Human rights violations, South African apartheid then, Bahrain now

This video about Bahrain says about itself:

18 February 2014

Dr. Rula Al-Saffar also presented some powerful statistics and case studies, focusing more specifically on the conditions of political prisoners. She retold the stories of Talib Ali, a 15 year old with a 50 year conviction sentence, and Dr. Ali-Ekri, the only specialized paediatrics surgeon in Bahrain who is facing a 5 year sentence simply for treating patients of the uprising. Of the largest prison in Bahrain — Jaw prison — she described how the maximization of the prison’s 1600 people capacity is being overlooked to the extent where the prison now holds over 3000 detainees, with up to 12 inmates having to share cells built for 3-4 people.

By Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program in the USA:

A Generation of Fighting for Human Rights

08/10/2015 3:59 pm EDT

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. At discos in the early ’80s I’d dance a solo routine to Dexy’s “Come on Eileen” – all rockstar pout and ginger quiff, an inspired fusion of Riverdance and air drumming.

The memories of those days are partly redeemed by knowing I was also interning in the U.S. Congress, researching anti-apartheid legislation for Senator Ted Kennedy. Around that time another young student, Jim McGovern, was interning for the other Massachusetts Senator, George McGovern, and working for Congressman Jim Moakley, also from Massachusetts. In those pre-Internet years, we both researched human rights–him concentrating on abuses by the El Salvador military, me on apartheid, trying to determine how to stop U.S. complicity in human rights violations in those places and elsewhere.

McGovern has served as a Massachusetts Congressman for the past 19 years, and as Co-Chair of the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for the last seven. In that time, he has repeatedly, doggedly raised human rights issues in dozens of countries from Burma to Colombia to Sudan and beyond. Now he has confirmed that he will introduce legislation in the House to block the sale of certain arms to Bahrain until the State Department certifies that Bahrain has fully implemented all of the recommendations offered by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) – similar to the bill introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) this week.

McGovern has been steadfast on Bahrain in these past few years at a time when others in the U.S. government have been willing to cozy up to the dictatorship there. He’s spoken publicly many times about the harassment and jailing of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, the jailing of medics after they treated injured protestors and told international media the truth about the attacks on civilians, and warned that Bahrain’s repression will cause instability that the United States can’t afford.

When I hear human rights activists in Bahrain talk about McGovern, it reminds me of what South Africans fighting apartheid used to say to me about Ted Kennedy: he’s a rare friend in Congress that speaks out on injustice when other American politicians stay silent, and they wish he was in the White House. And what Bahraini government officials say about McGovern is what the apartheid government used to say about Kennedy: he doesn’t understand that their country isn’t ready for democracy, he’s a meddler, and he believes everything he hears from radicals. But while the apartheid regime allowed Kennedy to visit in 1985, the Bahrainis were so nervous about McGovern seeing the situation for himself last year they refused to let him into the country.

Rula al Saffar spent 18 years working and studying in the United States and served as president of Bahrain’s Nurses Association. She was targeted in 2011. “I was one of dozens of medics targeted after treating injured protesters hurt during clashes with the regime. After being detained for months and tortured into making a false confession, I was convicted by a military court and sentenced to 15 years in prison,” she said. “I was one of the lucky ones who was later acquitted, but I had very few allies who stood with me in my fight for justice. An exception was Rep. Jim McGovern, one of the few American leaders who has worked to secure justice for the people of Bahrain. The U.S. government needs more people like him. When U.S. allies are guilty of torture and other human rights abuses, far too few American leaders are ready to speak out for what is right.”

It’s been a long time since Dexy’s and the early 80s, since Reagan’s first term, since the anti-apartheid sanctions campaign, since the opening years of the Salvadoran civil war. McGovern has put in a generation of work on human rights in Congress since then as an intern, staffer and representative. Pity there aren’t many more like him.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Bahrain Protests – U.S. Selling Weapons

30 September 2011

While the United States may publicly denounce the government of Bahrain for violence against protesters, the Department of Defense announced a plan to sell them $53 million in weapons. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss on The Young Turks.

Also by Brian Dooley in the USA:

August 11, 2015, 07:00 am

The Bahrain problem

Last week, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill to re-impose the ban on arms sales to Bahrain that the State Department partially lifted at the end of June, pushing Washington’s Bahrain problem back into public focus. When lifting the ban, the State Department cited “meaningful progress on human rights,” just one of several key untruths about what’s happened in the country over the last few years.

1. Iran is running the protests.

Not really. … There is little doubt that the Iranian government is delighted at the unrest in its tiny Sunni neighbor and is enjoying the regime’s difficulty in trying to contain calls for reform, but that doesn’t mean it’s an Iranian-controlled revolution. In fact, the investigation into the protests and violence of February and March 2011 ordered by the king of Bahrain, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), found [para 1584] “The evidence presented to the Commission by the GoB [Government of Bahrain] on the involvement by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the internal affairs of Bahrain does not establish a discernable link between specific incidents that occurred in Bahrain during February and March 2011 and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Insistence by the Bahraini authorities that Iran is the hidden hand of influence behind the protests – which are really about local grievances on the lack of democracy, not a Trojan horse for Tehran – sound increasingly like J. Edgar Hoover’s insistence that the U.S. civil rights movement was infiltrated by communists. Were there Marxists in the civil rights movement? Sure, but that didn’t mean the movement was illegitimate or controlled by the Kremlin.

