3/29/2018

Qatar files aviation complaint against Bahrain at U.N.


https://www.reuters.com/article/us-emirates-aviation-bahrain/qatar-files-aviation-complaint-against-bahrain-at-u-n-idUSKBN1H40MK


DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar accused a Bahrain war plane of violating its airspace and has reported the breach to the U.N. Security Council, the state news agency QNA reported on Wednesday.
It did not provide any details about the incident which it said took place on Sunday, saying only that it was a “serious breach that constitutes a serious and flagrant violation of international law”.

Qatar voices concern over Bahrain's renewed airspace violations

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/qatar-voices-concern-bahrain-renewed-airspace-violations-180328093015263.html

In a letter sent to UN Security Council, Doha details yet another violation committed by Bahraini air force.

Qatar has addressed a letter to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, voicing concern over renewed violations of its airspace by the Bahraini government.
A Qatari foreign ministry press release said on Tuesday the letter relayed Doha's concerns about the "serious and flagrant violation of international law".
The statement said Qatar reserved the right to take the necessary measures to defend its sovereignty in accordance with international provisions.
The violations, which occurred on Sunday, were the latest of several such incidents in recent months.
An Emirati military aircraft overflew Qatar's territorial waters on January 14 without Doha's authorisation.
On February 25, another Emirati aircraft approached Qatari borders before receiving warnings and switching course.
Emirati and Bahraini military aircraft had similarly overflown Qatar's exclusive economic zone on March 10 before being intercepted by a Qatari fighter jet.
On March 15, Qatar's Permanent Representative to the UN, Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani, addressed a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the president of the UN Security Council, Karel Van Oosterom, saying a UAE military cargo plane violated Qatari airspace on March 4.
On March 26, the UAE alleged that two Qatari fighter jets approached two of its registered commercial aircraft while flying over Bahraini airspace. 
A day later, on March 27, Qatar denied that its air force had intercepted two UAE passenger flights on March 26. Qatar's Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) said the Emirati statement was an attempt to cover up the UAE's multiple breaches of Qatari airspace.
quartet of countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE imposed an economic blockade on Qatar on June 5, 2017, accusing the latter of supporting terrorism. Qatar has categorically denied the allegations.

3/23/2018

My wife has been sentenced to jail in Bahrain. She lives in the UK

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/22/wife-jail-bahrain-why-wont-uk-act


I fled Bahrain during the Arab spring, but my wife, and her family in Bahrain, are being punished for my human rights protests in London – why won’t the UK act?



Yesterday was Mother’s Day in Bahrain. And it was yesterday that my wife, Duaa Alwadaei, the beloved mother of my two children, was handed a prison sentence. Not because she committed any crime, but because I protested in London when the King of Bahrain visited Downing Street in 2016. She is not the only one to face reprisals because of my human rights activism in London. Her mother, brother and cousin all languish in Bahrain’s notorious prisons. Tortured and convicted after a flawed trial.
The police, prisons and courts that have done this to my family were all trained by Britain, in multimillion-pound projects funded by the UK taxpayer. Far from raising human rights standards in Bahrain, British-trained bodies have failed to investigate torture allegations – paving the way for Bahrain’s kangaroo courts to sentence people based on coerced confessions.
Seven years ago, in the Arab spring, my people rose up in defiance of Bahrain’s ruling family, the Khalifa dynasty. They have reigned over us since 1783, mostly as an absolute monarchy, propped up by British arms and political support. Our protests for democracy were met with live ammunition – fired at us by foreign mercenaries. Tanks, made in Britain, rolled into Bahrain from neighbouring Saudi Arabia and targeted anyone who remained in the streets. I fled, to escape more torture and persecution, and sought sanctuary in the UK.
From the apparent safety of London, I continued to campaign for freedom in Bahrain. With my colleagues at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, I have constantly exposed the regime’s human rights abuses, unlawful executions, torture and unfair trials. The Bahraini embassy in London monitors exiles inLondon. Last year, embassy staff threw hot water from a balcony on to protesters outside. Rather than targeting us directly in Britain, the Bahraini authorities prefer to do something far more cowardly: they target my wife’s family, who still live in Bahrain.
It started the day King Hamad visited Theresa May in October 2016. I threw myself in the way of his limousine as it drove through the gates of Downing Street. I wanted to remind him of the political prisoners in our country who are on death row. I was arrested and released in short order, but my protests had the King’s ear. That same night, my wife and infant son were due to leave Bahrain for London, after visiting her family. When she reached the airport in Manama, our son was snatched away from her by the security services. She was interrogated for seven hours about my work in the UK, our families were threatened, and she was told that if she dared to speak about what had happened, she would be tossed in jail on a fabricated charge. Human Rights Watch described her treatment as “terrorising”.
Three days later, we were able to secure safe passage for my wife and son out of Bahrain to London. But the threats made to my wife soon became real. Last March, her mother, brother and cousin were all arrested on trumped-up charges of planting a fake bomb. They were tortured and forced into making false confessions without lawyers present. My mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor, fainted during her interrogation. My brother-in-law, Sayed Nizar, who had just turned 18, was stripped naked, threatened with rape, and told he came from “a dirty family” because of my pro-democracy activism. All of their interrogations related to my human rights work. In October last year they were sentenced to three years imprisonment based on coerced confessions under torture. My brother-in-law was punished further: he received an additional three years on identical charges, and is expecting a verdict on a third charge next week. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law is currently on hunger strike, protesting her humiliating treatment by the prison officers at Isa Town prison.
Some British MPs were rightly outraged that the Foreign Office did not use its leverage with the Bahraini regime to put an end to this torture-by-association. When Tom Brake MPcontacted the Bahraini embassy about the treatment of my wife’s family, the embassy said they had been “convicted by an independent Bahraini court”. But this response came a week before they had been convicted of any crime. The Bahraini government escalated the reprisals by triggering a legal case in absentia against my wife.
This is how the Bahraini authorities respond to protests in London and Bahrain. British taxpayers should be particularly offended. After all, public money has been spent on training Bahrain’s police in protest management.Bahraini police officers have even visited Belfast to learn from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Political exiles, Bahraini or Russian, should be able to live peacefully in the UK without fear of reprisals against them or their families. If the British government cannot guarantee that, then it should stop subsidising these foreign thugs.
 Sayed Alwadaei is director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

