Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, British arms sales trump human rights


This March 2014 video is called “Arming dictators” – UK is selling weapons to Bahrain.

From the Defence and Security Blog of British daily The Guardian:

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain: UK arms sales trump human rights

• Britain increases military presence in Gulf
Deals with authoritarian regimes

In Saudi Arabia, Britain’s most lucrative arms market, Raif Badawi has been told he will be flogged again 50 times on Friday. The Saudi liberal has been accused of ridiculing the kingdom’s religious police.

On Tuesday next week, Nabeel Rajab, a citizen of another Gulf kingdom with which Britain is building up closer militsary ties, is due to appear in court on charges of “insulting a public institution” over Twitter.

Rajab is president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He accused the Bahraini security forces of encouraging violent beliefs similar to those of Isis.

His offending tweet read: “Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.” If he is found guilty he faces up to six years in prison.

In one of the most brazen displays of hypocrisy in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, ministers from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were among those who marched in support of freedom of expression in Paris last week.

Human rights groups have urged Britain to intervene more vigorously in Badawi’s case and for Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, to urge the Bahrain government to drop the charges against Rajab.

The British government has repeatedly said it is concerned about the lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia. The Commons foreign affairs committee last year said the Foreign Office should have bitten the bullet and designed Bahrain as a “country of concern”.

But Britain has made it clear that arms sales and military and security considerations must take priority over human rights, even torture.

So it backs away from upsetting the Saudi government. And instead of applying pressure on Bahrain to introduce reforms, Britain has signed what the government has called a “landmark” agreement establishing a permanent UK naval base in the Gulf kingdom. The Bahrain government will pay for it, with Britain contributing to the running costs of some £15m a year.

“The agreement reaffirms the UK’s and Bahrain’s joint determination to maintain regional security and stability in the face of enduring and emerging regional challenges”, Michael Fallon, the British defence secretary, told the House of Commons last month.

Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have signed an early day motion in the Commons attacking the naval base deal, saying it sends a message that the UK government is not interested in justice, rule of law and reconciliation in Bahrain, and that the increased British military presence is likely to exacerbate tensions in the region.

The base agreement was greeted with protests in Bahrain with human rights activists describing the decision as a reward for Britian’s silence over the jailing of opponents of the Sunni monarchy. “As Bahrain pursues brutal crackdown, what better time for UK to build military base there?” said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director.

The Bahraini monarchy in 2011 violently repressed a pro-democracy opposition movement led by the country’s Shia majority, Doctors who treated protesters were tortured.

According to the Bahrain Human Rights Group security forces arrested 54 people and suppressed 119 demonstrations in the first week of this month alone.

As the regime continued to jail human rights campaigners, Britain last year designated Bahrain as a “priority market” for its weapons.

British arms exports to the Gulf kingdom have increased significantly since the Arab Spring. Over the past year, they have totalled £17m, and included machine guns, hand grenades, and military training equipment, according to official figures collected by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (Caat).

The government has helped to sell BAE Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and (with the help of Prince Andrew last year) is trying to sell Typhoons to Bahrain.

The Head of Advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Alwadaei says: “As an award for the British role in misleading the international community, Bahrain is building them a base. This also demonstrate why Britain has refused to list Bahrain as a country of concern”.

Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade says: “The UK government has put a lot of time, effort and political capital into arming and supporting the Bahraini regime. With the new naval base, and with the possibility of Typhoon sales on the horizon, this looks unlikely to change.”

The British government argues that if Britain did not sell the arms to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, opther [sic; other] countries, including France, would.

Tell Bahrain to drop charges against activist over tweet, demand human rights organisations: here.

BAHRAIN: Court should drop spurious charges against Nabeel Rajab on 20 January: here.

I Went Home to See My Dad — and Ended Up in Jail Myself. Bahrain is a close friend and ally of the United States. It’s also a brutal jailer of its activists: here.

Bahrain should immediately release the head of the country’s leading political opposition group having failed to present any evidence that justifies his detention. Sheikh Ali Salman, the secretary general of Al Wifaq, a legally recognized political society, has been in detention since his arrest on December 29, 2014, and has been charged with various criminal offenses, which include the promotion of violence and defamation of a “statutory body”: here.

About Bahrain and Daesh (also known as ISIS):

Bahraini officials now routinely espouse harsh rhetoric condemning Daesh’s brand of political Islam. Last September, Manama sent two fighter jets to bomb the group in the Syrian cities of Raqqa, Deir al-Zor, and Hasakah. However, Manama has been lenient vis-à-vis Daesh and al-Qaeda sympathizers within Bahrain itself, even though Bahraini authorities have harshly oppressed a pro-democracy movement — having killed, tortured, and detained scores of Shi’ite dissidents since 2011. This represents a contradictory dichotomy, which may be interpreted as a de facto appeasement of these groups within the Kingdom.

Bahraini citizens are permitted to fly Daesh flags from their cars on the streets of Manama, which is odd for a country whose government tolerates no public displays of political dissent. Turki al-Binali (known to many as Abu-Sufyan al-Salami) is an influential Bahraini cleric who left Bahrain in 2013 before traveling to the Maghreb and Mosul, Iraq, to become “the imam” of Daesh. In Bahrain, al-Binali reportedly faced no interference from government officials when he recruited young Bahrainis to his extremist cause.

Before leaving Bahrain, he held a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Manama, in which attendees held al-Qaeda flags and pictures of Osama Bin Laden. In contrast to the pro-democracy rallies held by the Shi’ite opposition that typically end with tear gas and arrests, authorities permitted al-Binali to hold the demonstration without interruption. Al-Binali’s books can still be found in bookstores and libraries across the Kingdom.

By Vicky Kelberer in the USA, on 16 January 2015:

While Amal Clooney’s resume reads like most human rights activists’ wildest dreams (stints working for the UN, heads of states, and ambassadors are not easy to come by) the term “human rights lawyer” is somewhat misunderstood by the public to mean “saint.” Although Clooney’s work for organizations such as the International Court of Justice, where she clerked during law school, and the United Nations is laudable both professionally and morally, there are also some not-so-savory clients whose human rights violations make it clear that she is their defense lawyer, not prosecutor.

Clooney’s client list includes not only the ostensible “good guys” like former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, but also very questionable characters like the King of Bahrain and Abdullah al Senussi. She served as Bahraini King Hasan bin Isa al Khalifa’s legal advisor on the Bassiouni Commission, a royally established group charged with investigating claims of human rights violations during the Arab Spring uprisings in Bahrain in 2011. Briefly, troops sent by the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as the Bahraini security services crushed the uprising using excessive force, killing many civilians, and wounding and jailing thousands. The Bassiouni Commission itself found that people had been tortured to death in police custody – yes, tortured to death – and that hundreds more had been injured or killed, confirming what rights groups had already reported although on a smaller scale. Yet in this context, Clooney worked not on behalf of the violated but the violator, advising the King on human rights, presumably in order to absolve him of as much responsibility as possible, as any good defense lawyer does.

54 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, British arms sales trump human rights

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