British government helps torturers in Bahrain


Bahraini human rights activists Asma Darwish and Hussain Jawad, when they were still both free and together

From Middle East Eye:

The UK could have stopped my husband being tortured in Bahrain

Asma Darwish

Friday 27 March 2015 09:34 GMT

The UK refused to grant Hussain Jawad asylum and now he is in a Bahraini prison due to his human rights activism

My husband Hussain Jawad has been in prison for more than a month. Every day, I get flashbacks about the night he was taken by state security from our home in Bahrain.

Hussain is a human rights defender and chairperson of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR).

On 16 February 2015, at 1am, he was arrested by 15 masked, plainclothes police officers. They insulted him by calling him a donkey and shouted: “damn you and the human rights field you work in”.

Hussain was then taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) and he has since called me from prison to tell me of the torture he says has been subjected to there. He said CID officers handcuffed him and forced him to stand in a narrow, freezing cell.

They beat his back, chest, and head. Officers told him he would “never leave this place” and that they could fabricate more than 20 cases against him – adding up to a lifetime in prison.

He says officers have repeatedly threatened him with further violence if he does not admit to charges that include “rioting, participating in illegal gatherings and possession of Molotov cocktails”.

“If you don’t admit willingly in five minutes to save your honour, I will shove your honour up your ass,” one officer said to him.

“Do you want us to squeeze your mother’s milk out of your chest?” another asked.

One interrogator, he told me, touched his genitals and asked: “Do you want me to make you urinate or not have kids?”

The same man threatened to rape Hussain by inserting a pipe into his anus.

After all of this abuse and intimidation my husband signed a number of false confessions, including four different charges – one of which was “collecting money to fund saboteurs”.

When I asked him why he signed them, he told me: “CID is worse than hell itself.”

There is mounting evidence of the Bahraini authorities having tortured political prisoners, however, they continue to deny mistreating detainees.

My husband has a long history of human rights activism and this is not the first time he has been arrested, but this time it could have been avoided.

In November 2013, the government arrested Hussain for a speech he had given that month which called for peaceful reform. He was charged with “criticising government institutions” and “insulting the flag and emblem of Bahrain”.

That case is still going through the court system.

On 30 January 2014, shortly after being released from prison on bail, Hussain fled Bahrain to seek asylum in the United Kingdom.

I believed he had a good case. His arrest in Bahrain was public knowledge and I had hoped the asylum plea would be processed quickly in the UK so that we could be reunited as a family to raise our young son, Parweez.

But upon his arrival in the UK, Hussain was held for four days at the Harmondsworth Detention Centre. He was then referred to Fast Track Detention (FTD) – a process for non-urgent cases for asylum seekers who will likely be returned to their home country.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless.

The Bahraini community in London – many of whom live in exile – helped me to hire lawyers from Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, who filed a case against the UK Home Office to try and challenge Hussain likely being refused asylum.

My husband suffered badly throughout this process. He was released from the detention centre but had no way of supporting himself. For days he would be confined to his hostel, unable to buy food, waiting in vain to hear about his asylum claim.

When he first left, I honestly thought it wouldn’t take more than two months before we were reunited because of my belief in the strength of his case. I believed that we would live freely and in peace to raise our son Parweez. But after eight months without him and with no progress made on his case, I began to worry for our safety. I was worried that his continuing activism could anger authorities here in Bahrain. I was worried they would come after me, and that my son would have no one.

During Hussain’s absence, Parweez had to undergo an open-heart surgery. I had to take care of my sick child in the hospital without the emotional support of his father. We depended on Skype and social media to stay in touch.

On 28 August 2014, Hussain came home to Bahrain, having given up hope of winning asylum and out of a desire to be reunited with me and Parweez.

It was just five months later that he was re-arrested in the middle of the night at our home.

My son’s birthday was on 28 February. Hussain has now missed his last two birthdays: this year he is in prison and last year he was in the UK hoping for asylum to help us escape repression in our home country.

Hussain continues to be held in custody and his next trial hearing will be on 7 April.

We don’t know what will happen to him – there are thousands of political prisoners in Bahrain and many are serving years and years in prison for crimes that amount to no more than challenging the autocratic rule of the al-Khalifa royal family.

While the Bahraini authorities are the ones ultimately responsible for the treatment of my husband – and they should release him immediately – his latest arrest and subsequent suffering in prison was entirely avoidable.

I don’t know if the UK did not award Hussain asylum because of their well-known close ties with the Bahraini royals, but what is clear is that their refusal to give my family safe refuge has directly exposed my husband to the torture he says he has been experiencing in prison.

