Will Bahrain regime arrest human rights activist again?

This May 2012 video from the USA is called Freed Bahraini Activists Nabeel Rajab & Zainab Alkhawaja Urge End to U.S.-Backed Crackdown.

That was then. Meanwhile, the Bahrain royal dictatorship has jailed Nabeel Rajab for life. And they have jailed Zainab Al Khawaja, released her recently, and may jail her again.

From The Peninsula daily in Qatar:

Bahraini activist fears re-arrest

February 19, 2014 – 5:07:14 am

Manama: A Bahraini activist recently released from prison has told Amnesty International she fears she may be rearrested when she attends court this week to face further spurious charges.

Zainab Al Khawaja was released on Sunday but is due to appear in court again today in two separate cases.

The Bahraini authorities must not place Zainab Al Khawaja behind bars yet again. Her release this week was long overdue,” said Said Boumedoua, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“She has long been a thorn in the side of the Bahraini government, who have repeatedly found excuses to ensure she remains locked up in order to silence her.”

In the first case, Zainab Al Khawaja is accused of destroying government property after she ripped up a picture of the Bahraini King while she was detained in a women’s detention centre in ‘Issa Town on May 4 and 6, 2012. In the second, she is accused of insulting a police officer after she defended a prisoner that she claims was humiliated in front of her in June 2013.

“The authorities must take urgent steps to clear Zainab Al Khawaja’s name once and for all. Her convictions must be overturned and all outstanding charges dropped as a matter of urgency,” said Said Boumedouha.

Zainab Al Khawaja spent nearly a year in jail serving several short sentences for an array of different charges before being released on Sunday. These included destroying government property, insulting a policewoman, illegal gathering and rioting, and inciting hatred against the regime, among others.

She told Amnesty International that during her incarceration additional restrictions were placed on her when she went on hunger strike in March 2013. The prison authorities responded by denying her family visits or phone calls to her lawyer. The restrictions ended when she finished the strike.

Amnesty International had designated her a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and repeatedly called for her unconditional release.

Zainab Al Khawaja and her family are among many activists who have been targeted by the Bahraini authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly in an effort to stamp out all dissent since the 2011 uprising.

“Activists must be allowed to freely express their opinions without fear of intimidation, harassment or arrest. All Bahraini prisoners of conscience must be released immediately and unconditionally and the right to freedom of expression and assembly respected,” said Said Boumedouha.

Bahrain is the 2nd worst jailer of journalists per capita in the world: here.

Bahrain: Ahmed AlArab: Severely Tortured for Confessions, Denied Medical Attention: here.

Horrifying sexual torture in Bahrain jails: Prisoners’ families reveal: here.

Bahraini activists Rula al-Saffar and Jalila al-Salman spoke to Judith Orr about resistance to the al-Khalifa regime: here.

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Bahraini doctors tortured, solidarity in Ireland

This video is called Bahrain doctors .. jailed for treatment.

From the University Times in Ireland:

Silence is A War Crime

SoFIA Presents “Doctors in Bahrain: A Duty to Care”

Anna Nichols | Contributing Writer

Wednesday 5th February saw the Society for International Affairs and Diplomacy host one of its most ambitious and prevalent events to date when it held a panel discussion in the Innovation Academy concerning the political upheaval in Bahrain.

Unrest began in 2011, and has particularly affected the medical profession, but events have received little media. The guest speakers were Irish doctor and leader of a recent Irish humanitarian delegation to Bahrain Dr Damien McCormack, independent human rights activist Tara O’Grady, deputy director of Frontline Defenders Andrew Anderson and Bahraini doctor Dr Fatima Hajjim.

Although each speaker addressed a different aspect of the situation, all four guests acknowledged the importance of the event and its capacity to raise awareness of the abuses that continue to be carried out by the Bahraini regime, and to provide a forum for discussion where thoughts, questions and first hand accounts of the events could be exchanged.

Dr McCormack was the first to speak, focusing on the links between the Irish medical community and the situation in Bahrain. The community’s lack of response to the oppression, with the exception of a few groups, was criticised, which Dr McCormack asserted was indicative of the corruption and collusion that exists within the Irish medical profession, commenting that the influence of the Al-Khalifa regime that currently rules Bahrain reaches ‘all the way up to Stephen’s Green’. Dr McCormack discussed the connections the Royal College of Surgeons has with the Bahraini government, given its campus in Bahrain and the fact that the people running this ‘outrageous blackspot for human rights’ are the people ‘who have dinner with my colleagues’. He also outlined the inefficacy of international organisations such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in instigating meaningful progress, while speaking of his encounters with torture victims and the development of torture techniques.

