Tortured Saudi feminist’s sister speaks


Lina al-Hathloul, photo by Kristof Vadino

Translated from daily De Standaard in Belgium, 27 July 2019:

Interview

Lina al-Hathloul, sister of imprisoned Saudi activist

“After the torture, silence was no longer an option”

For unclear reasons, activist Loujain al-Hathloul (29) has been in a Saudi cell for over a year, where she was tortured. Her sister Lina (24) lives in Brussels. “She has been electrocuted, beaten and subjected to waterboarding“, she says. Women can now drive cars in Saudi Arabia,

while the activist women who made that possible are threatened by the death penalty

but they also have to keep their mouths shut.

By Jorn De Cock

Brussels: “There is no news”, says Lina al-Hathloul in a flex office in Brussels, where she recently started working for a starting company that works for more solar energy. She has lived in Brussels for seven years, studied law and wants to stay there. But for more than a year, her attention has been constantly diverted to her birthplace, Saudi Arabia, where her sister Loujain is one of the best-known prisoners.

On May 15, 2018, Loujain was brutally taken out of her house at night. She disappeared for weeks without an official statement. The unresolved paradox of that night is that Loujain al-Hathloul became best known for her campaigns against the Saudi driving ban for women. Shortly after her arrest, that driving ban was lifted.

Why did the Saudi regime, which supposedly is modernizing, feel it was necessary to put Loujain and ten other activists in jail just then? In the pro-regime Saudi media, the female activists – some of them professors and grandmothers, others in their twenties such as Loujain – were called ‘traitors’. They were accused of undermining the “security, stability and national unity of the kingdom”.

This spring, a trial finally followed – behind closed doors – but there too, nothing seems to have moved since April. Seven female activists have now been released conditionally, but not Loujain. “She herself has no idea where it’s going”, says sister Lina. “As a survival strategy, she therefore assumes that she will be imprisoned indefinitely.”

The trial initially seemed an elegant solution for the Saudi royal family to finally close that nasty issue. But it turned out differently.

Lina al-Hathloul: “Since April, there has been no further session and nothing has been announced. My sister can now call my family every Sunday. She is in solitary confinement, reading books, but little can be said about this in the telephone conversations. It is mainly we who talk – sometimes via a telephone that my parents hold on to their telephone in Riyadh – so that she hears us.”

How did your sister become an activist?

“She studied in Canada. She was not only an enthusiastic driver there – which she was not allowed to do in Saudi Arabia at the time – but she also became active on the Kik app, as one of the first Saudis. On that app you see a face, a full name, and you can post comments and short videos – which she began to do diligently about everything that happened in Saudi Arabia. ”

“When she returned to the Middle East, she started working in the United Arab Emirates and began campaigning against the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia. One day she was driving home from the airport by car. My father sat next to her and filmed her. When she then drove again, she was stopped and had to go into jail for 73 days. At that time, she realized that it was not about a driving ban for women, but about the entire system of male custody in Saudi Arabia. ”

“Together with other activists, she started a petition addressed to King Salman. About which she was arrested again in 2017. In February 2018 there was an international conference against discrimination against women in Switzerland, where an official delegation from Saudi Arabia was invited. Loujain also went to sit in the audience and commented on what the delegation said via Twitter. That made them pretty angry.”

“A month later, Loujain was kidnapped in the Emirates: local state security surrounded her car, blindfolded her, and put her on a plane to Saudi Arabia. Then she was in jail for another day, without a reason being given. And last year, on May 15, they suddenly invaded our house in Saudi Arabia overnight and was taken away. For a while we didn’t get any news. After that she was allowed to call occasionally, but there was clearly someone standing next to her. In August my parents were finally allowed to visit her. They noticed that she could barely walk, had red marks on her neck and could not even hold a pen. She didn’t talk about it. It was only at a subsequent visit in September that she gradually started talking.”

What she revealed then went very far.

