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Warnings of abuse of Australian surveillance tech in police state Bahrain

A leading Australian intelligence company is selling state-of-the-art surveillance technology to Bahrain amid concerns it could be used to target pro-democracy campaigners, according to an investigation by international human rights advocates.

Published on Thursday, the report by London-based non-government organisation Bahrain Watch found that iOmniscient, which is headquartered in Sydney, has since April partnered with US company Pelco and Bahrain's LSS Technologies to provide the Bahrain Interior Ministry with enhanced surveillance equipment.

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Women's groups accuse Bahrain of cutting funds on political grounds

Government slashes aid to 18 NGOs due to budget crisis and blocks foreign funding, leaving victims of domestic violence with little support.

MANAMA - Maryam Mansoor left her husband after years of domestic abuse, but with no support struggled to provide for her five children by selling flowers on the streets of Manama. She had few places to turn and her self-confidence eroded.

That all began to change when the 35-year-old started visiting a women’s charity for weekly counselling and support from a social worker - help that made her feel like she could start living a normal life.

But three months ago, the sessions stopped.

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Abdulhadi Al Khawaja Sentenced Five Years Ago Today

In Bahrain the past month has been marred with travel bans, attacks on opposition figures, arrests, and exiles. As the country returns to levels of repression not seen since 2011, it is important not only to focus on the latest offenses, but also to remember the many injustices absent from the headlines. Five years ago today leading human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, was sentenced to life in prison by a Bahraini court after a grossly unfair military trial.

Beginning with protests in 1979 at university in London, Al Khawaja has pushed for democracy in Bahrain his entire adult life. After receiving political asylum in Denmark, he established the Bahrain Human Rights Organization (BHRO). In 2001, Bahrain granted general amnesty for exiles and Al Khawaja returned to the island nation with his family. One year later, he co-founded the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). In the years leading up to the 2011 protests, Al Khawaja was detained, assaulted, and convicted multiple times in unfair trials for his human rights activism. 

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UN criticizes repression in Bahrain, urges dialogue

A UN special adviser sharply criticized Bahrain's government Wednesday for repressing opponents and revoking the citizenship of the Gulf state's top Shiite religious leader.

Adama Dieng, the special adviser for the prevention of genocide, warned that the country and the region were facing "a critical moment."

He noted a series of other "worrying developments," including the re-arrest of Nabil Rajab, the founder of the Bahrain Human Rights Centre, travel bans on human rights activists, the dissolution of Bahrain's main opposition group, an increase in the sentence of a jailed opposition leader, and the interrogation last week of five Shia clerics.

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U.S., UN Criticize Bahrain's Repression Of Shi'a, Stalled Reforms

The United States and a United Nations special adviser sharply criticized Bahrain for repressing Shi'a and revoking the citizenship of the Gulf state's top Shi'ite leader.Adama Dieng, the UN special adviser on genocide, warned on June 22 that the country faces "a critical moment," as the U.S. State Department concluded that the government's efforts to improve human rights have stalled.

"It is now even more crucial for the authorities and for all relevant parties to recommit to an inclusive national dialogue in the interest of all people of Bahrain," Dieng said.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bahrain has fallen short in implementing a series of political and human rights reforms, according to the State Department, undermining efforts to stabilize the tiny island kingdom after its Sunni-ruled government crushed Arab Spring protests five years ago

Widespread protests in February 2011 that were led by the country's majority Shiites sought greater political rights from the Sunni monarchy. Authorities crushed the demonstrations with help from their Gulf neighbors, but low-level unrest continues. Small groups of protesters frequently take to the streets and regularly clash with riot police. Many government opponents and rights activists remain in jail.

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Bahrain’s launch of Shiite crackdown jeopardizes its security

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Bahrain aims to end years of instability with a crackdown on Shiite political parties, but it could be a gamble that risks further destabilizing the Western-allied kingdom and the wider Middle East.

In a series of moves over the past three weeks, authorities closed down the main Shiite opposition al-Wefaq Islamic Society, doubled the prison sentence of the group’s leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, detained prominent rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab and stripped Ayatollah Isa Qassim, Bahrain’s Shiite spiritual leader, of his citizenship.

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Note to Correspondents: Statement of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, on the situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain

The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, expressed concern at the decision taken by the Interior Ministry of Bahrain on 20 June 2016 to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Issa Qassem, a prominent Shia religious leader, and on the impact this decision can have in increasing tensions among the different constituencies in the country.

“I am aware that the decision on Sheikh Issa Qassem has triggered new protests, which I am afraid could increase tensions in Bahrain in the coming days. I call on the Government to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is fully respected and that any response to the protests is in accordance with Bahrain’s obligations under international human rights law. I also call on the protestors to exercise their rights peacefully and to avoid any act of violence”. In the view of Special Adviser Dieng, “the decision to revoke Sheikh Issa Qassem’s citizenship is the latest in a series of actions by the Bahraini authorities in recent weeks that have further restricted space for public participation and the enjoyment of human rights in Bahrain”.

The Special Adviser noted that, since July 2014, the United Nations has documented the revocation of the nationalities of up to 250 individuals, reportedly on the grounds of alleged “disloyalty to the interests of the Kingdom”. Other worrying developments documented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) include the re-arrest of Nabil Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights; the imposition of travel bans on several others human rights defenders; the dissolution of Al Wefaq, the largest opposition political grouping; the increase in the sentence of opposition political leader Sheikh Ali Salman; and, earlier on in 2016, the re-arrest of Mr. Ibrahim Sharif, the leader of the Waad Society. Furthermore, OHCHR noted that, in the last week, five Shia clerics were interrogated, and Friday prayers by Shia mosques were suspended until further notice, as mosque leaders said they felt “unsafe”.

The Special Adviser added: “Repression will not eliminate people’s grievances; it will only increase them. For this reason, I call on the Bahraini authorities to seek to de-escalate the situation and on all decision-makers, in Bahrain and at the regional level, as well as on political parties and groups, military, religious, tribal and community leaders to exercise restraint and to take all possible measures to prevent the further increase of tensions”. In the Special Adviser’s views, “the country and the region are facing a critical moment. It is now even more crucial for the authorities and for all relevant parties to recommit to an inclusive national dialogue in the interest of all people of Bahrain”.


MEPs send a letter to EU Representative on the re-arrest of Nabeel Rajab and the current situation in Bahrain

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights would like to thank the Members of the European Parliament for issuing a letter addressig Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, demanding the immediate release of our President, and Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab, and drawing attention to the human rights oppression taking place in Bahrain, which has heightened in the past two weeks.

Read the letter here.

Sheikh Isa Qassim: What lies behind Bahrain's latest opposition crackdown?

The story of Bahrain's 14 February uprising in 2011 can be told in four broad chapters:

  • Mass demonstrations and failed negotiations
  • A bloody government crackdown
  • A perfunctory attempt at reconciliation and dialogue
  • Political stalemate born of royal infighting and sectarian polarisation.

That stalemate arguably ended with the government's decision to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the kingdom's most prominent Shia Muslim cleric and spiritual inspiration behind the main opposition bloc Wefaq.

These included the re-arrest of outspoken government critic Nabeel Rajab and a travel ban on activists planning to attend this month's UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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