14] in Karzakan, despite permission being granted by the municipality to build it.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Barbaghi Mosque was also demolished. [15] Its caretaker said: “We used to come to visit the grave of Sheikh Mohammed al-Barbaghi at the seventies. It was a room with the grave of the aforementioned Sheikh. His name was written on the grave. In the eighties, some of the Muslims from Aali village gathered donations to build the mosque. In 1984, it was renovated before building of the Highway.

On the same day (17/4/2011), Imam al-Sadiq Mosque in Salmabad was demolished. It is also one of the licensed mosques in al-Awqaf. [16] The forces also demolished Kareem Ahl al-Bait Mosque and all of the copies of Quraan and religious books were scattered around.

The next day (18/4/2011), the Bahraini and Saudi forces demolished Fadak al-Zahraa Mosque [17] at roundabout 1 in Hamad Town and left the burned copies of Quraan under the rubble.

They also destroyed many Mudhayef in Sanabis [18] and Abo Qowa.

There were only 2 mosques of the Shiite sect in the town of Zayed were spared. On Wednesday 20th April 2011, the Bahraini and Saudi forces demolished both of them: Imam Ali Mosque and Fatima Al-Zahra Mosque.

A video proving the attack of Bahraini and Saudi forces on Mulla Ali al-Marzooq Maatam on the same Wednesday spread through Youtube. [19] In Aali, Ein Rastan Mosque was demolished by the Bahraini and Saudi police forces on Thursday 21st April 2011. This mosque is considered one of the oldest mosques in Aali. [20]

Al-Alaweyein “Sheikh Ibrahim” Mosque was also demolished, even though it was newly built and licensed by the Awqaf. [21] Al-Murawhena Mosque was also vandalized and demolished, but details of the demolition process or history could not be found.

On Monday 25th April 2011, the Bahraini and Saudi forces invaded al-Khudhur Mosque in Bani Jamrah and wrecked its contents [22]. They also invaded al-Shams Mosque in Sitra [23] on Thursday, 5th May 2011, where they threw the Holy Quran and prayers books on the floor, dumped garbage in the middle of the mosque and scattered the contents of its library. A few days later, they demolished al-Wattayah Mosque [24] in a nearby area.

According to sources in al-Awqaf al-Jaferia, many mosques were vandalized, including Sheikh Maitham Mosque in Juffair area where some of the windows were broken, al-Zahraa Mosque in Muharraq, whose contents were tampered with, Sheikh Yaqoob Mosque in Noaim as its main door was broken, Sa'sah bin Sohan Mosque in Asker as all its content were broken and al-Anwar (al-Anwari) Mosque in Daih as its public utilities were demolished.

At dawn on Friday, 13th May 2011, riot police forces and a group of civilians attacked Imam Sadiq Mosque in Duraz. They tampered with its contents, scattered copies of the Holy Quran and prayer books and stole audio and electronic equipment from it. Witnesses said that a large number of riot police and civilians broke the doors of the mosque and entered after having beaten a Pakistani cleaner. They then scattered copies of the Holy Quran, stole some television screens, sabotaged the contents of the audio and control rooms and left some sonic bombs.


The Shiite religious gathering places (Matam) were not spared. Some places were vandalized and lost some of their contents such as Haj Hassan al-Oraibi Matam for men in Kawarah. Other places had doors, windows and contents broken, such as al-Baqer Matam for men in Bouri, Abd al-Hai Matam for men in Sanabis, al-Sadah Matam for men in Sitra, West Noaim Matam for men in Noaim, al-Qasab Matam for men in Manama, Isa Town Matam for women and Shaha Matam for women.

Cemeteries also became the scene of violations by the regime as its forces, backed by the Saudi troops, attacked 3 cemeteries in Shiite areas. They entered Muharraq cemetery and searched its utilities and warehouse and they destroyed Bani Jamra cemetery and demolished its fence. On 4th May 2011, they also went to Nuwaidrat cemetery, dug up the grave of Sayed Mohammed Abu Khulais, left it open and left the cemetery [25]. A witness said that the military forces of the Peninsula Shield, the army and the security police of the Ministry of the Interior backed by bulldozers demolished the mausoleum above the grave. They were not satisfied with that as they also dug up the grave by the bulldozer, exposing the remains of the body of Abu Khulais and unearthing the skull, femur and other parts of his body [26]. Some of the soldiers kicked the skull and cracked some bones. They left after that and some of the villagers gathered the bones and buried them in their place again.


