Emirati arabi uniti, arrestato e scomparso difensore dei diritti umani


di Riccardo Noury

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Ahmed Mansoor, blogger emiratino e difensore dei diritti umani di fama internazionale, è stato arrestato il 20 marzo nella sua casa di ‘Ajman e da allora non se ne hanno notizie.
Diverse ore dopo il suo arresto, l’agenzia di stampa governativa Emirates News Agency ha fatto sapere che Mansoor era stato arrestato su ordine del pubblico ministero per reati informatici: per l’esattezza, “uso dei social media per pubblicare informazioni false e fuorvianti che danneggiano l’unità nazionale e l’armonia sociale”, “danneggiare la reputazione del paese” e “promuovere un’agenda politica di incitamento all’odio e al settarismo”.
Fino a 10 giorni fa, Ahmed Mansoor era l’unica voce indipendente non ancora arrestata ad aver preso la parola contro le violazioni dei diritti umani all’interno del suo paese. Condannato nel 2011 a tre anni di carcere (ma subito graziato), aveva subito ripetute minacce di morte ed era stato costantemente pedinato e sottoposto a sorveglianza elettronica.
Lui stesso aveva rivelato che nel 2012 l’azienda italiana Hacking Team, grazie all’invio di un documento infetto, era riuscita ad installare uno spyware sul suo computer per consentire alle autorità locali di monitorare i suoi movimenti e di leggergli la posta elettronica.
Nel 2015, in risposta al suo coraggioso lavoro, ha vinto il prestigioso premio Martin Ennals per difensori dei diritti umani ma le autorità emiratine, che nel 2011 gli avevano confiscato il passaporto, gli hanno impedito di recarsi a Ginevra per ritirarlo.
Qui l’appello di Amnesty International agli Emirati arabi uniti per chiedere che Ahmed Mansoor sia rimesso in libertà e le accuse nei suoi confronti siano ritirate.



The U.S. State Department has informed Congress that it will proceed with a $5 billion sale of fighter jets to Bahrain, waiving concerns about the Gulf state’s human rights record that had initially delayed the deal under the Obama administration.
The decision, confirmed by officials with knowledge of the matter to The New York Times, marks a U-turn on Obama’s policy requiring Bahrain to do more to stop human rights abuses against a Shiite majority discontented with the country’s Sunni monarchy in order for the sale to go ahead.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has embarked on a round of diplomacy with Gulf leaders, meeting with the Saudi and Emirati foreign ministers this month. He has sought to realign Washington’s ties in the region amid concerns among Gulf states that the Obama administration was too preoccupied with human rights.
Bahrain protestsA protester holding a photo of Shi'ite scholar Isa Qassim as she confronts riot police at a demonstration to mark the sixth anniversary of the February 14 uprising, in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, Bahrain February 14.REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED
Bahrain is part of this diplomatic push. It is a strategic partner for the U.S. battling against Iranian influence—which Sunni powers such as Saudi Arabia view as a regional threat—and hosting the U.S. Navy’s Fifth fleet, allowing Washington to patrol the Persian Gulf.
With Bahrain, Tillerson hopes to improve relations that became strained under his predecessor John Kerry over rights abuses. In this vein, he decided against criticizing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record during his Congressional confirmation hearing.
The State Department is yet to publicly announce the decision to go ahead with the arms sale but its notification to Congress begins the process to complete the deal. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee now have a 40-day review period to raise any concerns about the deal, followed by a second, 30-day review.
But rights groups said the State Department’s decision conveyed the wrong message to countries around the world who commit human rights abuses.
“This deal sends a dangerous signal to Bahrain and all other countries that engage in serious human rights violations,” Sunjeev Bery, an advocacy director with Amnesty International, said in a statement. “It is particularly galling to arm these governments while simultaneously barring those fleeing violence entrance to the U.S. These deals place the U.S. at risk of being complicit in war crimes, and discourage other countries, like Saudi Arabia, from addressing their own human rights records.”
Whether Tillerson intends that message to be conveyed or not, Gulf partners will likely view this latest move as a sign that they can do business with Washington with less of a spotlight on how they manage domestic instability.