“Loujain has started telling our parents more month after month. How she was electrocuted, beaten, subjected to waterboarding (sham drowning, ed.), sexual harassment, threat of execution. There is nothing they haven’t done to her.”

On the one hand, the young crown prince Mohamed bin Salman preaches a new era in Saudi Arabia, with “moderate Islam”, entertainment for a mixed audience and the lifting of the driving ban for women. But on the other hand, those who worked for that were imprisoned. What did the royal family want to show?

(carefully): “Their power has been abused. In a previous arrest at the airport, Saud Qahtani (a former close associate of Crown Prince MBS who is also mentioned in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, ed.) came to her and asked her if she would rather be in jail for twenty years or wanted to get the death penalty. While the torture was going on, she was laughed at and spit on her.”

“In the beginning I thought they just wanted to keep control of the story about the lifting of the driving ban. They did not want anyone to have an opinion about it. So I thought they would release my sister after a month or two. When the months passed, the torture followed, followed by a trial without any transparency.”

A lot of things suddenly surfaced last fall, when journalist Khashoggi was brutally murdered and your sister’s testimonies came. International pressure seemed to be increasing. Did it work out?

“There was more talk about atrocities at the time. The US American senator Marco Rubio

of President Donald Trump’s own party

said Saudi Arabia had gone “full gangster”. Some realized that they might have to answer, that they could not just do everything. Maybe some pressure came, but nothing happened after that. I note that my sister and others are still in jail. ”

You talk fairly openly about your sister’s situation, the families of other prisoners usually don’t. Why did your family start talking?

“The moment we knew about the torture, silence was no longer an option. That is not a simple decision: you break your head about the best risk management. What can be the consequences for her if we talk or not? But if she is tortured, nothing is worse than being silent.”

“She is now in solitary confinement again, but we no longer hear about other tortures. My family would therefore prefer to keep the silence. I can’t do that myself. The last year has made me more rebellious. (smiles) I have become many years older in that one year.”

Your sister also has the support of your parents. That is already an advantage.

“My parents are religious and support the Saudi royal family, but they also have a critical mind. My father, eg, would not simply welcome complete freedom of religion, but at the same time he does not understand why women should be second-class citizens, not allowed to work or to drive a car. My parents are certainly not liberal by European standards, but my brother and sisters have been allowed to study abroad, just like me. Some of us are still there (laughs).”

Your sister also receives international support: she is an honorary citizen of Paris and received an American PEN Award and an honorary doctorate in Louvain-la-Neuve. Meanwhile, the most open pressure comes from the world of entertainment. American actors such as Alec Baldwin plead for her release, singer Nicki Minaj has just cancelled a concert in Saudi Arabia. And that while Saudi Arabia wants to focus more on culture and entertainment. …

Lina: But concerts have nothing to do with fundamental human rights. …

Saudi Arabia was never a real police state. People knew that there were certain “red lines”, but they knew them. Now it seems that everything has become a red line.”

Suppose your sister would be released tomorrow, what would happen to her?

“If that would happen, then I fear she will be forced to remain silent until she would be forgotten.”

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Dutch soldiers transfer Afghan prisoners to torturers


This November 2013 video says about itself:

Afghan army torture prisoner as US forces look on

Investigative reporter Matthieu Aikins has uncovered video from Afghanistan showing Afghan National Army members repeatedly whipping a prisoner as US forces look on.

He obtained the video whilst working on an investigation into alleged US war crimes for Rolling Stone magazine. US forces have frequently been accused of turning a blind eye to their Afghan colleagues torturing their prisoners during interrogation.

Here are links to the Matthieu Aikins reports for Rolling Stone:

The A-team killings: here.

Torture video: here.

Democracy Now Interview with Aikins: here.

Vice documentary – “This is What Winning Looks Like”: here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘Prisoners of Dutch military mission tortured by Afghanistan’s secret service

Prisoners who were transferred to the Afghan security service during the Dutch military mission in Uruzgan have been tortured and extorted. That happened despite promises from the then minister Ben Bot that the treatment of the prisoners would be closely monitored, Trouw daily writes.