The security forces did not stop there. They also vandalized parks and heritage gates [27] in some Shiite villages, such as Bani Jamrah [28], Oker, Sar, Karanah and Duraz. Um Mohamed farm, which the security forces demolished in Bani Jamrah is the same farm that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning praised in May of 2009, and asked the officials in his ministry to provide all the necessary requirements for Um Mohamed to manage it[29].

Many international and Arabic media channels showed video clips that prove that the Bahraini authorities backed by Saudi forces demolished mosques and destroyed copies of the Quran [30].

The Independent newspaper said in one of the articles published on 19th April 2011 that the government of Bahrain is destroying mosques and places of worship belonging to the Shiite majority there. The Independent expressed its concern about the increasing hostility between the Shiites and Sunnis because of what the government of Bahrain is doing [31].

While activists [32] all over the world were talking about the demolishing of mosques by the Bahraini government, Bahrain Television continued to sing alone. In the observer (al-Rasid) program, the presenter talked about those who demolished these mosques, saying that they are unknowns and don’t belong to Islam [32]. He also asked to withdraw their Bahraini nationalities and expel them from the country.

The Ministry of Information also blocked the al-Awqaf al-Jaferia website after it published documents proving that many of the mosques that were demolished are licensed and documented in the official governmental site [34]. Al-Awqaf al-Jaferia issued a statement stressing the falsity of the government’s allegations about the lack of a license or ownership of the demolished mosques or its existence on public lands as there are no lawsuits against them in court [35]. The website of al-Awqaf al-Jaferia added a list of some of the mosques that were vandalized or demolished [36]. Other activists also launched a page on Google Maps to document cases of demolition and destruction that have affected Shiite mosques [37].

After Bahraini authorities were subjected to considerable media pressure, Minister of Information - Fawaz Mohammed Al Khalifa - said in a press conference in response to a question about what is being said about the demolition of mosques, that “the government of Bahrain or any Muslim will not agree with things against religion and belief, and the Government of Bahrain builds Mosques and has the highest proportion in the region, but what happened is a departure from the fundamental issue as there were encroachments on state properties as well as private properties. There are around 600 cases in court and what has been demolished does not exceed 10 percent of these cases [38]”.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Justice insisted on his opinion that "there is no targeting of places of worship” in a press conference held on 3rd May 2011. He said that the number of existing places of worship is actually greater than the need for people. And said that there are about 32 mosques in one area and another area has about 22 mataam next to each other and he stressed that there is no targeting of the places of worship and talking about it is unacceptable [39]. But after President Barack Obama's speech in the White House, emphasizing that the U.S. refuses the destruction of Shiite mosques in Bahrain, the government decided finally to admit the demolition of the mosques, vowing to re-build the mosques that were demolished [40].

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) sees that these systematic attacks and discrimination against the Shiites is not fortuitous but a policy that the authorities have adopted in recent years and has been indicated in many international reports, the most recent being the report of the U.S. State Department on religious freedom in Bahrain [41]. Perhaps what most worries the Centre and confirms its view is that the matter is closely linked to the presence of Peninsula Shield Forces from Saudi Arabia and the direction of the demolition processes by the police and army forces, while dealing with these matters should be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Municipalities and not the Ministry of the Interior or the Peninsula Shield Forces, who claimed that it came to Bahrain for the protection of vital installations [42].

The Centre believes that such acts were not personal efforts but are orders from Justice Minister Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, and execution was entrusted to Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force, Sheikh Khalifa Ahmed Al Khalifa and Commander of Peninsula Shield Forces, Maj. Gen. Mutlaq Salem Alazimaa.

Mr. Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, commented on the demolition of Shia mosques and houses of worship, saying: "the demolition of mosques, places of worship and historical shrines, some dating back to before the arrival of the present royal family in Bahrain is a historically unforgivable crime and a disgrace.” He added: "But a promise to ourselves and a responsibility that we all bear, the people of this country, that we will work to build these monuments again no matter what the sacrifices are. "

Based on all of the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for the Bahraini authorities to:

• Stop the targeting of Shiite mosques and places of worship immediately. • Stop the systematic discrimination against the religious freedoms of the Shiite community. • Hold accountable those involved in this shameful infringement on the history of a sect of people in Bahrain. • Reconstruct destroyed mosques and worship places and take responsibility for all the damage and vandalism caused to these religious establishments. • Formally apologize to the Shiite community about any contempt for their religious beliefs and sanctities that occurred.