– Asma Darwish is the head of information and media relations at the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR). She is married to EBOHR Chairman, Hussain Jawad and the mother of two-year-old Parweez.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Hussein Jawad and Asma Darwish pose together for a photograph (MEE/Asma Darwish)

* Faten Bushehri – a Bahraini freelance journalist and human and civil rights advocate – also contributed to this article.

Bahrain: Ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Hussain Jawad: here.

Lifting [United States] arms restrictions to Bahrain would enable the regime’s oppression: here.

British secret police spying on Parliament


This video from London, England says about itself:

Labour MP Paul Flynn asks about the criminality of GCHQ and the British government on spying on people.

Recorded from BBC Parliament, 10 June 2013.

For the CIA, United States domestic spying on anyone is illegal. Nevertheless, in practice it turns out that the CIA spies even on the United States Senate committee monitoring their torture and other activities.

Now, to Britain. By Luke James in London:

SPIED-ON MPs DEMAND TO SEE SPOOKS‘ FILES

Friday 27th March 2015

Furious Labour politicians call for the release of secret reports on their personal and political lives

LABOUR MPs targeted by police spooks demanded the release yesterday of secret files compiled on their political and personal lives over 10 years.

… Police Minister Mike Penning faced an urgent question over the covert surveillance of MPs on the final day of parliamentary debate before the election.

Only hours earlier, spook-turned-whistleblower Peter Francis had revealed that Special Branch spied on 10 Labour MPs during the 1990s.

Prominent MPs such as Dennis Skinner, Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and the late Tony Benn were all monitored by Special Branch, he told the Guardian.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, the most senior MP targeted, demanded to see an uncensored copy of her file.

Mr Penning told MPs that their cases would be considered by the Pitchford inquiry into secret policing that was established earlier this month.

But Ms Harman argued that he was kicking the issue into the long grass, saying: “I would like you to assure me that you, the government, will let me see a full copy of my file.

“I was campaigning for the rights of women, for the rights of workers and the right to demonstrate — none of that was against the law, none of that was undermining our democracy.”

Jack Straw said that the evidence suggested he was being spied on even while he was home secretary between 1997 and 2001.

During the urgent question, Mr Skinner asked why the spooks “only seem to pursue socialists?”

Mr Corbyn also pressed Mr Penning to secure the release of the “full, unredacted version” of his file.

“If I was under surveillance, or the late Bernie Grant or any of my friends, then presumably the police were at whatever meetings we attended and recorded whatever phone calls we made,” he said.

“I think we have a right to know about that.”

The minister promised the pair that he would “make sure that as much as can be released is released” but added that there may be security reasons for material being withheld or censored.

A Home Office spokesman told the Star that the final decision on whether to redact information would be made by the Metropolitan Police, which holds the files.

The Morning Star contacted the Met to ask whether it would release the files in full.

In a statement, a Met spokeswoman said: “While talking openly about undercover policing is challenging because of its very nature, the upcoming inquiry represents a real opportunity to provide the public with as complete a picture as possible of what has taken place.”

She added that Operation Herne, the police investigation into misconduct by Met officers, was “very willing to engage” with Mr Francis about his claims. Operation Herne maintains that without speaking to Peter Francis it is simply not possible to fully investigate allegations he makes,” she said.

But Labour MP John McDonnell said that the government should first guarantee Mr Francis immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

Mr McDonnell tabled an early day motion last week calling on the Pitchford inquiry to examine evidence given by Mr Francis that the Met also spied on trade unions, the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence and anti-fascist groups.

This video says about itself:

Labour MP Dennis Skinner asks about the criminality of GCHQ and the British government on spying on people.

Recorded from BBC Parliament, 10 June 2013.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Unjustified Intrusion

Friday 27th March 2015

DENNIS SKINNER hit the nail on the head yesterday as Parliament discussed revelations that the Met Police had been spying on MPs – and even, it seems, at one point the Home Secretary.

“Why is it they only seem to pursue leftwingers and socialists?” the Beast of Bolsover asked Police Minister Mike Penning.

The Tory’s response – that since he had once been an FBU member who stood on picket lines he may himself have been snooped on- was hardly reassuring.

From Edward Snowden unmasking in 2013 the vast international surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency to this year’s finding by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that GCHQ’s information sharing with the agency was illegal for seven years, British citizens have got used to the idea that the state is always watching.

Few will be surprised that this surveillance extended to MPs, and years of expenses fiddling and corruption scandals have done such damage to Parliament’s reputation that many may not care.

Certainly the news that Blairite warmonger Jack Straw, who as home secretary increased police powers and tried to restrict the right to trial by jury, was being spied on himself by an organisation he was supposedly in charge of has a touch of the comic.

But as Mr Skinner points out, this is not simply a case of MPs being subject to the same unjustified intrusion to which the rest of us are subjected.

