Bahrain dictatorship continues oppression


The sometimes lethal teargas used by the Bahrain absolute monarchy against pro-democracy demonstrators does not just come from the USA and Britain, but sometimes from other countries as well.

By Daniel Santini and Natalia Viana:

A small, scratched metal can thrown on the ground created Brazil’s first diplomatic embarrassment of 2012. The canister of tear gas had been collected by pro-democracy activists in Bahrain. Stamped across the can in blue was a Brazilian flag and the words ‘MADE IN BRAZIL.’

One year had passed since Bahrain became the stage for pro-democracy protests by the majority Shiites against the Sunni monarchy commanded by king Hamad bin-Isa Khalifa. The protesters had been punished by the Bahraini army and neighboring countries. At least 35 people died and hundreds were injured.

According to the protesters, the Brazilian tear gas used to punish them had also caused the death of babies. “Some people think that the tear gas from Brazil had more chemical substances. There is some kind of ingredient that, in some cases, makes people foam at the mouth and have other symptoms. We are not sure about its composition, but these reactions have been very frightening. It’s much worse than American tear gas,” said the human rights activist Zeinab al-Khawaja to Brazil’s paper O Globo.

However, little is known about how the gas made by Brazilian non-lethal technology company Condor fell into the hands of troops that punished pro-democracy protesters. The company, located in Nova Iguacu, in Rio de Janeiro, affirms that it doesn’t export to Bahrain, but says that it sells to other countries in the region without specifying which.

All arms exports — whether light arms or not — are approved by Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations and the Ministry of Defense. However, once approved, the government doesn’t have much control. The Ministry of External Relations recognizes that it doesn’t have powers to investigate the situation; after the Bahrain scandal, a press officer said that the ministry is merely ‘observing [the development of these occurrences] with interest.’

The responsibility of verifying this information is left up to the company.

“It’s a contract between private parties. It can involve a foreign government, but the company is responsible for its product,” says the press secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs. “The contracts generally prohibit any resale. The company Condor is trying to monitor its product. We are in an ongoing dialogue.”

See also here.

Large U.S. public relations firm hired to smear Bahrain opposition: here.

Bahrain Propaganda 101: What’s Latest from Regime’s PR Firm Qorvis? Here.

No Justice in Bahrain: Unfair Trials in Military and Civilian Courts: here.

The number of Bahrainis active online has increased significantly since the start of the country’s uprising on February 14, 2011. A year on, people still turn to their keyboards, assuming the role of citizen journalists, to documenting the continuing violations committed by the regime against protesters, activists, and others who speak up and demand freedom and equality: here.

14 thoughts on “Bahrain dictatorship continues oppression

  1. Bahrain delays U.N. investigator, limits rights group visits

    Andrew Hammond Reuters

    12:44 p.m. CST, March 1, 2012

    MANAMA (Reuters) – Bahrain has imposed restrictions on groups trying to monitor reforms including the Gulf Arab state’s handling of protests and asked the U.N. investigator into torture to postpone a trip, the United Nations and rights groups said on Thursday.

    The U.N. human rights office in Geneva said Bahrain formally requested postponing until July the visit by the special rapporteur on torture, which had been scheduled for March 8-17.

    The investigator, Juan Mendez, will express his regrets to Bahraini representatives in meetings next week over this “last minute postponement,” said Xabier Celaya, a spokesman of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    He would also “seek to secure new dates as he remains very committed to undertaking this important visit,” Celaya added.

    Bahrain said it was “still undergoing major reforms and wants some important steps, critical to the special rapporteur’s mandate, to be in place before he visits so he can assess the progress that Bahrain has made to date,” the spokesman said.

    Bahrain, a U.S. ally ruled by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family, has been under Western pressure to improve its rights record and institute political reforms after it crushed a pro-democracy uprising last year, imposing a period of martial law.

    Fatima al-Balooshi, Bahrain’s minister for social development, told the U.N. Human Rights Council this week the kingdom had drawn lessons from the upheaval.

    “Mistakes were made. Serious wrongs were committed,” she told the Geneva forum. “We believe we are on the right track.”

    Bahrain told a number of human rights organizations in January they should delay trips to the country to after February 22, the date the government set itself for reviewing policing, the judiciary, education, media and other reforms such as paying torture victims and national reconciliation – as recommended by a body of international legal experts in November.

    The government said on Thursday it would need up to 20 more days to complete its plans for implementing the recommendations of the experts, whose Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) issued a damning report in November.

    The BICI said protesters, who come mainly from the majority Shi’ite population, had suffered systematic torture to force confessions that were used in military trials.

    The country remains in turmoil as clashes between youths and riot police continue daily in Shi’ite neighborhoods and the banking and tourism-based economy, already down after the world financial crisis, struggles to pick up.

    VISA RULES FOR RIGHTS GROUPS

    Three international rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Bahrain’s Human Rights and Social Development Ministry informed them this week of new rules limiting them to five-day trips which must be arranged via a Bahraini sponsor.

    Brian Dooley, director of the Human Rights Defenders Program with U.S. group Human Rights First, said he made three trips to Bahrain last year without such limits.

    “After the BICI report the Bahraini government was supposed to improve its human rights record, but limiting NGO access like this is a step backwards,” he said. HRW said it had planned a three week trip in March. Amnesty also hope to send a team.

    The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

    The new rules follow an Interior Ministry announcement it would tighten tourist visa regulations after Western activists took part in anti-government demonstrations last month marking the first anniversary of the February 14 uprising.

    Twelve activists, who entered on tourist visas, were deported. The government also refused visas to some media organizations, saying it had received too many applications.

    Bahrain is due to host the Formula One grand prix in April.

    Washington, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Manama, and former colonial power Britain have pressed Bahrain to ensure peaceful protest is allowed. Police allowed the main parties, led by Shi’ite group Wefaq, to hold a rally inside the capital this week.

    Youths and independent activists stage regular protests in Shi’ite districts that are put down by riot police using armored vehicles, teargas, stun grenades and birdshot.

    The Interior Ministry describes the youth protests as rioters who are causing chaos without a political aim. In the past two months, teenagers have increasingly thrown petrol bombs and other objects at police, often without provocation.

    Opposition parties and activists say heavy policing to lock dock unauthorized protesters in villages has taken the death toll from 35 in June to over 60, many from the effects of tear gas. The government disputes the causes of death.

    Opposition parties want a move to full-scale parliamentary democracy where the elected chamber has full legislative powers and can form cabinets. The government has given parliament more powers of scrutiny over budgets and ministers.

    (Writing by Andrew Hammond; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Alison Williams)

    Copyright © 2012, Reuters

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