Dr Fatima Hajjim then gave an account of her personal experience and involvement in the uprising, speaking of being suspended from work, then being ‘dragged’ through a show trial before being imprisoned. She stated that events such as this were instrumental in giving a voice to the Bahraini people and medics, and for highlighting the fact that human rights abuses in Bahrain did not end in 2011. She told the harrowing story of a sixteen year old who disappeared the day she left Bahrain and the turmoil his family went through for nineteen days as vital information was kept from them by the Bahraini civil services. Dr Hajjiim lamented the militarisation of the medical field in Bahrain, affirming that it compromised the humanitarian nature of being a doctor, which could have disastrous consequences for future Bahraini doctors, since ‘having a heart to help people is something you can’t learn from books.’

Next to speak was Tara O’Grady, who emphasised the importance of exercising the right to freedom of expression, particularly given the lack of coverage of events, encouraging everyone to tweet using the hastag #3rdBahrain in order to further raise awareness of the situation. O’Grady also noted Bahrain had been a very peacful island until the 1920s with the discovery of oil, and that political turmoil was not unusual in Bahrain, with there being a revolution every ten years since then.

Finally, O’Grady discussed the regime’s brutal response to what has been consistently peaceful and unsectarian protest, in particular the unjustifiable assault and torture of women and children. O’Grady also expressed fears that Bahrain was setting a dangerous precedent for the regimental abuse of students, prompted by the arresting of patients and doctors and the militarisation of hospitals.
The final speaker, Andrew Anderson of Frontline Defenders, commented on the friendliness of the indigenous civilian Bahraini population, noting that the torture and show trials of medics, one of which meant a close friend of Anderson’s was unfairly sentenced to life imprisonment, truly exposed the brutality of the regime. Anderson also highlighted the fact that the direction of such brutality towards medics is an unprecedented feature of the current situation, while the media’s incorporation of events into the ‘Arab Spring narrative’ has lead to an absence of references to the issue in national media which is further reinforced when compared to the coverage of similar events in Kuwait in the early 1990s. Anderson also praised the protestors for remaining ‘overwhelmingly peaceful’ in the face of such repression, and reemphasised the responsibility that those of us living in free and democratic societies have in standing up for human rights defenders, given the significance of the impact they make on the ground in such places.

After the addresses, there was a question and answer session, where members of the audience quizzed the guests on a number of issues, including what Irish students could do to break down the lack of media coverage, the extent of the Al-Khalifa regime’s influence on RCSI and the unclear reasoning of Bahraini officials for releasing particular prisoners. After the discussion, the attendees headed to a reception in KC Peaches, where the principal topic of conversation continued to be the events in Bahrain, making it clear that the event had been successful in igniting a humanitarian spark within the minds of those who attended. Given the success of the event, it seems like SoFIA, who has been up and running for less than a year, is going from strength to strength, and is likely to be a serious contender at this year’s Society Awards.

If future events are as engaging and thought-provoking as this, SoFIA should remain a society to watch.

See also here.

Bahraini activists clashed with police as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets: here.

USA: Do We Care About People if They Live in Bahrain? Here.

Bahrain’s peaceful revolution starts its fourth year: here.

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Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja freed

This video says about itself:

Zainab Al-Khawaja: On the Front Line in Bahrain

Interview with Bahrain human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja, daughter of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who was the former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator for the Middle East & North Africa. Zainab, known on Twitter as AngryArabiya, talks about family, human rights, Abdulhadi and the difficulties of struggling for human rights in Bahrain.

From Associated Press:

Jailed daughter of Bahrain rights activist freed

5:50 AM Monday Feb 17, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain – A lawyer for Bahraini activist Zainab al-Khawaja says she has been released from prison after nearly a year behind bars for multiple convictions including participation in an illegal gathering.

Lawyer Mohammed al-Wasti told the Associated Press on Sunday that al-Khawaja was released earlier in the day and was heading home.

Al-Khawaja is the daughter of prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is among several opposition figures who are serving life sentences. He drew attention to his imprisonment with a lengthy hunger strike in 2012.

Bahrain’s majority Shiites have led a three-year uprising seeking a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Bahrain Feature: 10,000s March on 3rd Anniversary of Protests: here.

Bahrain: Thousands take to the streets day after anniversary of uprising: here.