---

[1]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3182/news/read/562698/1.html [2]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_B_M5XDRFs [3]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WURnMjYwW-s [4]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPAInlGrvAM [5]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS50mKaSl60 [6]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD6-XHGCqbI [7]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7ae8ZpdRiA [8]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExrJIVUlbU0 [9]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihANVkLEbTU [10]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7I7BXqHEUI8 [11]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5W3sEYyX-c&feature=player_embedded [12]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USEeUC9-9mc [13]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD6-XHGCqbI [14]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUl13kp4PUo
[15]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvXJgxcy5mA [16]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uHtKQFEjjs [17]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOGANmAd3JM&feature=related [18]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YGnNam9SU4&feature=player_embedded [19]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdEMj1c2OK8&feature=player_embedded [20]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX4idzvVU7k&feature=player_embedded [21]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjaU1i1wc2c [22]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVZN0qY-mRk&feature=player_embedded [23]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0_nHrPVdzg&feature=player_embedded [24]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqzo0C3t0s4&feature=player_embedded [25]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZMZ10yhDBo
[26]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BeH2z5B7GU&feature=related [27]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnHXtHoIjP0&feature=related [28]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP4ucFAUCnM&feature=related [29]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3128/news/read/535101/1.html [30]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t36yUaDS29Q [31]http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/bahrain-escapes-censure-by-west-as-crackdown-on-protesters-intensifies-2269638.html [32]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1mTg...eature=related [33]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT2Vce7wl3Y [34]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akI0BKOs95A
[35]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibxEErI128E [36]http://www.jwd.gov.bh/uploaded/Mosques%20were%20vandalized_1.pdf [37]http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&t= [38]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3155/news/read/553195/1.html [39]http://www.bna.bh/portal/news/455181 [40]81.144.208.20:9090/pdf/2011/05/05-22/qar.pdf [41]http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/3903 [42]http://www.aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=613833&issueno=11803

Dismissal of hundreds of employees in transport sector in Bahrain, in violation of local law and international conventions

18 June 2011 The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern due to a campaign of violations of labor rights and trade union rights against workers and trade unionists in the transport sector, which is part of a campaign against the labor sector and trade unions in Bahrain, where 1890 persons total were retrenched in the public and private sectors (as registered in the lists of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions GFBTU) up until June 15, 2011, including 8 members of the Secretariat and 44 union members. While the actual number of dismissed from jobs is unknown for the fact that these statistics only include laid-off workers who took the initiative to register with the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions.

Workers and trade unionists in the transport sector are subject to a broad campaign of dismissal, including up to date 383 workers and employees, includes 7 unionists and 28 women, as registered in the lists of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions.

Chief Executive of Gulf Air a wholly owned subsidiary of the Government of Bahrain - said in a statement to the press regarding the sacking of more than 200 employees, and attributed it happened, "for various reasons but the predominant cause is the unjustified absenteeism " [1], and this number represents approximately 9% of the total Bahraini employees in the company [2], and among the dismissed head of the union workers, Gulf Air Habib Alnabol and two other members of the Board of Directors of the Union, also 24 woman who registered their names with the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions. The Gulf Air is in the third place in terms of total number of employees laid off after the company Alba and Bapco. Moreover, it's ranked in the second place in terms of number of Female employees that have been dismissed.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights received dozens of statements from the staff of Gulf Air who were sacked from work, which confirmed most of the statements that they had been dismissed without an administrative investigation with them, and that dismissal took place after contacting the employee and requesting him to come immediately to the Human Resources Department, where a termination letter[3 ] is delivered to him and he is told that he has the right to appeal within three days.

In few cases there have been investigation with some of the staff, questions have been focused on the causes of absenteeism in the work during the strike also during the deterioration in security conditions, as well as questions about the extent of their participation in peaceful demonstrations for democracy and political rights that took place in February and March 2011, also about their belief if the regime in Bahrain must be changed.

A majority of the employees who have reported their cases to Bahrain Center for Human Rights have applied for a leave and approval from their respective directors, based on guidance issued by the Chief Executive Officer of the Company on 15 March, where he told them that the safety and security of the employee represent a key priority for the president of the company, and, if they feel threatened, absent employee will need to address that to their direct supervisor, and in case of inability to come to work the days will be logged as annual leave days by the Human Resources department[4].