The newspaper reports on research by the Dutch journalists’ collective Lighthouse Reports. That states that a prisoner tracking system has hardly worked, despite Bot’s promises.

Minister Bot’s promise came after concerned questions from the House of Representatives. The Afghan security service NDS had an extremely bad reputation. It was therefore agreed that the prisoners would be monitored. The International Red Cross and the local AIHRC organization were supposed to get access to the prisoners and Dutch diplomats were supposed to visit the prisoners regularly.

Prisoner tracking system

Lighthouse Reports states that the prisoner tracking system barely functioned. Not only were there not enough people to visit the prisoners, the Red Cross and the AIHRC did not always have access to the prisoners.

There are only 69 reports of prison visits, which are sometimes very short. That means there are no reports on a majority of the approximately 230 people who were transferred to the NDS. A total of 574 people were captured by Dutch soldiers.

Threats

In those 69 reports there is nothing about abuse, but according to Lighthouse Reports that did happen. Together with an Afghan research organisation, the collective tracked down various people who were transferred from the Dutch army to the NDS.

One of those prisoners is M., who was tortured because shortly after the transfer by the Netherlands he was unable to pay an amount of one thousand euros to the NDS.

M. asked his brother to sell their land and bring the proceeds the next day, but when the brother did not come, M. was ill-treated again. That also happened when the brother turned up the day after, but with too little money. Eventually, M. was released, with the announcement that he would be killed if he told someone about the torture and the money.

Cold cell

Also A., then 18 years old, was tortured after the transfer. Sometimes he didn’t get food for days. “If I did get food, it was so filthy that I had to puke.” He was locked up in a cold cell and kept awake. Moreover, his guards threatened with transfer to the US Americans and Guantánamo Bay.

A.’s father eventually managed to scrape together nearly three thousand euros, so that his son was released after a year and a half. Prisoners who could not raise money were sometimes killed, say both M. and A.

Witness

Dutch soldiers have also witnessed the abuse, according to conversations that journalists from Lighthouse Reports had with a number of them. One of them talks about the transfer of a prisoner who was thrown by an Afghan into the loading box of a pickup truck. The prisoner’s head bounced and immediately started bleeding.

Later the veteran asked his senior officer what would happen to the prisoners. To which his supervisor said: “If you are very quiet and you wait a little longer, then you will hear it automatically.”

The Netherlands left Uruzgan in 2010, after which Australia took over the mission. That decided a year later to temporarily stop the transfer of prisoners to the NDS and again in 2013, following an investigation into reports of torture in the NDS prison in Tarin Kowt.

Saudis tortured, beheaded for peacemongering, pro-democracy demonstration


This 7 June 2019 video says about itself:

Saudi Arabia Wants To Crucify Murtaja Qureiris

The Saudi regime intends to have the death penalty for Murtaja Qureiris for peacefully demonstrating for democracy when he was ten years old.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US-backed Saudi regime tortures dissidents on eve of threatened beheadings

8 June 2019

Saudi Arabia’s US-backed monarchical dictatorship has savagely tortured political prisoners facing imminent execution by means of public beheading, according to reports by human rights organizations.

The Saudi human rights organization Al Qst told Al Jazeera that “prisoners are being tortured during interrogations” at the country’s maximum-security prisons. The founder of Al Qst, Yahya Assiri, said the methods of torture routinely used against political prisoners include “electrocution, waterboarding and suspending victims from the ceiling by their hands.”

Amnesty International has reported that women’s rights activists have also been targets of “brutal” physical and psychological torture, including sexual abuse by masked men. Victims of these torture sessions, the human rights group said, “were unable to walk or stand properly, had uncontrolled shaking of the hands and marks on the body. One of the activists reportedly attempted to take her own life repeatedly inside the prison.”

Among those subjected to this horrific abuse and reportedly slated for execution in the immediate aftermath of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended this week, are three men described as “moderate” Muslim scholars—Sheikh Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari—who fell afoul of the regime headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world.

Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari

Al-Odah is known internationally as a “progressive” Islamic scholar; al-Qarni is an academic, author and preacher; al-Omari is a popular broadcaster. All three are prominent public figures in Saudi Arabia. Al-Odah has 14 million followers on Twitter throughout the Arab world. Al-Qarni has some 2.2 million Twitter followers and al-Omari half a million.

All three men were arrested in September 2017, al-Odah after tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has been subjected to a Saudi-led blockade for the last two years, in large measure because of Qatari economic and political cooperation with Iran.

Al-Qarni was fined and instructed by the monarchical regime to cease all activity on Twitter after he issued statements denouncing corruption and political tyranny. Al-Omari came under the regime’s scrutiny after using his television show to call for greater rights for Saudi women.

Al Jazeera cited human rights activists as stating that both Salman al-Odah and Awad al-Qarni have been hospitalized as result of the damage done by torture sessions and solitary confinement. Ali al-Omari, they reported, has burns and injuries all over his body as a result of electric shock torture inflicted during a year of solitary confinement.

All three are facing the death sentence on the basis of trumped-up “terrorism” charges in the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh. Two Saudi government sources and a relative confirmed to the online publication Middle East Eye (MEE) that the government planned to execute the three men soon after Ramadan.

One of these sources also told MEE that the killing spree carried out in April, in which 37 men were decapitated with swords in a single day, most of them Shias charged in connection with the mass protests that swept Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shiite Eastern Province beginning in 2011, constituted a “trial balloon.”

The House of Saud, according to the report, carried out the mass executions—which included the crucifixion of one of the headless corpses—to test international reaction before putting to death its more publicly prominent political prisoners. It was reportedly satisfied that the bloodbath provoked barely a murmur, and even less than that from its key patron and ally, Washington.

The mass beheadings followed by barely five months the assassination and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and journalist and former regime insider, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The brief flurry of media attention to this shocking international crime subsided after the Trump administration made it clear it had no intention of holding bin Salman responsible for ordering and directing the state murder.

The parasitical Saudi monarchy’s understanding that it can carry out its bloody crimes with impunity has been reinforced by the intervention of the Trump White House to override Congress by declaring a state of emergency in order to expedite arms sales to the Saudi kingdom. The Trump administration’s action will allow the Raytheon Company to ship 120,000 bombs to Riyadh, restocking the murderous arsenal it has used to slaughter some 80,000 Yemenis during a four-year-long war that has brought millions in the country to the brink of starvation.

The arms package also includes support for the Saudi F-15 warplanes that are carrying out the bombardment of Yemen, as well as mortars, antitank missiles and rifles. It has been justified by the Trump administration as necessary to counter “Iranian aggression.” The reality is that Saudi Arabia and its fellow Sunni oil monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are spending as much as nine times more than Iran on military hardware.

Among those facing beheading in the next round of Saudi mass executions is Murtaja Qureiris, who was arrested at age of 13 and has been sentenced to death for “crimes” he committed when, as a 10-year-old boy, he participated in a bicycle protest in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

Murtaja Qureiris, arrested at 13, tortured and facing beheading

At least three of those put to death in the last round of mass beheadings in April were minors at the time of their alleged offenses, making their executions a flagrant violation of international laws barring capital punishment for minors. Among them was Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, who was 16 when he was arrested and charged with participating in demonstrations and using social media to incite opposition to the monarchy. He was convicted based on a confession extracted through torture, including electric shocks and being held with his hands chained above his head.

Also murdered in April was Mujtaba al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he was arrested at King Fahd International Airport. He was grabbed as he prepared to board a plane to the United States to begin life as a student at Western Michigan University. He was severely tortured and beaten, including on the soles of his feet, until he provided his torturers with a confession.

