Washington summit ‘against extremism’, with ‘extremist’ regimes


This 16 November video from the USA says about itself:

Jon Stewart: Turkey Erdogan helps ISIS at Kobane

From Mashable in the USA:

Accused human rights abusers attend White House’s extremism summit

By Colin Daileda

10 hours ago

The White House is hosting representatives from more than 60 nations this week for a summit on countering extremism, but some of the attendees have been called extremists in their own right.

The conference focuses on using community outreach to thwart extremist tendencies before they begin, but several nations represented have records of using anti-radicalization laws as a way of shutting off all forms of dissent, including peaceful protesters.

See also: Satirical app helps Muslims ‘condemn’ Islamic extremism

A complete roll call of those in attendance is not publicly available, but we’ve listed some of the known attendees who represent nations with human rights records that show they have not been shy about committing abuses in the name of pursuing extremists.

Egypt

The Egyptian military recently bombed Islamic State targets in Libya after an ISIS affiliate in Libya beheaded 21 Egyptian citizens. The show of force displayed Egypt’s willingness to fight extremists. But then, Egypt’s security forces under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have hardly been shy about using force.

After Sisi‘s military deposed President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, they killed more than 1,000 Morsi supporters over the next several months. Sisi’s military has also thrown thousands of other Morsi supporters in jail using broad anti-extremism laws.

Countries such as Egypt are also “using the guise of countering terrorism and the need for security as an umbrella term to throw dissenters in jail and keep them there on bogus charges,” Sarah Margon, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, told Mashable. She called it a “troubling sign” that governments of nations such as Egypt could participate in a conference meant to counter extremism but then not implement reforms that would ease potentially deadly tensions at home.

Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will attend the White House summit.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE Minister of States for Foreign Affairs, will speak at the conference about effective strategies to counter extremism, according to a senior White House administration official.

The UAE’s Center for Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism is the first international center of its kind. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it “an important step,” for countering radicals in 2012. The U.S. has continued to acknowledge the UAE’s role in fighting radicals, but it has done little to acknowledge the nation’s potential human rights abuses.

“In the UAE’s case, they’re certainly deeply repressive and their rights record is very poor,” Nicholas McGeehan, a Human Rights Watch researcher on the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar, told Mashable.

The UAE recently passed legislation it labeled as “counterterrorism” that, McGeehan said allows the death penalty for anyone with material that might be interpreted to oppose fundamental Islamic principles.

“The UAE’s new law could be used to class anyone who criticizes them in public a terrorist,” McGeehan said. “So the U.S. and others should really be taking a look at their ally’s credentials.”

Bahrain

Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa will also be at the conference, and McGeehan said the case for caution when dealing with Bahrain might be even stronger than the UAE.

In 2012, Bahrain’s government cracked down on a citizen uprising criticizing its Sunni monarchy. Officials violently suppressed many Shiite citizens who wanted reforms such as a new constitution and a parliament elected by the people. Now, McGeehan said there is evidence that Bahraini authorities have allowed anti-Shia sentiment to fester in its armed forces.

“I think it’s important we keep our eye on the big picture, and not lose sight of the fact that repressive autocrats played a role in the emergence of groups like the [Islamic State],” McGeehan said. “What will be the longterm benefits of fighting symptom with cause?”

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, which will be represented at the conference by Vice Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is another example of a nation that uses broad laws to ensnare extremists and peaceful dissidents alike, Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Mashable.

“There’s never really been a concerted effort to make human rights sort of part of that picture,” Coogle said of the Saudi-U.S. relationship.

The Saudi Arabian minister of the interior, he said, essentially has the power to jail whoever he likes.

The nation has used sweeping “anti-terrorism” laws to jail those willing to express an opinion other than the government’s viewpoint.

Recently, a prominent blogger and another well-known lawyer have made headlines from Saudi courts and prisons. They were both convicted of charges that human rights groups say amount to expressing views contrary to the government.