A number of staff state that on March 28, 2011 there was a raid on the building of Gulf Head Quarter near Bahrain International Airport by the security forces, these forces searched the computers and phones of a large number of staff and conduct investigations in front of the sight of the staff, also they arrested some of the staff from the work place itself. Moreover, they had set up a checkpoint in front of the only exit of the company and all employees were subject to inspection. These raids were repeated more than once in the days subsequent to a limited extent to some of the targeted employees.

In a new development number of dismissed workers were forced by Gulf Air in order to return them to their jobs to sign a document in which the employee is committed to comprehensive and complete waiver of the complaint submitted to the Ministry of Labour against the company, and pledging not to practice political action with word or action, without limiting that to the workplace, which is a violation of the worker’s freedom expression and personal opinion, in addition the document included a final warning letter to the employee [5].

The same thing was in other companies (Maersk) and (IBM Terminals) who are also running the Bahrain Khalifa Port , where the company issued the decisions of the dismissal of 140 employees, who have registered in the lists of the GFBTU. Moreover, the workers in Bahrain Airport Services (BAS) were subjected to the termination campaign with at least 62 employees, including two women, as well as a trade union leader and coordinator of the transport sector unions in Bahrain with the International Transport Workers' Federation Youssef Al Khaja.

Trade union of BAS went through further harassment , including the cut off communication lines that were provided by the company at the headquarters of the union, and suspending the transfer of employee contributions in the union to the account of the union without giving any reasons, despite a prior agreement in this regard, as well as the stop of all periodic meetings with the management, which leads to a disruption in workers’ issues and interests.

Dismissal processes of BAS are mostly without investigation, as reported by a number of staff, some of the dismissed workers were on high efficiency and dedication to work.

The list of dismissed workers in the transport sector also include (11) at Bahrain Limo Company [taxi services], and (8) in the Bahrain Airport Company which is fully by the Bahraini government, (3) in Bahrain Airline (Budget Airline), and a worker in CARS (Public Bus services), and all these numbers as registered in the GFBTU, while actual numbers are believed to be greater than these.

7 unionists in unions of transport sector were dismissed, including the President and 2 members of the Board of Directors of Gulf Air, President and members of the Board of Directors Air hosts Union, Chairman of the Union of the Bahrain Airport Services (BAS), coordinator of the trade unions of transport sector in Bahrain with the International Transport Workers' Federation.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the dismissal of staff in this vital sector comes in the context of the continuation of the Bahraini authorities to take arbitrary measures and sanctions against citizens who it believes their participation or support for the peaceful protest movement in the months of February and March.

The Bahrain Government dealt with brutal force with the protest and violently killed dozens, especially after the army took control of the streets, and it called in troops of Saudi Arabia and UAE to participate in the suppression of peaceful demonstrators, after the declaration of martial law on 15 March 2011, all segments of the community has been targeted including leaders of the opposition, rights activists , doctors, engineers, teachers, journalists, athletes, students, and trade unionists, men and women and other sectors of the community and civil society institutions, including the workers.

Despite the condemnation of many labor organizations in the world such as the ILO [6] which its delegation visited Bahrain at the end of the month of April, the International Federation of Trade Union of Workers (ITUC) [7], also the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations [8] (AFL-CIO) to stand up for workers and against the violations of their rights against the forces of Bahrain regime, but the Authority continued the arbitrary sacking processes.

This arbitrary action by the departments of these companies violate the rights guaranteed by the Bahraini Constitution and domestic laws and international conventions, as the punishment of the staff on their views and their political activities. and their sect affiliation which is an abuse of ILO Convention No. 111 concerning discrimination in employment and occupation [9], as well as abuse for many of the terms of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

On the other hand they have violated the dismissal procedures as well as Article 113-4 of the Bahrain Labour Law of 1976 which obliges the company to send a written warning to the worker after five days of absence or after ten days of the absence of non-connected and this is what the company does not comply. Bahrain Center for Human Rights noted similarity in the procedures of employees dismissal in a lot of workplaces in Bahrain, where the center monitored earlier the dismissal processes in the Bahrain Petroleum (BAPCO) [10] and Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) [11], where they initially sacked a large group of workers without conducting any administrative investigation, after which the companies conduct the administrative investigation of a number of other workers and the procedures and the quality of the questions addressed to workers are similar and based on the dimension of political and personal level for the employee, and did not adhere to international conventions and domestic laws and internal regulations, and this confirms the suspicions of the directives of Authorities in Bahrain to the management of these companies to arbitrary dismiss large numbers of workers in retaliation for their political and religious beliefs.

