By SAYED AHMED ALWADAEI
By SAYED AHMED ALWADAEI
LONDON — In early March, a group of masked men accompanied by police officers arrested my brother-in-law in Bahrain. Three days later, my mother-in-law was arrested as well. Both were charged with planting “fake bombs” and prosecutors ordered 30 days detention for them. My brother-in-law, Nazar, said the police tortured him and forced him to implicate other family members in wrongdoing. They told him they were out for revenge for actions I had taken as a human rights activist.
Months earlier, authorities at Bahrain’s airport detained and forcibly separated my wife from our infant son, dragged her by the wrists and interrogated her for seven hours. They threatened to arrest our family members, asking: “Where shall I go first, shall I go to his family or your family?”
In 2011, I participated in the largest protest movement ever witnessed in Bahrain, calling for human rights and democratic reforms. In an attempt to crush our call, King Hamad of Bahrain instituted martial law and invited the Saudi Arabian army into the country to quell us. I was arrested, severely tortured and tried by a military court. After spending six months in prison, I fled Bahrain and claimed asylum in the United Kingdom.
Now that the Bahraini authorities can’t go after me, they’re going after my family.
The move to target my relatives and the family of my wife is a heinous new low in a series of accelerated acts of repression carried out by the Bahraini government since the election of Donald Trump. On January 5, the Bahraini government restored the National Security Agency with the powers to detain and arrest people suspected of “terrorist” offenses — the same agency that wasstripped of these powers in 2011 after its systematic use of torture throughout the uprising.
Ten days later, on January 15, the government carried out its first executions since 2010. The three executed men were all tortured into making false confessions and sentenced to death in unfair trials that relied almost entirely on those coerced confessions. The executions were strongly condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings. The government even sent the blood-soaked clothes of the executed to their family members.
On February 21, the government amended the constitution toenable military courts to try civilians. The military court that tried me and 500 other protesters, including doctors who treated the wounded protestors back in 2011, was exceptional — now these courts will be standard practice. Then on March 7 the government moved to dissolve the secular political party, Wa’ad.
These calculated repressive measures by Bahraini authorities have gone largely unchecked since Donald Trump became president of the United States. Since the November election, the Bahraini government has curried favor with the new administration, evenholding their National Day celebrations at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration is now set to reinstate a $3 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to the Kingdom, a weapons deal that Obama partially halted during his presidency until Bahrain stepped up its human rights reforms, including releasing the leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.
It’s not just the United States that is turning a blind eye to the Bahraini government’s crackdown on its people. In January, the U.K. government announced it is granting the Kingdom an additional 2 million British pounds sterling as part of the U.K.’s multi-million pound program of support for Bahrain’s security and justice system.
Bahrain is not operating in a vacuum. Back in 2011, Bahrain’s King caved to international pressure and promised reforms. But these never came. After the uprising, King Hamad formed the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to investigate human rights abuses during the 2011 protests. BICI issued a 500-page report detailing the government’s use of excessive and indiscriminate force against protesters, including abuse, torture and death. Six years on, those violations have become institutionalized.
In today’s era of Trump and Brexit, of budding authoritarianism even in the oldest democracies, it seems that political leaders in Washington and London are substituting business and profit for democracy and human rights. President Trump has not only emboldened hate groups at home, but he’s also emboldened governments abroad, like that of Bahrain, to carry out human rights abuses and flout international law with impunity.
With the help of Washington and the United Kingdom, King Hamad’s government is willing to cross any red line — including publicly defaming me as a “terrorist” and targeting my family in apparent acts of retribution — to have its way.
Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, @salwadaei, is the advocacy director of the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (BIRD).
04/14/2017 04:35 am ET
On 3 April, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain reduced the prison sentence against opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman to four years in prison for the second time. He is a prisoner of conscience.
di Riccarco Noury
Prtavoce di Amnesty International Italia
di Riccarco Noury
Prtavoce di Amnesty International Italia
C’è un nuovo sviluppo nella vicenda giudiziaria di Ali Salman, noto esponente dell’opposizione del Bahrein.