Special Branch was highly selective about who it spied on. Among the names revealed by whistleblower Peter Francis are well known socialists familiar to this paper’s readers. Mr Skinner himself of course, Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn – as well as veterans of the anti-apartheid and anti-racist movements such as Peter Hain and Diane Abbott and peace campaigner Dame Joan Ruddock.

By contrast, as the Bolsover MP eloquently puts it, “all those paedophiles managed to disappear into thin air.”

The appalling abuse of children perpetuated by MPs such as Cyril Smith and allegedly also by members of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet were evidently of less concern to the police than legitimate political campaigning.

The picture this paints of the British state is not an attractive one. But it is sadly familiar.

State power in this country is exercised by a ruling capitalist class. That doesn’t change depending on election results.

Labour has often proved a tame servant of that ruling class in office, but the party does represent the aspirations of millions of ordinary workers and its MPs include socialists who do fight for a Britain governed in their interests.

Hence the Establishment’s continued suspicion of the party, displayed in the fact that all the names released by Mr Francis were Labour MPs just as it is seen daily in hysterical attacks on Ed Miliband in the pages of newspapers owned by tax-dodging tycoons.

This alone is an indication that those on the left who see no difference between Britain’s biggest parties are missing something. If Labour were just another bunch of neoliberals, the rich wouldn’t care wheter it won May’s election or not.

So this scandal is not ultimately about the rights of MPs or the extent of parliamentary privilege.

As Mr Corbyn said yesterday, MPs can at least grill the Home Office about why they were spied on – “but many, many others unknown to us do not have that opportunity.”

Clearly the state has been treating trade unionists, socialists, peace and anti-racism campaigners as “the enemy within,” whether they’re ordinary citizens, MPs or ministers.

Lord Pitchford’s inquiry into undercover policing must expose the whole rotten business. But only revolutionary change, for a Britain run by its people and not by a shadowy elite, can hope to end it.

Irish music, war and history


This music video from Ireland says about itself:

30 November 2010

Wolfe TonesCome Out Ye Black And Tans

Words by Dominic Behan, music traditional

I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they trampled all over us,
And each and every night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbours outside with this chorus:

Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra.

Come let me hear you tell
How you slammed the great Parnell,
When you fought them well and truly persecuted,
Where are the smears and jeers
That you bravely let us hear
When our heroes of sixteen were executed.

Come tell us how you slew
Those brave Arabs
two by two
Like the Zulus they had spears and bows and arrows,
How you bravely slew each one
With your sixteen pounder gun
And you frightened them poor natives to their marrow.

The day is coming fast
And the time is here at last,
When each yeoman will be cast aside before us,
And if there be a need
Sure my kids wil sing, “Godspeed!”
With a verse or two of Stephen Beehan‘s chorus.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Bloodied at the hands of the Black and Tans

Thursday 26th March 2015

PETER FROST remembers an Irish republican ballad that echoes events that happened 95 years ago this week

OH, come out you black and tans/ Come out and fight us like a man/ Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders/ Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away/ From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra.

I first learnt Dominic Behan’s fine song from the man himself in the pubs of what many locals in the mid-1960s called County Kilburn.

Kilburn in north-west London had a huge and proud Irish community and the traditional music nights were said to be as good as anything you might hear in Dublin, Belfast or Derry.

The song was always a favourite with me and my wife Ann. We both have some Irish blood in our respective families. Much later we would discover that the subject matter had direct relevance to Ann’s own family history.

We would also, later in life, on some of our many visits to Northern Ireland, explore those lovely lanes in Killeshandra. The town was once an important centre of the linen industry. Today its setting in beautiful lake country has made it is a popular centre for fishing, walking, wildlife and eco-tourism.

Dominic Behan’s song, written as a tribute to his father Stephen — and ironically set to the Orange march Rosc Catha na Mumhan, or Battlecry of Munster — brings alive the hatred of the brutal British troops who arrived in Ireland 95 years ago this week.

After the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 the execution of Irish leaders including Patrick Pearse and the dying James Connolly led to huge public outrage. This soon turned to support for the revolutionary Sinn Fein movement.

In the 1918 general election Sinn Fein won 73 out of 105 seats. In January 1919 the First Dail — the Irish parliament — declared an independent Irish Republic.

In the same month, the republican Irish Volunteers, fast becoming known as the Irish republican Army, began the guerilla campaign that would become the Irish War of Independence. The main thrust was to attack the hated Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) posts, police stations and barracks.

By 1919 the British administration, horrified by the low morale in the RIC, closed down and outlawed the Dail.

Westminster clearly needed new initiatives and the British government knew just what to do. In January 1920, the government started advertising in British cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task in Ireland”.