The blogger is serving a sentence of 10 years in prison and is to receive 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam,” while the lawyer is set to be jailed for 15 years for “inciting public opinion against the government.”

United States

The U.S. doesn’t exactly have a squeaky-clean human rights record, either, in the minds of human rights groups.

Abuses detailed in the recently released CIA torture report shed new light on the possible human rights crimes that U.S. agents may have committed. Six years after U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the U.S. prison on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year, it remains open. Inside are many prisoners who have not been charged with a crime.

“There are a number of stains on the U.S. that need to be addressed in ways that show a commitment to reverse bad policy and make sure it never happens again,” Margon said.

The U.S. also needs to make a commitment to halt invasive surveillance of Muslim communities that sows distrust, Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, told Mashable.

The president gave some assurance on that subject to Muslim families while speaking at the summit Wednesday.

“We have to make sure that abuses stop…that we do not stigmatize entire communities,” Obama said, referring to U.S. law enforcement engaging with Muslim Americans. “Engagement with communities can’t be a cover for surveillance.”

The US president went on the front foot against fundamentalist violence in the Middle East at a summit in Washington. But he was hobbled by his failure to place human rights in the region front and centre: here.

Bahraini regime, kidnappers like ISIS


This video about Bahrain says about itself:

Jailed for a Tweet: Interview with Nabeel Rajab

21 October 2014

Nabeel Rajab is a human rights activist awaiting trial in Bahrain, one of the West’s favorite dictatorships. Three years after the Arab Spring, protests there are still being violently repressed, and Rajab now faces up to three years in jail — for a tweet. VICE News spoke to him a few weeks before his latest arrest.

By Joseph Sabroski in the USA:

With kidnapping, Bahrain follows ISIL playbook

Key US ally continues to violate human rights with impunity

February 18, 2015 2:15PM ET

Citing “brotherly ties of kinship,” the Khalifa dictatorship of Bahrain has pledged the aid of the Bahraini Defense Forces to Jordan in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The regime’s kidnapping on Monday of Bahraini human rights defender Hussain Jawad, however, suggests the ruling family might also have a lot in common with the jihadist threat it claims to be fighting.

The chairman of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR), Jawad was at risk of being tortured, according to a report from Amnesty International. After being snatched from his home by masked police officers, he was taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate — an affiliate of the Ministry of Interior notorious for the torture of detainees who are in the process of being charged with a crime.

Reports surfaced on Wednesday that Jawad was going to be released, according to his lawyer Reem Khalaf. But at the time of publication, Jawad has yet to be returned home to his family.

This wouldn’t be the first time the island kingdom abducted and tortured a political dissident. Loved by the West for, among other things, hosting the U.S. Fifth Fleet and its hostility toward Iran, Bahrain has been violently repressing peaceful protests and political opposition while implementing only piecemeal reforms recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, according to a report in Al-Monitor. Feb. 14 marked the fourth anniversary of Bahrain’s failed uprising and was predictably marked by violent clashes between security forces and protesters who have become disillusioned by the limits of peaceful political expression.

Jawad’s wife, Asma Darwish, is the head of information and media relations for the EBOHR and immediately took to Twitter on Monday to report the kidnapping of her husband, and numerous human rights activists followed suit. The Irish human rights organization Front Line Defenders said “masked men in civilian clothes” kidnapped Jawad and held him incommunicado for 10 hours before he was finally allowed to speak by phone to his wife.

According to Darwish’s tweets about her conversation with her husband, he may have been tortured already.

The terror that incidents like these inspire for loved ones is reminiscent of the pain felt by the family members of ISIL’s victims.

“To have masked men raid your house at dawn is scary, specifically when holding your 2-year-old son between your arms,” Darwish told me over Skype. “I am worried a lot. When Hussain called, that one only call … I heard noises and strange sounds. He hardly spoke. He left me there, broken beyond repair — yet feeling more empowered to fight back to bring my husband home.”