The torture chambers and public beheadings of the House of Saud are the clearest expression of Washington’s role in the Middle East. With all of the US state and media propaganda about “democracy”, “human rights” and a “war on terrorism”, it is founded upon mass murder, naked state terrorism and the torture and execution of children. All of these crimes are committed to further the predatory interests of US imperialism in its efforts to assert hegemony over the energy-rich and geostrategically critical region, and to push back the influence of Iran, Russia and China.

In the end, reliance upon the House of Saud as the keystone of US imperialist interests can end only in a debacle, with the intensification of the class struggle in both the Middle East and the United States itself.

Pentagon sacks Guantanamo commander for mentioning torture


This February 2017 British TV video is called Torture: The Guantanamo Guidebook.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Pentagon fires Guantanamo prison commander for calling attention to US crimes

30 April 2019

The Pentagon has announced the abrupt firing of the commander of the infamous US prison camp at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

In a statement released Sunday, the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which oversees the extra-legal detention center, claimed that Rear Adm. John C. Ring, the camp commandant, had been relieved of his command because of a “loss of confidence in his ability” to lead. The facility has a staff of 1,800 troops and civilian personnel deployed to continue the imprisonment of 40 remaining detainees.

The dismissal comes just weeks before Ring was to complete his tour as the 18th commander of the prison camp, which was opened in 2002 as part of the “war on terror” launched under the administration of George W. Bush. The timing suggests retaliation by the top brass over what it sees as the rear admiral’s overly frank statements to the media.

Last December, he gave an interview at one of Guantanamo’s detention centers to NBC News in which he complained about the deterioration of the camp facilities and the failure of Congress to appropriate funds for their replacement or repair. He also warned that the aging of the prisoners could soon turn the notorious site of torture, rendition and illegal detention into something resembling a nursing home.

Ring had estimated last year that $69 million was needed to replace the most dilapidated of the camp’s facilities, which houses the 15 so-called “high-value detainees” who were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006–2007 after being imprisoned and tortured at CIA “black sites” around the world.

His firing came on the same day that the New York Times published a lengthy article titled “Guantánamo Bay as Nursing Home: Military Envisions Hospice Care as Terrorism Suspects Age . ” Written by Carol Rosenberg, who has reported from Guantanamo since 2002, previously for the Miami Herald, the article included extensive statements made by Ring during a recent press trip to the prison camp.

“Unless America’s policy changes, at some point we’ll be doing some sort of end of life care here,” the Times quoted the commander as saying. “A lot of my guys are pre-diabetic… Am I going to need dialysis down here? I don’t know. Someone’s got to tell me that. Are we going to do complex cancer care down here? I don’t know. Someone’s got to tell me that.”

The oldest prisoner at Guantanamo is now 71, while the average age is 46. Many have been held since the facility opened in 2002, and the majority of them, 26 in all, have never been charged, much less tried for any crime.

Defense One quoted Ring as stating: “I’m sort of caught between a rock and a hard place. The Geneva Conventions’ Article III, that says that I have to give the detainees equivalent medical care that I would give to a trooper. But if a trooper got sick, I’d send him home to the United States. And so I’m stuck. Whatever I’m going to do, I have to do here.”

Any US military personnel with serious health problems are airlifted to the US Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. Laws passed by Congress, however, bar any Guantanamo detainees from being brought onto US soil for any purpose whatsoever. As a result, detainees who suffer serious medical conditions, in many cases the result of systematic torture, receive either inadequate care or none whatsoever.

The Times article cited the case of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, accused of leading resistance to US troops who invaded Afghanistan. He was left untreated for degenerative disc disease and back injuries exacerbated by torture until he lost the use of his legs and became incontinent. What followed was a series of botched spinal surgeries performed in the prison camp that has left Hadi, 58, in a wheelchair and dependent upon painkillers. While medical personnel concluded that he needed complex surgery that could not be performed at the camp, the law bars his being transferred to a US military hospital.

The Times article also cited the case of Mustafa al Hawsawi, a Saudi man alleged to have provided assistance with travel and expenses to the 9/11 hijackers. He “has for years suffered such chronic rectal pain from being sodomized in the CIA prisons that he sits gingerly on a pillow in court, returns to his cell to recline at the first opportunity and fasts frequently to try to limit bowel movements.”