But critics have expressed concern that not only will the decision give Bahraini leaders a free hand to continue a domestic crackdown on dissent, but it will embolden them abroad. The jets that Washington would provide to Manama will likely be used in the air campaign the Bahraini military is waging in Yemen in support of the Saudi-led coalition.
“There is no worse time for them to remove the conditions of the F-16 deal,” Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, told Newsweek in an email. “This move will have a catastrophic impact not only in Bahrain but also in the region.”
“The Trump administration is giving Bahrain the thumbs up to continue its intensified crackdown. People are being tortured, sentenced to death and executed in Bahrain,” he continued.
Earlier this month, the Bahraini parliament approved military court trials for civilians in a bid to combat unrest. Anti-government protests erupted in the Gulf state in 2011 at the height of the Arab Spring uprising, with Shiites calling for greater representation and political change. But the Bahraini military repressed the rallies with the support of Gulf allies.


Former AFP photographer released in Bahrain, agency says


ahraini authorities released a former Agence France-Presse photographer on Thursday after holding him for more than 24 hours because of his work for AFP, the French news agency reported.
Mohammed Al-Shaikh, a prize-winning local photojournalist who worked for AFP in Bahrain for several years, was arrested at Manama airport late on Tuesday, AFP and the UK-based Bahrain Press Association - a media rights group - said late on Wednesday.
The authorities did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, nor responded to AFP requests for an explanation of the incident.
The photographer was returning from a holiday abroad when he was detained. His family said he had been released and did not face any charges, AFP reported on Thursday.
Al-Shaikh won the 2014 Bayeux-Calvados prize for his coverage of an uprising in the island monarchy in 2011, which was put down by the authorities with help from several other Gulf Arab states.
AFP said his accreditation expired last August and authorities had not renewed it, putting an end to his Bahrain coverage after more than four years with the agency.
Human rights groups say Bahrain, a strategic island that is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has carried out a wide crackdown on dissent since the uprising led by the country's majority Shi'ites to demand a greater role in government.
Bahrain says its actions are directed against people who foment violence and sectarian tensions in the kingdom, denying charges by activists that it is targeting journalists and dissidents.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Michael Perry and Tom Heneghan)

BAHRAIN: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in need of urgent access to medical care to prevent lasting vision loss