Post-WWI unemployment and austerity meant there was no shortage of recruits, many of them veterans home from the trenches of Flanders.

By November 1921 about 9,500 ex-soldiers had joined. This sudden influx of men presented a real problem. There were not enough proper RIC uniforms to go round. Instead the new recruits were issued with war surplus khaki army trousers and dark green RIC or old blue British police tunics.

This sartorial odd mixture gave rise to their nickname, the Black and Tans. The name came from a famous pack of foxhounds from Limerick who wore similar colours. The title would stick even after the men eventually received proper green RIC uniforms.

The new recruits were given only three months’ hurried basic training, and were rapidly posted to RIC barracks, mostly in Dublin, Munster and Connacht.

The first Black and Tans arrived on March 25 1920 and immediately generated hatred and further resistance.

The government also raised a further unit, the Auxiliary Division of the constabulary. This group was made up of ex-army officers. The Black and Tans acted with the Auxiliaries and both were ordered to break the IRA by any means possible.

One of Ann’s relatives was murdered by members of the Auxiliary around this time. One of republican leader Michael Collins’s group, he was arrested and taken to Dublin Castle for questioning.

Just before nine o’clock in the evening he and a friend were released only to be immediately re-arrested for being on the street after the nine o’clock curfew. It was an old Auxiliary trick.

Dumped in the back of one of the Black and Tans’s notorious Crossley Tenders, they were driven to Phoenix Park and each had a bucket put on their head before they were shot at point-blank range.

The Auxiliary executioners were court-martialed but instead of any punishment their commanding officer offered his congratulations.

Black and Tans were paid 10 shillings a day, a substantial wage in those days — and they also got full board and lodging in special barracks.

With minimal police training, their main role was to strengthen the guarding of RIC posts. They worked as sentries, guards, escorts for government agents and as reinforcement to the regular police.

It took no time for them to gain a reputation for awesome brutality.

Black and Tans had little discipline. Deaths of Black and Tans at the hands of the IRA were often repaid with arbitrary reprisals against the civilian population.

In the summer of 1920, the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages throughout Ireland.

One of the worst atrocities was the massacre of 13 civilians at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday November 21 1920.

Black and Tans and Auxiliaries opened fire with armoured-car-mounted machine guns on the crowd.

The Black and Tans justified the attack as revenge for Michael Collins’s assassination of an undercover RIC murder squad earlier that day.

In November 1920, they besieged Tralee, also in revenge for the IRA abduction and killing of two local RIC men. They shut the businesses in the town and let no food in for a week.

On the night of December 11 1920, they sacked and burned Cork city.

In January 1921, a commission set up by the Labour Party produced a report on the situation in Ireland. It was highly critical of the government’s security policy.

“Forming the Black and Tans,” it said “had liberated forces which it is not at present able to dominate”.

Since December 1920, the British government had sanctioned official reprisals in Ireland. The Black and Tans burnt property of IRA men and any suspected sympathisers.

Altogether 7,000 of them served in Ireland in 1920-22. More than one-third of them died or left the service before they were disbanded, along with the rest of the RIC, in 1922.

Today, nearly a century after the Black and Tans’ war crimes, these British bully boys are still remembered and still hated in Ireland.

“Tan” is still a term of abuse in Ireland. And in a delicious irony there is a medal, awarded by the Irish government to IRA veterans of the War of Independence. It bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes. The colours? What else but black and tan — just a tiny reminder of the colours of the still-hated enemy.

Big Garden Birdwatch in Britain results


This video from Britain is called RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2015.

From the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain:

The results are in and over half a million of you took part to count more than 8.5 million birds.

With more than 585,000 pairs of eyes spending an hour counting birds over the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend the results showed an increase in most of the top 20 birds compared with 2014 results.

However the picture is more complicated when looked at in detail. Our finches; chaffinch, goldfinch and greenfinch were all down on last year. This is likely to be because of a good seed crop following a productive summer out in the countryside taking these birds away from our gardens.

So, there aren’t any new alarm bells ringing about finches, but this does continue a long running decline in greenfinch numbers of 53 percent since 1979. This long term drop is likely due to Trichomonosis a disease which can be contracted at garden feeding stations – so it’s good to clean them every now and then.

We also had fewer of our charismatic winter migrants like redwing and waxwing this year, most likely because conditions were good on the continent over winter and they were quite happy to stay there.

Real winners included the wren which was reported double the number of times compared to last year. Blackbird also rose to claim the number three spot this year, with sightings in more than 90 percent of UK gardens. The much loved robin also did well with sightings of the red-breast at their highest level per garden since 2011. These birds will come into gardens during cold conditions and keep coming back if they find a reliable source.

Results

To see the full results, check out our new infographic.