Another prisoner, an Indonesian man known as Hambali, who is accused of being a leader of the Southeast Asian Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah, requires a knee replacement as a result of injuries suffered during torture at CIA black sites, including being continuously shackled by his ankles.

Bahraini regime torturers’ British training


This November 2015 video says about itself:

Human Rights Watch Accuses Bahrain Of Torturing Detainees

A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report says that security forces in Bahrain are still torturing detainees.

By Phil Miller in Britain:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Human rights campaigners warn academics not to train Bahraini police

‘Instead of training torturers, perhaps the Huddersfield University academics should focus on Bahrain’s unjust criminal justice system,’ Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy says

ACADEMICS from Britain are teaching at a police academy in the Middle East despite concerns that its officers are involved in human rights abuses.

Two Huddersfield University lecturers are visiting Bahrain’s Royal Police Academy to discuss interview techniques.

Psychologists Dr John Synnott and Dr Maria Ioannou are delivering a masters programme in security science on behalf of the university.

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy advocacy director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei told the Morning Star: “It’s really shocking to see academics from Huddersfield University equipping the Bahraini police force – which boasts a record of murdering individuals through torture without accountability – with techniques that will only empower state repression.

“Last week, 138 individuals, including children, were sentenced and revoked of their citizenship in a single trial.

“Is this the standard that Huddersfield University expects from their partner?

“Instead of training torturers on how to break victims more efficiently, perhaps academics should focus their efforts on assessing the unjust operations of the Bahraini criminal justice system.”

The Huddersfield scheme was inaugurated by the university’s chancellor Prince Andrew last April.

A spokesperson for Huddersfield University confirmed that it was working with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry, adding: “The masters programme covers subjects including investigative psychology, forensic psychology, computer science (cyber security), forensic science and criminology and includes a dissertation.

“The course is delivered at the academy by Huddersfield staff who usually spend approximately two weeks in the country teaching the students.

“The first cohort of 26 police officers graduated in March this year.”

Free Saudi women’s rights activists


Jailed Saudi activists for the right of women to drive cars

From the Gulf Institute for Human Rights:

HRW: UN: A Call to Free Saudi Women Activists

March 07,2019

A joint statement by 36 countries on March 7, 2019 calling on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record was a landmark step toward justice and accountability, Human Rights Watch said today.

It was the first time ever that governments, members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, have criticized their fellow member, the Saudi government.

At least some of these governments are rather Johnny-come-latelies and may stand accused of hypocrisy. Eg, the governments of the United Kingdom and of Belgium helped the Saudi regime to get into the the United Nations Human Rights Council and into the United Nations Women’s Rights Commission. Both governments still help selling British weapons and Belgian weapons to the Saudi absolute monarchy and their partners in war crimes, the UAE absolute monarchy, to kill Yemeni civilians. Will they stop doing that now? And will the French Macron government, another co-signatory, now at last stop selling French weapons to the dictatorial kingdom?

The statement, delivered by Iceland at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, condemns the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, urges an end to Saudi Arabia’s use of counterterrorism regulations to target dissidents and human rights activists, and calls for the release of Saudi women’s rights activists detained beginning in May 2018.

Under the government that is effectively headed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi authorities have intensified a coordinated crackdown on dissidents, human rights activists, and independent clerics. Countries at the Human Rights Council should support the joint statement, which is a rare and significant opportunity to press Saudi Arabia over its human rights abuses. The statement remains open for further endorsement until at least the end of the session on March 22.

“The joint statement to Saudi Arabia at the UN Human Rights Council sends a strong message to Saudi authorities that it needs to end its abusive treatment of activists and dissidents,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “Council member states should stand in solidarity with detained Saudi activists, press for their immediate release and maintain scrutiny of Saudi Arabia until there is substantial improvement in its rights record and meaningful reform.”