Based on the above, below is a summary of the violations:

1 - Discrimination against trade unionists and workers as a result of their political and religious beliefs, in violation of Convention No. (111) issued by the International Labour Organization concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation. 2 - Violation of Article (110) repeated of the labor law in the private sector which provides for the inadmissibility of sacking of trade unionists for exercising their trade union rights and activities. 3 - Inviolability of trade union headquarters, where the Committee of trade union freedoms sees any threat to the trade union headquarters as a Cause creating a climate of panic that is very harmful to exercise trade union activities. [12]. 4 - The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which includes the two conventions (98) on the Right to Organize and Collective Negotiation, Convention No. (87) concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and which emphasize the need to provide state guarantees for the conduct of trade union duties without any pressure, noting that Bahrain has signed an agreement in March 2010 with the ILO on the Decent Work Agenda, which emphasizes the need to apply the basic principles at work [13].

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:

1 - Stop the unfair dismissal of all workers, employees and trade unionists, including workers in the transport sector, and return them to their works. 2 - Form an independent committee to investigate the procedures of the dismissals to see if it has any political or sectarian motives. 3 - Enable the unions to exercise their roles defending workers' rights amid respect for the principles of triple-representation. 4 - Bahrain urged to commit to the provisions of Convention No. (111) concerning Discrimination. 5 - Bahrain urged to ratify Convention No. (98) on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, Convention No. (87) Concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. 6 - Demand the U.S. Government to stop the free trade agreement with Bahrain unless they back down for violating the terms of the explicit guarantee of labor rights and trade union rights contained in chapter (15) and required by the two parties to respect international labor standards.

-- [1]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3186/news/read/563331/1.html [2]http://www.alayam.com/Articles.aspx?aid=57212 http://www.alwasatnews.com/2800/news/read/415486/1.html [3]Copy of the dismissal letter [4]CEO email to the employees on 15 March [5]Gulf Air settlement contract /pledge [6]http://www.ilo.org/global/abo.. [7]http://www.ituc-csi.org/bahrain.html [8]http://www.aflcio.org/issu.. [9]http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/convde.pl?C111 [10]www.bahrainrights.org/ar/node/4086 [11]bahrainrights.org/ar/node/4149 [12]Report No. {(261) issues 1129.1298, 1344.1422, 1454, paragraph 48 g} [13]http://www.ilo.org/pu..

UK Foreign Office Minister concerned about sentencing in Bahrain

22 June 2011 "It is deeply worrying that civilians are being tried before tribunals chaired by a military judge, with reports of abuse in detention, lack of access to legal counsel and coerced confessions."

Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt said:

“I am extremely concerned by the process surrounding today’s sentencing of 21 opposition members and the nature of many of the charges. One of those found guilty is Ibrahim Sharif, a prominent moderate politician who has been a constructive participant in Bahraini politics and represents a registered political party. He was sentenced to five years. It is deeply worrying that civilians are being tried before tribunals chaired by a military judge, with reports of abuse in detention, lack of access to legal counsel and coerced confessions.

The Bahraini Government has committed to a National Dialogue on 1st July, which must be supported with concrete actions to address the long-term challenges facing Bahrain. We will also expect any appeals process to thoroughly and transparently address the substantial concerns that have been raised in these tribunals.”

fco.gov.uk

U.S. concerned about Bahrain opposition sentences

22 June 2011

The United States is expressing concern about the severity of life prison terms handed down Wednesday to Bahraini activists accused of plotting to overthrow the government of the Gulf kingdom in protests earlier this year. The human rights group Amnesty International meanwhile alleged that a “soft” U.S. approach to the case was a factor in the harsh verdict.

The Obama administration is criticizing the outcome of the trial in a Bahraini military court, but is in turn coming under criticism from a major human rights group for alleged “indifference” to the defendants’ fate.

A closely-watched trial of 21 Bahraini political activists, arrested for allegedly plotting the overthrow of the monarchy and colluding with foreign terrorists, ended with eight receiving life prison sentences and the rest lesser jail terms.

All but one of the defendants were Shiite Muslims who make up the majority of the population in the tiny Gulf state ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family.

Several of the accused were tried in absentia but seven of the eight defendants given life terms are in Bahraini custody.