When armed masked men of ISIL kidnap and torture their prisoners, the U.S. and U.K. lead the charge in denouncing these actions in the strongest terms. But when their favorite Arab dictatorships, with which they have all kinds of cozy arrangements and mutual geopolitical interests, employ similar violent and brutal tactics to suppress political freedoms, the West looks the other way while entrenching its vested military and political objectives.

In a recent column at Middle East Eye, author Hussain Abdulla writes that “Western countries appear to be employing the ‘stability over democracy’ approach in the Gulf,” as combating ISIL is seen as a bigger priority.

The U.S. valued parking its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain long before the rise of ISIL. But as Abdulla points out, by shoring up support for Bahrain and other allied Arab dictatorships in the name of combating ISIL, the U.S. is all but guaranteeing the rise of future violent extremist groups in Bahrain by allowing the regime to continue committing its brazen human rights abuses.

After serving a two-year sentence for tweets that he wrote during the uprising, Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to six months in prison shortly after his release for tweeting that “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

As if eager to vindicate his claims, the regime determined that the best course of action would be to follow ISIL’s lead: lock him up in a cage for the high crime of blaspheming the state.

Jawad was previously detained multiple times by the authorities and is already facing charges of insulting the king, according to a report in Middle East Eye. It remains to be seen if new charges will be brought in connection with his latest detention. His case, however upsetting, is unfortunately just one in a long line of victims who had the temerity to challenge and question the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Bahrain. Meanwhile, Bahrainis can rest assured that wherever there are masked gunmen throwing innocents into the back of a vehicle, the U.S. will not stand idly by, so long as it’s the right kind of villain behind the mask.

Joseph Sabroski is a freelance journalist who writes about U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

Irish government whitewashing Bahrain human rights violations?


This video from the USA is called CNN – Bahrain security forces torture doctors, medics and patients.

From the Irish Medical Times:

Freedoms at the heart of medical education

February 18, 2015

Prof Eoin O’Brien is critical of the recent Medical Council report on RCSI-Bahrain following a recent accreditation visit, suggesting that it does Ireland an international disservice.

Education without freedom of speech is an oxymoron that I believe has just been upheld by the Irish Medical Council (IMC) and the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, on behalf of the Irish people.

With more than two million people supporting freedom of speech in Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and supportive demonstrations throughout this country, it is timely to ask how authorities acting on behalf of the Irish public can be, in my view, so cavalier in granting what amounts to official approval of an oppressive regime.

And let’s be in no doubt but that Bahrain is a most oppressive regime, ranking 163rd out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index (Ireland ranks 16th), as a consequence of which it is off-limits to most human rights groups. In this small island about one million people are governed by a minority Sunni monarchy, which, with the economic backing of Saudi Arabia, oppresses the Shia majority who are denied the most basic of human rights.

Let us remind ourselves that what started as a peaceful protest for basic human rights in the Arab Spring of 2011 ended with more than 35 people killed and some 70 medical professionals, including 47 doctors, being arrested, with more than 150 medical workers suspended or dismissed from their jobs, and that Irish-trained surgeons and doctors Ali Al-Ekri, Bassim Dhaif, Ghassan Dhaif and his wife Zahraa Al-Sammak were among the tortured. Dr Al-Ekri remains incarcerated in a prison.

Freedom of speech

The question is this: can university education be provided in an environment that forbids freedom of speech and imprisons those who chose to exercise this fundamental democratic right? The President of the Irish Medical Council, Prof Freddie Wood, who until recently was a member of the Council of RCSI and Chairman of its Finance Committee, is, I would argue, of the opinion that freedom of expression is a prerequisite of medical education.