2. Bahrain is a dependable U.S. ally that deserves the fullest possible support.

Not so much. Despite hosting the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and holding a “major non-NATO ally” designation, Bahrain is proving to be an inconsistent, erratic friend to the United States – it expelled senior U.S. diplomat Tom Malinowski from the country after he met with opposition leaders last year, refused to admit Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) who tried to visit last August to assess the human rights situation for himself … A few years ago the mercurial Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) and ruling family member Field Marshal Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa claimed the pro-democracy protests were “a coup attempt supported by foreign forces,” and that 22 NGOs had been plotting against Bahrain – “Nineteen of them are based in the US,” he said.

3. Bahrain’s military personnel weren’t guilty of serious human rights abuses – that was the police.

Untrue, although it’s repeatedly parroted by U.S. officials in private as a reason to re-arm the military. In fact, the BICI report documented that Bahrain’s military was responsible for three civilian deaths and a hundred arrests during early 2011. Many of those interviewed by BICI staff and from international NGOs – including myself – have documented credible and consistent testimony from people citing torture by military personnel, including in military facilities. No senior Bahraini military official has been brought to account for any of those violations.

4. Bahrain’s jailed medics are all out of prison.

False. In March and April 2011 Bahrain arrested and tortured dozens of its medics after they had treated injured protestors. International outrage against the treatment and sham trials given to the medics helped most of them to be released, but others served several years in jail. One of those arrested by the Bahraini military was pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr Ali Alekry. He told me he spent 15 days in a military facility where he was forced to eat his own feces and subjected to other forms of torture, and is still in prison, serving a five-year sentence.

5. No-one in the U.S. government cares about Bahrain.

Thankfully also untrue. While U.S. officials generally have a shameful record on Bahrain over the last few years there are exceptions, especially in Congress. McGovern has consistently pressed the Obama Administration to take a much tougher line with Bahrain’s dictatorship, and Wyden and Rubio just introduced a bipartisan bill to re-impose the ban on the U.S. selling small arms to Bahrain. McGovern has confirmed he’ll introduce a similar bill in the House.

This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, this is about Congress rectifying an awful mistake made by the administration. Members in both houses have the chance to put right a disastrous wrong, to salvage some of America’s credibility in the region, and to persuade the Bahraini government that it needs to take the path of reform.

10 thoughts on “Human rights violations, South African apartheid then, Bahrain now

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  5. Wednesday 18th November 2015

    posted by Morning Star in Britain

    A FORMER African National Congress (ANC) freedom fighter is to speak at the premiere of the first film looking at the British workers who risked their lives for the anti-apartheid movement.

    Ronnie Kasrils will join British Labour politician Peter Hain at the London Film School on November 25 to introduce London Recruits.

    The film tells the story of the young Londoners who travelled to South Africa disguised as tourists and honeymooning couples to carry out undercover missions for the ANC.

    Speaking of his work in recruiting British students to help the movement, Mr Kasrils said: “Without a shadow of doubt, the London recruits played no small part in the ultimate success of the struggle that liberated South Africa from apartheid tyranny.

    “I’m thrilled to see this unique story and important moment of our struggle documented on film for the first time.”


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  8. Thursday 31st March 2016

    posted by James Tweedie in World

    SOUTH AFRICA’S government vowed yesterday to appeal against the decision to grant parole to communist leader Chris Hani’s assassin.

    Justice Minister Michael Masutha said Judge Nicoline Janse van Nieuwenhuizen’s March 10 decision to free Polish-born far-right killer Janusz Walus was a mistake.

    The judge’s ruling was issued a month before the 23rd anniversary of the then South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary’s murder on April 10 1993.

    His accomplice Clive Derby-Lewis, a former MP for the extremist Conservative Party, now defunct, was freed last year on the grounds that he had terminal cancer.

    The judge’s acceptance of Mr Walus’s apology to the Hani family — which they rejected — and comments suggesting that it was time to “forget and move on” sparked outrage from the SACP, African National Congress (ANC) and trade union federation Cosatu.

    Mr Walus’s lawyer Julian Knight said he would ask the Gauteng province court to approve his client’s release tomorrow, even if the minister was granted leave to appeal.

    South Africa’s liberation movement has always opposed freedom for the pair as they have refused to divulge before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where the order for the assassination ultimately came from.

    The killing almost wrecked negotiations towards South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

    The SACP and the Young Communist League welcomed the appeal yesterday.

    SACP spokesman Alex Mashilo said: “Walus remains an unrepentant murderer.

    “He does not show adequate remorse. He has not demonstrated any understanding of the enormity of the murder he has committed together with his accomplice.”


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