Come avevamo raccontato in un precedente post, il segretario generale del disciolto partito al-Wefaq (con l’accusa di “terrorismo”), era stato arrestato nel 2014 per “incitamento all’odio” econdannato a nove anni il 30 maggio 2016. Il 17 ottobre la Corte di Cassazione aveva annullato il verdetto e ordinato un nuovo processo mentre, a dicembre, la Corte d’Appello avevaconfermato la condanna originaria. Alla fine, il 3 aprile la Corte di Cassazione ha ridotto la pena a quattro anni.
Non c’è da gioire, dato che chi invoca pacificamente riforme non dovrebbe trascorrere neanche un giorno in carcere.
Oltretutto, la notizia della riduzione della condanna di Ali Salman ha oscurato un preoccupante sviluppo, sempre del 3 aprile: il re del Bahrein, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ha ratificato un emendamento costituzionale che renderà possibile il ricorso alla corte marziale per gli imputati civili.
A sei anni dall’imposizione temporanea della legge marziale per fronteggiare le rivolte di massa, l’emendamento rischia di dare vita anuova stagione di processi irregolari, anche a porte chiuse e inassenza di un avvocato di propria scelta.
L’emendamento, oltre a violare gli standard del diritto internazionale sul giusto processo, è estremamente pericoloso perché formulato in modo del tutto generico: chiunque sarà considerato una minaccia alla sicurezza nazionale del Bahrein o alla sua “indipendenza, sovranità e integrità” potrà finire sotto corte marziale.
Il ricordo va al 2011, quando vennero, in questo modo, processati e condannati attivisti e dissidenti pacifici (tra cui medici, infermiere, insegnanti e difensori dei diritti umani).
Non rende ottimisti nemmeno il silenzio della comunità internazionale, e in particolare dei super-alleati Regno Unito e Usa di fronte a quello che accade nel ricchissimo regno del Golfo.Per non parlare del fatto che Trump ha recentemente rimosso la clausola del rispetto dei diritti umani alla fornitura di aerei da
6 April 2017 – Does Formula 1 bear responsibility when citizens suffer in the countries they race in? What can they do, and what are the risks of ignoring human rights? Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix next weekend (14-16 April), BIRD, Article 19 and Reporters Without Borders co-hosted a press conference at The Free Word Centre, London asking these questions and more. The panelists sought to raise awareness of the human rights situation in the Kingdom and the human rights implications of the F1 event in Bahrain ahead of the upcoming 2017 Grand Prix.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD’s Director of Advocacy, introduced the discussion by talking about the ‘intensified crackdown” that occurs during Bahrain’s Grand Prix. This crackdown encompasses the siege of villages and clampdown on protesters, and has resulted in the deaths of Salah Abbas in 2012 and Ali Abdulghani in 2016. He spoke about his participation, along with human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, in the 2015 negotiations with Formula 1 which led to F1’s adoption of human rights commitments. Sayed stated that although F1’s written policy seems sound, in practice the situation is grave. The continued human rights violations in Bahrain is why BIRD calls for the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Zainab Al-Khawaja, a Bahraini human rights campaigner forced into exile in 2016, spoke of her role in protesting past F1 events in Bahrain and that she was proud to have protested and been jailed alongside political prisoners. She spoke about the human rights risks associated with the Grand Prix and the deteriorating situation in Bahrain. She passionately stated that there is no lack of information available on human rights violations in the Kingdom and that the world can not say that they are unaware of the crimes that take place in Bahrain. Bahrain no longer bothers to hide the crimes that they’re committing. Zainab stated: “The worst cruelty is indifference. When the F1 races in Bahrain, it shows the world does not care about the arrests and torture” Zainab asked why fans would want their sport to be associated with dictatorship. She said that the F1 is not being asked to join protests or take a political stance, but to respect the people fighting for democracy and the victims in Bahrain.
The long term human rights activist also pointed to the white washing that occurs during the Grand Prix. She recalled her shock when protesters, she among them, near the Grand Prix were once addressed by police who asked them to clear away. This was a show put on for the journalists: later that night, protests in villages away from the racetrack were suppressed with excessive force and tear gas the same as always.