In a recent lecture, Prof Wood used a quote from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we start to remain silent about the things that matter.” The President went on to illustrate the righteous adherence of the IMC to such a principle: “All the international research shows that doctors who have issues at medical school are likely to continue with bad practices throughout their professional lives. If we can work to standardise the training experience for all doctors so that it is consistently high, we can make sure a reference for good practice is there throughout a doctor’s career.” Likewise, the National University of Ireland (NUI) (which awards degrees in Bahrain) is emphatic in emphasising the importance of freedom of speech in university education.

Dr Maurice Manning, the Chancellor of NUI, chaired a committee in 2013 that drafted a guiding document entitled Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct for the National University of Ireland and its Member Institutions.

It should be noted that the RCSI, as a member institute, should be subject to the principles enumerated in this document, among which are: “The National University of Ireland and its member institutions have a special responsibility to ensure that… the human rights of their students, staff and associates are fully respected, regardless of the country where they are located. This includes but is not limited to freedoms that are necessary for the good functioning of a university, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination.”

It goes on to emphasise that the NUI and its member institutions must ensure that none of their activities, including partnerships they undertake with institutions in different countries, are seen as providing support for the violation of human rights.

How, one has to ask, can these Irish institutions on the one hand emphasis such laudable principles about the educational environment of medical students, and, on the other, countenance granting accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain and its associated hospitals, where torture and imprisonment of medical staff, not to say anything about suppression of freedom of speech, has been openly documented and repeatedly emphasised by medical and legal authorities?

Educators in Bahrain have also had difficulty reconciling the principles of education with the repression of basic human rights. The former President of RCSI-Bahrain, Prof Tom Collins, resigned his position because by remaining in office effectively amounted to complicity with suppressive policies of the Bahraini authorities — a resultant compromising of the very essence of higher education.

The ‘rape’ of Bahrain

Dr Mike Diboll, a former Academic Head of Continuing Professional Development at Bahrain Teachers College, University of Bahrain, and a faculty member of the University of Bahrain, who “witnessed the toxic effects of institutionalised sectarianism, the suppression of academic freedom and the violation of civil and human rights at the University of Bahrain”, has stated that: “The rape of Bahrain Polytechnic provides yet more evidence — as if more were needed — as to why no respectable international higher education institution, professional body, or accreditation agency should have anything whatsoever to do with Bahrain until fundamental social and political change has happened there.”

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the recent announcement by the Medical Council to grant accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain has appalled many doctors, who see grave implications that extend far beyond the shores of the islands of Bahrain and Ireland.

IMC Report

The IMC Report on Accreditation Inspection of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Bahrain Medical School, which took place on October 13 and 14, 2014, makes, in my view, disturbing reading, not so much for the recommendations it makes, but for the facts it chooses to omit in reaching its conclusions. I am not going to concern myself with the make-up of the visiting team, but rather concentrate on their failure to make any meaningful reference to human rights and the freedom of expression — issues that cannot be ignored in the context of approving a third-level institution that purports to educate doctors to practise in multicultural environments.

The only mention of human rights in the 40-page document (apart from four documents listed as ‘Background Reading’) is reference to a review document from RCSI-Bahrain that apparently “commits RCSI-B to expressing its declared ethos, including commitment to dignity and freedom for all, though the content and process of its teaching”.

The report goes on: “A stand-alone module on human rights has been introduced, with assessment explicitly linked to student progress.”

It could be argued that the report reflects an unsuitable position taken towards the institute under inspection, rather than expressing its findings in a dispassionate and factual manner. For example, from the outset the “noble purpose” of RCSI is acknowledged, whereby it enhances “human health through endeavour, innovation and collaboration in education, research and service”.

The report repeatedly “commends” RCSI-Bahrain, examples being for the sports facilities available on campus and on the range of clubs and societies available to students, the “Careers Office, which provides guidance, support and advice” and the “calibre of the administrative staff met on the accreditation inspection”.

These are important considerations in any university where fundamental existential conditions, such as academic freedom, meritocratic decision-making, freedom of association and freedom of expression are assumed, which is not necessarily the case in Bahrain.