Bahraini activist Zainab al-Khawaja was released from prison Sunday after serving nearly a year on charges related to her participation in pro-democracy protests. The daughter of a prominent dissident, Khawaja became an international go-to source on the democracy movement in Bahrain via her Twitter account, @angryarabiya. Over the weekend tens of thousands participated in pro-democracy protests to mark the third anniversary of the start of the movement.  In 2011, demonstrators camped at the Pearl roundabout for more than a month, calling for the Sunni-led monarchy to make way for an elected government. Bahraini security violently broke up the camp in March of that year. For an update on the situation, FSRN spoke with Maryam AlKhawaja, Acting-President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and sister of Zainab Al-Khawaja: here.

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Bahrain people keep fighting for democracy

This video is called ‘Night raids, torture, sham trials a daily reality in Bahrain‘ – human rights activist.

From Amnesty International:

13 February 2014

Bahrain: Fears of violent crackdown ahead of third anniversary protests

There are fears that the Bahraini authorities may use violence to quash planned demonstrations on 14 February, said Amnesty International, when thousands are expected to take to the streets to mark the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

“The authorities’ relentless repression of dissent continues unabated – with security forces repeatedly using excessive force to quash anti-government protests,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Scores of people, including dozens of children have been detained for participating in peaceful protests over the last year. Many of them alleged that they were tortured in detention. Protesters must be allowed to take part in peaceful demonstrations without the fear of reprisal or attack”.

In July 2013 Bahrain’s King issued a draconian decree banning demonstrations, sit-ins and public gatherings in the capital, Manama, indefinitely.

In the three years since the authorities crushed the mass demonstrations of 2011, the human rights situation in Bahrain has continued to deteriorate. Prominent human rights defenders and opposition activists have been rounded up, in many cases merely for calling for peaceful anti-government protests.

Bahrain has witnessed a continuous downward spiral of repression over the past three years, with the space for freedom of expression and assembly rapidly reducing,” said Said Boumedouha.

“The authorities are losing credibility. Repeated promises of reform have been broken. Until concrete steps are taken to show they are serious about respecting its international obligations, it is unlikely Bahrain will make genuine progress on human rights”.

As yet, the authorities have failed to implement key recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011.

Among several children who have been detained for participating in demonstrations in the past year are 10-year-old Jehad Nabeel al-Samee’ and 13-year-old ‘Abdullah Yousif al-Bahrani, who were arrested by riot police on 16 December 2013 during a rally outside Manama. They were charged with “illegal gathering and rioting” and “attacking a police patrol with stones”.

‘Abdullah said that he was beaten, threatened with electric shocks and forced to sign a “confession”. He denied taking part in the march or throwing stones at the police. The boys have been released but will remain under supervision until a verdict is issued in their case.

Many others including journalists and human rights activists have also been targeted.

Ahmad Fardan, a Bahraini photojournalist, was arrested during a raid on his home west of Manama on 26 December 2013. He has been charged with “participating in a public gathering” after attempting to cover a demonstration in the village of Abu Saiba’ as a photographer. He was slapped on the face, and beaten including on his genitals while in custody. Medical examinations revealed he also sustained two broken ribs.

Last week, a two year prison sentenced was upheld against Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, for his participation in “illegal gatherings” and for “disturbing public order” between February and March 2012. Another activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to four months in prison last month for “destroying government property” after she ripped a picture of the King of Bahrain. She has been in prison serving different sentences for different court cases since February 2013.

Amnesty International believes that both Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja are prisoners of conscience who have been targeted for their human rights work and is calling for them to be immediately and unconditionally released.

Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture in detention centres in Bahrain.

“The anniversary’s protests are a test for the authorities to demonstrate internationally that they are committed to protecting human rights. They must allow the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly and release all prisoners of conscience,” said Said Boumedouha.

Failed Promises in Bahrain: Human Rights Violations Linger On: here.

Clashes with police have marked the third anniversary of the Bahrain uprising that had seen numerous human rights violations by the government and wide social discontent of the majority Shia population with the minority ruling Sunni monarchy: here.

Bahrain’s PR sheen can’t hide abuse allegations: here.

Three years after Bahrain joined the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, human rights defenders are left wondering when the Obama Administration will put action behind its flamboyant 2011 rhetoric about rights, freedom and the rule of law: here.