The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is highly concerned about the deterioration in Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s health. Al-Khawaja requires urgent access to a specialised medical professional for an eye examination to prevent lasting loss of  vision and potentially more severe neural complications. Al-Khawaja has been serving a life sentence in Jau prison since June 2011, when he was imprisoned on false charges, in an attempt to silence his criticism of the Bahraini government’s brutal response to anti-government protests in the country.
According to updates received from his family, in the past three weeks Al-Khawaja has developed problems in his right eye. He has complained about complete vision loss during daylight hours and of headaches on the right side of his head and behind his right eye.
His family has consulted an ophthalmologist in Norway, who concluded that, from the description of the symptoms, Al-Khawaja “is experiencing temporary loss of vision due to disturbances of blood supply to his eye (amaurosis fugax). Typically vision disappears rapidly (like a curtain), it is not accompanied by pain and gradually comes back. (...) Amaurosis fugax is usually caused by small blood clots (emboli) that obstruct the blood vessel to the eye. Sometimes episodes like this can be a warning sign of more severe episodes, like a large emboli that does not get removed and can cause lasting loss of vision in the eye or even cerebral strokes. (...)  I would therefore strongly recommend your father being examined by an eye doctor. If what he is experiencing is indeed amaurosis fugax it is very important to identify where the emboli come from and get him started on drugs that reduce the tendency of his blood to make emboli. He should then also be examined for conditions like temporalis arteritis (usually accompanied by pain in the forehead upon touch and sometime pain in large joints like shoulders and hips). This to prevent lasting visual loss and more severe episodes like cerebral strokes so the possible repercussions can be severe."
Read the ophthalmologist's letter here.
The prison authorities have canceled his medical appointment and informed Al-Khawaja they would take him to an eye doctor if he agrees to a full strip search, which he has refused to do, due to the invasive nature of the search.
Al-Khawaja is not alone; other prisoners have had their medical appointments and hospital visits cancelled despite long waiting periods.
In addition to lack of access to medical care, prisoners are kept in locked cells most of the day, without means to access a toilet or bathroom, while shouting, screams and banging on cell doors from prisoners in neighbouring building 6 are heard throughout the day. Since 15 January 2017, when the Bahraini authorities executed alleged victims of torture, all daily newspapers have been forbidden. The prison inventory has been shut down and inmates can no longer  access educational or shia television channels, despite the lack of political content featured on these channels. Family visitation hours have been cut  from one hour to half an hour, and due to the arbitrary visitation schedule, relatives are having  difficulties  reaching the prison on  time for scheduled visitations. Meetings between imprisoned fathers  and  their imprisoned sons have been canceled, as have  visits by higher officers, whilst letters of complaint and requests are no longer answered. When walking outside their cells, prisoners are handcuffed and chained from their wrists to their ankles.
Since 20 March prisoners have testified that inmates are being denied access to paper and pencils in order to prevent them from writing, and that they have been denied access to tissue or toilet paper.
The implementation of these new regulations has led to  political prisoners  boycotting family visits in a form of protest.
The degrading and dehumanizing treatment of prisoners following the execution of the three individuals on 15 January 2017 violates basic principles on the treatment of prisoners. 
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on Bahrain to:Allow Al-Khawaja to receive urgent and comprehensive medical care in order to prevent him suffering from blindness, and severe neural complications, without being subjected to an invasive, degrading, and unnecessary strip search
  • Allow access to access medical care, in a timely manner,  to all individuals currently detained
  • Allow minimal facilities and basic hygiene items for detainees,in accordance with the basic principles on the treatment of prisoners


AFP: Bahrain Says 25 Arrested over Jailbreak, Unrest

 2017-03-04 - 9:48 p
Bahrain Mirror- AFP: Bahrain said Saturday that it had arrested 25 suspects accused of involvement in unrest in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, including a deadly jailbreak.
The authorities said they were part of a "terrorist organisation" that includes 54 members, some of them fugitives in Iraq and Iran -- accused repeatedly by Manama of meddling in its internal affairs.
The alleged members include 10 former inmates who escaped in the January 1 storming of Jaw prison, Bahrain's general prosecutor Ahmed al-Hammadi said in a statement carried by state news agency BNA.
One of them was shot dead last month along with two men as they allegedly tried to flee the country by boat.
Bahrain has been shaken by unrest pitting its Shiite-majority population against its Sunni Muslim rulers.
A 2011 uprising seeking a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister was crushed with deadly force.
The Shiite opposition has since been banned and many of its leaders given long jail terms, several of them on "terrorism" charges.
The 25 detainees have been charged with "joining a terrorist organization" and "training on using explosives and firearms to commit terror attacks," Hammadi said.
They are also accused of killing two police, including one during the January 1 jailbreak, and the attempted murder of others, as well as importing and possessing explosives and firearms.
The suspects were also accused of escaping from jail or helping others to flee and hide.
The statement said four suspects denied the charges, while the rest confessed to being guilty.
Police found "large quantities of explosives, detonators and hand grenades," in addition to four AK-47 assault rifles and seven pistols, the statement said.
One of the suspected members of the organization lives in Germany and has "arranged travel for members of the organization to Iran and Iraq to train on using explosives and machine guns," Hammadi said.
He said the training took place in the bases of Iran's Revolutionary Guards with the aim of "preparing to carry out terrorist crimes inside the country."
Twelve fugitives remain in Shiite-dominated Iran and Iraq, the statement said.
Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, repeatedly accuses Iran of fanning unrest in the strategic archipelago. Tehran insists it is merely speaking in defence of the rights of Shiite Muslims.