Zainab recalled how she went several months without being allowed to have fresh air during one of her imprisonments, and how when she was in prison in 2016 with her infant son, police refused to allow them fresh air for days at a time. Zainab said that the government advertises the Bahrain Grand Prix as a way to enjoy “the sun, sand and sea.” She pointed to the fact that hundreds of political prisoners also enjoy the sun, sand and sea, but never get to experience them in Bahrain.
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, spoke about the Sports for Rights campaign in Azerbaijan, another repressive country where the F1 races. She stated that Bernie Ecclestone’s attitude on human rights was “appalling” and that F1 has great power to talk about real issues, not just “sun, sea and sand,” yet they are failing in that. She also stated that she was ashamed that the UK government fails to speak out against Bahrain, and even acted against the interests of strong multi-lateral efforts in the most recent UN Human Rights Council. Despite their influence, they say nothing publicly. Josie Ginseng highlighted Bahrain’s repressive human rights records by drawing attention to the plights of Nabeel Rajab, Ebrahim Sharif and Abduljalil Al-Singace.
Brian Dooley, a senior adviser for Human Rights First, talked about the responsibility of sports journalists covering sports in repressive regimes. He stated that for many media outlets, the Grand Prix is the only occasion to have access to the country. He recalled the human rights violations which were central to past sporting events worldwide, from the Argentina World Cup to the Beijing Olympics, and stated that journalists should use this opportunity to not just cover sports, but the wider political situation. He stated earnestly that “the human rights abuses are part of the sports story. Isn’t it part of your story that because of the Bahrain Grand Prix abuses happen?”
By Alan Baldwin | LONDON
Human rights campaigners have urged Formula One management to cancel next week's Bahrain Grand Prix, accusing the country's rulers of using the to "whitewash" abuses and improve their image abroad.
Bahrain's biggest sporting event is watched by a worldwide audience of millions and has been held since 2004, with the exception of 2011 when violent civil unrest forced its cancellation.
"Concerted and visible action is now required from Formula One, consistent with its commitment to human rights," the groups said in a letter to Formula One chairman Chase Carey and the two managing directors Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn.
"We call on you to suspend this year's race in view of the alarming situation in the country."
The letter, also addressed to the chief executive of F1 sponsor Heineken, was sent by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Article 19 and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.
Activists recognised privately, after a media briefing, that they did not expect the call to be heeded.
Bahrain, a former British protectorate and the U.S. Navy's main outpost in the Gulf region, has stepped up a crackdown on the opposition, banning the al-Wefaq party and arresting several prominent activists.
The Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom accuses Iran, a Shi'ite Muslim theocracy across the Gulf, of radicalising and arming some members of its Shi'ite majority population. Three Shi'ite men were executed in January after being convicted of killing three policemen.
published a commitment in 2015 to respect "internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally".
Formula One is now owned by U.S.-based Liberty Media, which took over the sport in January and ousted Bernie Ecclestone as commercial supremo.
Ecclestone, 86, told Reuters he would be in Bahrain for the race, the first he has attended since he ceased to run the show.
The campaigners' letter said Formula One would "become complicit" in human rights violations in Bahrain if the race was not cancelled.
Activist Zainab al-Khawaja, who lives in Denmark after being arrested and released several times in Bahrain, told reporters that the race raised the question, "Does the world care about what's happening in Bahrain?
"It (Formula One) is a message sent to the people of Bahrain that the world does not care," she said.
A Bahrain government spokesperson said the country had implemented "a range of institutional and legal reforms over recent years, in close collaboration with international governments and independent experts.
"As a result of these efforts, Bahrain now has a number of internationally recognised safeguards in place to ensure human rights abuses do not occur."
The spokesperson added, in a comment emailed to Reuters, that Bahrain was "entirely compliant and proactively participates" with Formula One's defined human rights .
"Like other Formula One host nations, Bahrain will work alongside the organisation to help support these commitments, and the Kingdom welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate its own highly significant strides as part of this process."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; editing by Neilo Robinson)