Bahrainis mark the third anniversary of the pro-reform protest movement which came to be known as the 14 February Coalition, human rights violations continue unabated in the country. While many countries have been quite vocal in condemning atrocities committed against protesters in some countries in the Middle East, when it comes to Bahrain, calls from the West for an end to human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bahraini authorities have been rather muted. The irony is that when similar atrocities were committed in Libya, Egypt and most recently Syria, Western countries and especially the US and UK, heavily criticised the regimes in those countries for using brute force to counter peaceful protests, and for reigning in citizens for expressing their views. Some 122 Bahrainis have since died from torture, lung infections caused by tear gas, and from live ammunition used by the Bahraini security forces. 1,300 Bahrainis have been arrested in connection with their role in the protests and those still in detention have been tortured and denied access to medical care. Hospital doctors and nurses are harassed for treating victims of the protests. Thousands of workers have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs for taking part in the demonstrations: here.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their deep concern for the on-going targeting of the detained activist and human rights defender Zaynab Al-Khawaja by the Bahraini authorities who continue their efforts to fabricate new charges and issuing new sentences that aim at extending her detention period in prison and preventing her from exercising her peaceful work in the field of human rights: here.

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Bahrain government violates human rights, Washington silent

This video is called Bahrain Monarchy From British Empire to US Fifth Fleet.

From Human Rights First in the USA:

February 12, 2014

U.S. Government Should Call for Release of Bahraini Political Prisoners

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to use the third anniversary of the Bahraini uprising to publicly push for the release of political prisoners.

“Human rights activists in Bahrain wonder when President Obama will act on his 2011 pledge that the United States ‘cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just,’” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The Bahraini government’s repression over the last three years, including its jailing of political dissidents, has made the country more unstable. It’s time the United States told its ally that its relationship with Bahrain can’t afford another year like the last three.”

Bahrain appears trapped in a cycle of protest and repression. In the last month, local human rights organizations report dozens of arrests in dawn raids by masked security officials. …

“As Bahrain lurches into its fourth year of political unrest, the United States should call for the release of Bahrain’s political prisoners,” said Brian Dooley. “Human rights defenders remain in prison, the country is increasingly polarized, and sectarian divisions are deepening. Time is running out for Bahrain; if it is to find a way out of its human rights crisis it needs to release its political prisoners.”

Muted reaction to Bahrain crackdown on pro-democracy activists is in stark contrast to those regarding Syria and Libya: here.

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Bahrain dictatorship and the USA, new evidence

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain

By Alastair Sloan, 21 hours ago:

New Wikileaks Revelation Exposes Big State Department Lie, This Time in Bahrain

John Timoney has a face like a fist and a CV out of The Departed. He’s been a cop in New York, Miami and Philadelphia. And now he’s advising the Bahraini government on policing matters.

That’s the Bahraini government, the one that gases, tortures and kills protesters as their preferred method of public order policing. And that’s Timoney, who’s been called “the worst cop in America” and faced hundreds of complaints over his violent approach to public order policing in the U.S.

The State Department has always insisted Timoney’s appointment in Bahrain has nothing to do with them. The distancing is deliberate — human rights groups are scrutinizing the repressive regime closely.

Since the Bahraini government promised reform in November 2011, dozens more have died and thousands have been injured. Many are scared to go to a hospital for fear of being arrested. Amnesty International even accuse the regime of kidnapping and torturing children.

Well, as it turns out, the State Department hasn’t been honest about their involvement in Timoney’s appointment, and by proxy, their involvement in all that police brutality.

An email has turned up on Wikileaks showing the job opportunity that Timoney eventually took when he was promoted by an American “Regional Security Officer” who was stationed at the Bahrain Embassy five months before Timoney was appointed.

The officer, an employee of the U.S. government, had just discussed Timoney’s future role with the Bahraini authorities and was sharing details about expected salary (about $300k plus benefits).

He even tells us how important Timoney’s future position will be to the U.S. government.

“This position has the interest and support of senior U.S. government policy makers, given the strategic importance of our relationship with Bahrain and recent events here. It is seen as a prime engagement opportunity with a non-NATO major ally, hence my current involvement.”

The State Department refused to comment on the leaked email, but back in 2012 officials had been pretty unequivocal when Timoney scored the job.

“This is a Bahraini Government initiative. [Timoney] is not working for or on behalf of the U.S. Government. So we’re not able to speak to what in particular he’s involved with.”

In case you’re wondering why the State Department took such a special interest in Timoney’s appointment, it’s worth remembering the U.S. 5th Naval Fleet is bobbing away in Manama harbour, a stones throw from the ongoing unrest.

The incriminating State Department email was also sent by a “Regional Security Officer.” The RSO job description on the State Department website reads:

“At U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, Regional Security Officers develop and implement the various aspects of a comprehensive security program designed to protect personnel, property, and information against terrorists, foreign intelligence agents, and criminals.”