The joint statement reflected concerns also raised by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who in her report to the council on March 6 noted that the persecution of peaceful activists clearly contradicts the spirit of Saudi Arabia’s proclaimed new reforms, and urged the release of the women’s rights defenders.

On May 15, 2018, just weeks before the Saudi authorities lifted the ban on women driving on June 24, authorities began arrests of prominent women’s rights activists

the activists for the right of women to drive cars, who had made the lifting of the ban possible

and accused several of them of grave crimes like treason that appear to be directly related to their activism.

On March 1, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecution agency announced that the women’s rights activists would face charges and be put on trial. Human rights organizations began reporting in November that Saudi interrogators tortured at least four of the women, including by administering electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs, and sexually harassing and assaulting them.

Saudi Arabia came under intense criticism in 2018 following the October 2 murder of the prominent Saudi journalist Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by Saudi agents. After weeks of denials and obfuscations, Saudi Arabia admitted to Khashoggi’s murder and announced the arrest of 18 people

18 scapegoats, to avoid arresting the crown prince

and the firing of senior officials. The Public Prosecution eventually charged 11 people in connection with the murder, including five against whom it is seeking the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia should cooperate fully with Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, on her inquiry into the Khashoggi murder. Callamard will present the report on her inquiry to the council at its next session, in June.

“As a member of the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia is required to maintain the ‘highest standards of human rights’, yet there is a massive gap between the country’s dismal rights record and the international standards it is sworn to uphold,” Fisher said. “Council members should be subject to more scrutiny, not less, and we urge the council to keep Saudi Arabia on its agenda until we see an end to the brutal targeting of defenders and dissidents, and genuine reform.”

The following States supported the joint statement:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Bahraini regime imprisons relatives in anti-democracy revenge


Theresa May meets the King of Bahrain Hamad Bin Isa Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, in December 2016

This picture shows British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May meeting the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Khalifa, in Manama, Bahrain, in December 2016.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, February 25, 2019

‘I will not rest until my family is free’, London activist vows after Bahrain jails relatives

THREE relatives of a London-based Bahraini dissident have lost their final appeal against imprisonment in the Gulf kingdom.

Bahrain’s highest court upheld the family’s sentences today, despite United Nations experts warning that their convictions were “arbitrary.”

The family was targeted after their relative in London, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, protested outside Downing Street during a visit by Bahrain’s dictator King Hamad.

Mr Alwadaei’s mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, brother-in-law, Sayer Nizar Alwadaei, and cousin, Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor, were arrested in March 2017 and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

UN experts say their arrests were an “act of reprisal” for Mr Alwadaei’s human rights work in London, where he is advocacy director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird).

Mr Alwadaei was granted asylum in Britain in 2012 after he was tortured in Bahrain during the so-called Arab Spring.

He has since become one of the most effective and respected critics of Bahrain’s monarchy.

He has used freedom of information requests to frequently expose Bahrain’s deep ties to the British government.

However his success has made him a target for the regime’s security forces, who have gone after his relatives in Bahrain.

Mr Alwadaei condemned the latest court ruling, saying: “This is what you expect from a corrupt unjust system. I will not rest until my family is free.

“Their continued imprisonment is a shameful reminder of the UK’s weak position when dealing with human rights abuses committed by an ally country.”

Bird is particularly concerned about the welfare of Mr Alwadaei’s 55-year-old mother-in-law, who they say is being denied medical treatment for a lump on her breast, which they fear may be cancerous.

This is despite a British government aid scheme for Bahrain that involved training prison guards in healthcare procedures.

Amnesty International has issued a statement condemning the denial of medical access to Ms Mansoor, labelling her a “prisoner of conscience.”

Although she will be eligible for release next year, Mr Alwadaei’s cousin Nizar faces much longer behind bars.

He was arrested as a teenager and received two additional charges, meaning he will serve 11 years in prison.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has expressed serious concerns for the “ongoing trend of harassment and intimidation” of Mr Alwadaei and his family.

Britain’s Foreign Office has been approached for comment.