The report deems the clinical facilities to be acceptable, not by a rigorous assessment of the hospitals, interviewing past pupils, patients and independent reports, but instead by relying on the ability of current students to speak out and exercise their freedom of speech, which has hitherto been so assiduously denied them.

There is then the time given to the IMC visit — two working days to visit and interview personnel at the RCSI-Bahrain Medical School, the King Hamad University Hospital, and the Bahrain Defence Forces Hospital, and to assess the clinical facilities.

The report suggests an important contradiction, which needs to be reconciled, namely that while it was disappointing that the Team had been unable “to meet with a greater number of students, they found that students were aware of the purpose of the meeting and had reasonable opportunity to opt-in”. Why did so few students attend, then, if they were aware of the meeting?

The final conclusion of this flawed report is that: “The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Bahrain’s six-year Medical Programme should be approved for a period of five years under the terms of Section 88(2)(a)(i)(I) of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.”

This recommendation is based on the fact that RCSI-Bahrain provided “an appropriate, comprehensive and pedagogically-sound education programme, which is carefully designed to meet defined educational outcomes and is based on the well established programme at the parent institution in Dublin”.

Does this imply that the visiting team from Ireland believed that the same democratic principles that pertain in Dublin also operate in the educational environment in Bahrain?

This is not too surprising, of course, seeing that it would appear they did not interview or visit any of the people involved in upholding human rights in that country.

Rather, the IMC team has chosen to concentrate on issues of technical competence rather than the relevance of ethical principles in decision making — a dangerous course as the Irish people well know, having had to pay for this dichotomy in the failure of banking regulation in this country.

Human rights

So what is the state of human rights in Bahrain today? Two examples will suffice. First, the IMC visit took place just after the women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer had been arrested and detained for tweeting criticism of the IMC-approved King Hamad University Hospital; she is now considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Second, my friend Nabeel Rajab, who is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a founder of the Gulf Center for Human Rights and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East division’s advisory committee, is presently facing six months in prison — a sentence he is appealing — for issuing a tweet that offended the Bahraini authorities, which has warned that anyone who “offends by any method of expression the National Assembly or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies” will be sentenced to jail.

Allow me to speculate. Were the IMC delegation, who were selected for proven abilities and experience, aware of all this background, did they choose to ignore it, were they denied enquiry into the educational environment, did they in fact probe the issue, or did they see it as outside their remit — or none of the above? Only the IMC can say which, if any, of these explanations is correct.

Whatever the answer, as things stand at present, the IMC and the Minister of Education and Skills have done nothing to address the abuse of human rights in Bahrain, and have allowed it to continue by sanctioning an Irish educational institution in that island.

Perhaps, more importantly, they may be jeopardising the reputation of Irish higher education both at home and abroad in terms of its pursuit for and profession of truth.

Ireland has a proud tradition internationally in medicine by virtue of medical missionary work, its contributions to scientific medicine and the reputation for clinical excellence acquired over many years by dedicated doctors and nurses working at home and abroad.

The Minister has a responsibility not to see this reputation squandered. She has a further responsibility, which is that she must be assured that the IMC is acting in accord with the requirements of the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), which the IMC is mandated to support. These standards stress that the locations for clinical tuition should be safe, and that academic freedom must be upheld so that there is “appropriate freedom of expression [and] freedom of inquiry” for both staff and students.

If the Minister upholds the decision of the IMC, which I believe conflicts with human rights standards in Ireland, then this issue may well be open to challenge.

While we in the US ate chocolates and celebrated love, Bahrain commemorated another occasion. This year, Feb. 14 marks the fourth anniversary of the most recent revolution. Unfortunately, the repression continues, and this Valentine’s Day is marked by more forceful responses to continuing protests, complete with tear gas, sound bombs and police violence against demonstrators: here.

Bahrain initiates criminal investigation into online content of opposition party: here.