If Bahrain was ever to fall into full on revolution mode a la Libya, Egypt or Tunisia, a rapid, expensive and risky re-location would be in order, jeopardising the fleet, potential operations in Syria, Iran or Iraq, as well as ongoing anti-piracy activities in the Indian Ocean.

Is Timoney the “worst cop in America?” I think that’s unfair, but commentators in the Guardian and the Miami New Times disagree. Crime — particularly drugs, homicide and corruption — in cities such as New York, Miami and Philadelphia dropped sharply once Timoney arrived.

The ACLU has filed seven suits against him over his policing of a major protest in Miami in 2011, accusing him of deploying excessive force and illegal tactics, but their Executive Director also said of Timoney: “He was probably one of the most professional, competent and experienced police chiefs the city of Miami ever had.” The Philadelphia Inquirer and Esquire Magazine have both praised his “street cop” approach.

But despite his abilities in criminal policing, Timoney has serious flaws when it comes to policing protests, or put another way: doing his job in Bahrain.

As a 55 year old police chief in Miami, he rode his police bike into a crowd of placard-wielding activists and started a fight with “the bigger guy.” He also stopped to yell at another group of protesters “Fuck You! You’re bad!” (not the most eloquent of cusses). Frankly bizarre behaviour for an otherwise professional cop.

In January 2012, he casually dismissed the Occupy movement as an irritating traffic problem, an argument that’s since been used to justify violent dispersal of protests in Bahrain.

Bahrain uses teargas indiscriminately, and even more so since Timoney arrived. Rather than its conventional application as a crowd dispersal tool, policemen have started using it as a weapon. Officers have entered opposition villages at night and fired canisters into sleeping households. Over 30 deaths have occurred due to misuse of teargas.

But Timoney loves teargas. He loves it so much that in 1994 he voluntarily teargassed himself to demonstrate to civil liberties groups that it was better than knocking someone over the head.

Timoney isn’t the only Westerner advising the Bahrain government. John Yates, an ex-Deputy Commissioner at London Metropolitan Police, is also providing consultancy services. Both Yates and Timoney were appointed in December 2011.

Similar to the State Department’s initial stance on Timoney’s position, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office has denied anything to do with his appointment. And if they are lying, as the State Department clearly was, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Colonel Ian Henderson CBE, who worked as a security adviser to the Bahrain government for 30 years, was accused of complicity in torture during the ’90s, leading to an investigation by British authorities in 2000. The investigation was concluded in August 2001, and no charges were filed. Henderson died at age 86 in April last year still denying he had anything to do with the torture dungeons his offices were just four storeys above.

The British government had always denied their involvement in his appointment until Scottish investigative journalist Ian McKay uncovered secret Foreign Office documents showing how senior British diplomats had persuaded the ruling Sheikh Khalifa (the current Sheikh’s father) to appoint Henderson and allow him to establish the brutal state security apparatus which is still largely in use today.

In a statement to PolicyMic, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office maintained their position despite the U.S. State Department leak, but did admit that the Embassy had met with John Yates, as part of their policy to meet those “who are assisting the Bahraini Government with their reforms.”

John Horne, a researcher with Bahrain Watch and the man who unearthed the incriminating email, told PolicyMic:

“It is hard to see what John Timoney has achieved in Bahrain beyond a healthy bank balance. After two years, torturers still torture, police still use excessive force, citizens still suffer collective punishment from tear gas, and the security forces still act with impunity.”

John Timoney has not responded to a request for comment.

Religion and Politics in Bahrain criticized the Royal Court’s failure to conduct a productive National Dialogue saying: “The Royal Court has as usual insinuated itself into the process in order to sabotage it from within.” The United Kingdom’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee also expressed concerns over Bahrain’s failure to, “quickly implement the important and practical recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry” through its National Dialogue: here.

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Bahrain human rights violations, speech in European parliament

This video, of 6 February 2014, shows a speech in the European parliament about human rights violations in Bahrain.

The speech is by Ms Marietje Schaake, of the D66 liberal party in the Netherlands.

Strasbourg, France – February 6, 2014 – Today, the European Parliament passed an urgent resolution expressing “grave concern” over ongoing human rights violations and the status of the rule of law in Bahrain. The resolution, voted through the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, called on the Government of Bahrain to immediately release all political prisoners, including Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Ibrahim Sharif. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) commends the 48 members of the European Parliament for voicing their deep disapproval with the Bahrain government for its continued violations of human rights: here.

New law: Insult Bahrain’s king, get thrown in jail: here.

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