Bahraini tyranny and Irish university money

This video from Ireland says about itself:

On September 15, 2011 more than 130 Human Rights Defenders from over 80 countries protested outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Dublin, Ireland for the freedom of their colleague Abdulhadi Al Khawaja from Bahrain.

From the Irish Times:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why Bahraini human rights matter in Dublin

Controversy over the involvement of Ireland’s Royal College of Surgeons in Bahrain has prompted new guidelines on human rights for third-level colleges with operations abroad, writes MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

WHEN THE protests that would later evolve into what became known as the Arab Spring first erupted early last year, few would have guessed that the ripples would be felt in educational circles outside the region, engulfing the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in separate storms of controversy.

The LSE’s director, Sir Howard Davies, resigned after extensive, and highly compromising, links between the university and Libya’s ruling Gadafy family – then brutally attempting to quash anti-regime demonstrations – were revealed. An inquiry conducted by former British Lord Chief Justice Harry Woolf found that the relationship was allowed to grow unchecked, without due diligence assessments, to such an extent that the LSE was referred to by some wags as “The Libyan School of Economics.”

In Ireland, the RCSI, which has operated a medical campus in Bahrain since 2004, was left “blindsided” as one National University of Ireland (NUI) source puts it, when the Arab Spring arrived at the shores of the tiny Gulf island. Of the scores of medics rounded up as Bahraini security forces tried to snuff out pro-democracy rallies, three – Ali Al Ekr, Basim Dhaif and Ghassan Dhaif – had trained at the RCSI in Dublin. Friends and former colleagues of the detained doctors, including other RCSI alumni, campaigned for their release and pressured the college to condemn what was happening in Bahrain. The RCSI was widely slated, including in an article published in the Lancet, for its failure to take a public stand against a security crackdown that, as an international investigative commission has since confirmed, involved serious human rights abuses by the Bahraini authorities.

The episode, together with the LSE debacle, triggered much soul-searching within the RCSI and wider academic circles in Ireland.

“People were very concerned,” said the NUI source, explaining that the issue was discussed at meetings of the NUI senate, the governing body of the NUI, of which the RCSI is a member. In order to help prevent such situations arising in the future, it was decided that a charter for human rights and code of conduct should be drawn up for Irish universities and higher education institutions operating in countries where “you perhaps have to hold your nose a little bit” as the NUI source put it.

“Irish universities are under tremendous pressure to go out, get involved internationally, and bring in students, but they have no guidelines of any sort.

“We can’t, as a country, sit back and say we’ll have nothing to do with any of these countries when other universities in other countries are free to get fully involved. That’s the dilemma we face.”

The charter and code of conduct has been drafted by NUI chancellor Maurice Manning, who is also president of the Irish Human Rights Commission. “The charter tries to be principled and pragmatic,” said Dr Manning. “The purpose is to provide a framework so that universities know what they are going into and know what their obligations are, and know what the possibilities are for them in promoting human rights.”

Manning would not discuss the details of the draft charter, which was presented two weeks ago to the NUI Senate. The document will now go through a consultation phase involving all NUI member institutions before it comes before the NUI Senate again in June for ratification.

The draft charter, a copy of which was obtained by The Irish Times, notes that “with the intensification of international contacts, there is an inevitability of encounter, both at an individual and an institutional level, with social, cultural, political and religious systems and practices diverging in varying degrees from those accepted in Ireland”.

“Political instability, civil unrest, conflict and reported human rights violations have been notable features of recent history in several countries where NUI institutions are involved in partnerships. These developments have pointed to the need for NUI and its institutions to have clear policies on human rights, strategies to enable them to respond appropriately in difficult situations, and tools for public communication of their approaches.”

The draft code of conduct says NUI institutions must consider “whether their presence in will be interpreted as support for such abuses, or whether their presence will assist in supporting reforms in human rights and academic freedoms”. The document later states that if such a presence or partnership “can be seen as providing support for the repression of the human rights of citizens in that country or would otherwise support repression, the NUI institution concerned should be prepared not to engage or to withdraw from its academic engagement in the country concerned”.

RCSI chief executive Prof Cathal Kelly welcomes the drafting of a charter on human rights for Irish universities with operations overseas. During a robust exchange with members of the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee in February, he defended the college’s handling of the Bahrain crisis. During that meeting Senator Mark Daly accused the RCSI of allowing financial considerations to trump human rights.

“Let us not kid ourselves: this boils down to money. The RCSI has an institution in Bahrain which generates money and it is trying to protect its interests,” said Daly.

See also here.

Bahrain Opposition: Nabeel Rajab is a Prisoner of Conscience: here.

Bahrain Live Coverage: Countering the Regime’s Allegations Against Nabeel Rajab: here.

Slamming the door on press freedom in Bahrain: here.

Bahrain Interview: 4 Activists Analyse “The Story That Should Be Covered” (Rajab/Mohammed/Khalaf/Shehabi): here.

9 thoughts on “Bahraini tyranny and Irish university money

  1. Amnesty urges Bahrain to free tweeting activist

    (AFP) – 1 day ago

    DUBAI — Amnesty International urged Bahrain on Tuesday to “immediately” release prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab who was arrested over tweets deemed insulting to the government.

    “Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience and he must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Philip Luther, head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at the London-based watchdog.

    “This is the Bahraini authorities’ latest attempt to clamp down on dissenting voices in the country,” he said in a statement.

    Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested on Saturday at Manama airport after returning from a trip to Denmark, Sweden and Lebanon.

    On Sunday, the prosecutor ordered his detention for seven days pending investigation for “insulting a statutory body via Twitter,” his lawyer Mohamed al-Jishi said at the time.

    The lawyer said Rajab denied the charges, saying it “aims at hindering my rights work and my right of expression.”

    The public prosecutor summoned Rajab for questioning after the interior ministry accused him of sending “insulting” tweets, Amnesty International said, adding that he did not attend because of his travel plans.

    On Sunday also, Rajab appeared in court over charges of calling for participation in illegal gatherings during which some demonstrators acted violently.

    The hearing was adjourned to May 22 while Rajab denied all charges.

    Luther said that Rajab “has publically stated he is against the use of violence in protests, so the authorities have no grounds to punish him.”

    The activist, a member of Bahrain’s Shiite majority, has had various standoffs with police as he led protests in Manama calling for democratic change in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

    Rajab has insisted on demonstrating inside the capital, unlike the main Shiite opposition which now stages its protests in Shiite villages, after last year’s crackdown on protesters who occupied central Manama’s Pearl Square for a month.

    Amnesty International says 60 people have been killed since protests erupted in Bahrain in February 2011.

    Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved


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