Bahrain has been a key ally of Washington and hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, though the Obama administration was critical of Bahrain’s tough tactics against the protests in February and March.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner expressed concern about the severity of the sentences and the fact that the civilians were tried in a military court. “As President Obama said in his May 19th speech, such steps are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens. We understand that these cases will now go through an appeals process. We continue to urge the Bahraini government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, conducted in full accordance with Bahrain’s international obligations, and to create the conditions for a meaningful, inclusive and credible dialogue," he said.

Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa has promised to open a national dialogue on political reform next month but trials are to continue, including a case against more than 30 doctors and nurses accused of supporting the protests.

Local and international human rights groups condemned Wednesday’s sentences among them Amnesty International, which called them “harsh, politically motivated and patently unfair.”

Amnesty’s Washington-based International Advocacy Director T. Kumar said the Obama administration, while championing human rights in other Middle Eastern counties, has been “half-hearted” about rights abuses in Bahrain.

He spoke to VOA in advance of a meeting with State Department officials on Bahrain. “United States policy is extremely disappointing. The way they reacted to abuses in the region is totally different from the way they react to abuses, what’s happening in Bahrain. We will claim that the sentences that were passed today is in part because of U.S. indifference, and soft approach to Bahraini authorities," he said.

Amnesty's Kumar said rather than engaging in “wishful thinking” about a Bahraini appeals process, the United States should demand the immediate and unconditional release of those sentenced Wednesday.

He said a wide majority of the more than 500 people detained in pro-reform demonstrations in Bahrain since February were peaceful protestors.

The United States has engaged in a high-level political dialogue with Bahrain including several visits by Assistant Secretary of State for Near eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

Spokesman Toner said the State Department’s top human rights official, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, was in Bahrain last week.

www.voanews.com

State Department Daily Press Briefing, June 22 MR. TONER: Welcome to the State Department. Good afternoon. Just briefly at the top on Bahrain, we are concerned about the severity of the sentences handed down yesterday* in Bahrain. We’re also concerned about the use of military courts to try these civilians. As President Obama said in his May 29 – or May 19th speech, such steps are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens. We understand that these cases will now go through an appeals process. We continue to urge the Bahraini Government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings conducted in full accordance with Bahrain’s international legal obligations and to create the conditions for a meaningful, inclusive, and credible dialogue. And that’s all I have for the top. I’ll take your questions.

*sentences handed down today

QUESTION: On this topic, are you also doing – imposing sanctions on Bahrain or stop the cooperation with them?

MR. TONER: Well, as you know, Assistant Secretary Posner was in Bahrain I think just last week, and we’re continuing to call on the Government of Bahrain, as the President said in his May 19th speech, to create a dialogue, a national dialogue and create the environment that’s conducive for that dialogue to take place. And again, as the President noted, you can’t do that when members of the opposition, the peaceful opposition are in jail.

QUESTION: Are you confident –

QUESTION: But what kind of steps you can take for –

MR. TONER: Well, I think we continue our engagement with the Bahraini Government. It’s been significant to date, and we’re going to continue to press our concerns, but also to work with them, again, on – creating these kinds of conditions.

QUESTION: And what about sanctions?

MR. TONER: There’s no consideration that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Are you confident in the appeal process in Bahrain?

MR. TONER: I didn’t hear your question, Said.

QUESTION: In the veracity of the appeal process in Bahrain?

MR. TONER: Well, again, we’re going to continue to keep an eye on it and to monitor events. We have, as a matter of practice, been observing these trials.

[..]

QUESTION: In light of these developments about foreign troops that went through the GCC cooperation, some of the other Gulf countries and troops, how do you –

MR. TONER: You’re talking about Bahrain right now?

QUESTION: Talking about Bahrain, yes. How do you view those troops’ role in the Bahrain?

MR. TONER: Well, two points. One is that it’s a sovereign decision for Bahrain as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council to have invited these troops into their country. However, we’ve been consistent and clear in our message that there’s no security solution, there’s no – the only real solution to what’s going on in Bahrain is what we said is what we said. And what I just said previously is a process that leads to a national dialogue towards reconciliation.

Yeah. Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: Mark, do you consider that the discussions with the Bahraini Crown Prince have failed to convince Bahrain to change course?

MR. TONER: I would just say that we continue to discuss and make clear our views on the situation in Bahrain to a wide variety of interlocutors within the government.

iipdigital.usembassy.gov