3/20/2018

Egypt-Bahrain military talks kick off in Cairo

https://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/egypt-bahrain-military-talks-kick-off-in-cairo/1093433

Egyptian army chief-of-staff and Bahrain's intelligence czar discuss burgeoning military cooperation
By Viola Fahmi 
CAIRO
Egyptian Army Chief-of-Staff Mohamed Farid Hegazy on Monday held talks in Cairo with Bahraini intelligence chief Khalifa bin Abdullah Al Khalifa to discuss bilateral military cooperation, according to an Egyptian army statement.
Military spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said the meeting -- attended by a sizeable Bahraini military delegation -- had also tackled “a number of issues related to the close partnership between our two countries”.
In recent years, Egypt has conducted several joint military exercises with Bahrain, the most recent of which were held in March in Bahraini capital Manama.

3/16/2018

INTRIGHI INTERNAZIONALI NEL BAHRAIN: IL RUOLO POLITICO DELLA STAMPA

https://caffedeigiornalisti.it/intrighi-internazionali-nel-bahrain-il-ruolo-politico-della-stampa/

by Adriana Fara

In Bahrain c’è un caso di libertà negata che sta facendo scalpore. Si tratta della accusa di spionaggio per Ali Salman, ex leader dell’opposizione di Al Wefaq, il movimento bahrenitacancellato nel 2017 da una sentenza in sezione civile. Dopo l’ennesimo rinvio dell’udienza, chiesto in questo caso dall’avvocato generale Osama Al Oufiper ascoltare le memorie della pubblica accusa, la tensione sul caso Salman è sempre più alta. 
Il pubblico ministero è in possesso di intercettazioni telefoniche raccolte durante gli scontri del 2011, al tempo delle Primavere Arabe in Bahrain con la rivoluzione del 14 febbraio 2011. Le accuse includono la trasmissione di segreti della difesa a un Paese straniero, l’accettazione di denaro in cambio di informazioni su segreti militari e la situazione interna, la trasmissione di notizie su media e reporter presenti sull’isola.
Le accuse si basano sulle prove raccolte da testimonianze e conversazioni telefoniche registrate tra Ali Salman e Hassan Sultan con i funzionari del Qatar di vari ministeri, compreso quello dell’Informazione. Il pubblico ministero ha aggiunto che le prove sulle quali basa le sue accuse investono il Qatar e i suoi media, come il network Al Jazeera, che però non viene mai nominata negli atti, e parla di attività destinata a sovvertire gli equilibri governativi di alcuni Stati arabi, principalmente il Bahrain, e dell’uso dei media e dei giornalisti per diffamare in Europa e nel mondo le autorità del governo o dei governi del Golfo Persico.
Solo Ali Salman è tuttora sotto custodia nelle carceri di Jau sulla costa orientale del Paese: sconta una pena detentiva per un altro caso giudiziario del 2014. Ha partecipato al processo accompagnato dai suoi avvocati. Nello stesso carcere sono in arresto due importanti attivisti politici, Nabeel Rajab e Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
Il Qatar, piccolo stato del Golfo Persico, è uno dei Paesi più ricchi al mondo grazie alle enormi riserve di petrolio e gas naturale, ed è diventato il paese più difficile da gestire in Medio Oriente; dal 5 di giugno 2017 è accusato da Arabia, Emirati Arabi e Bahrain di sostenere i gruppi terroristici dei Fratelli Musulmani in Egitto e il loro ramo palestinese, Hamas. Inoltre, schierandosi con la Fratellanza, è in contrasto con altri Paesi – in particolare l’Egitto – che vedono il gruppo come una minaccia per i loro regimi. Da non dimenticare è che il Qatar è sede del Comando Centrale degli Stati Uniti, che gestisce la base aerea di Al Udeid che ospita circa 10.000 soldati statunitensi, britannici e altri alleati e svolge un ruolo chiave nelle operazioni aeree americane in Iraq, Siria e Afghanistan devastati dalla guerra.Il tentativo del governo del Bahrain è di fare breccia, attraverso il caso giudiziario di Ali Salman, nell’establishment del Qatar e colpire le scelte di politica internazionale, certamente non condivise dalle famiglie del Golfo. Prima tra tutte, l’apertura politica e commerciale all’Iran.
La pericolosa querelle si preannuncia infinita, come tutti i rapporti di forza mediorientali con gli americani non proprio “estranei”. Il ministro Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa ha parlato da Algeri, dove ha guidato la delegazione del Bahrain alla 35a sessione del Consiglio dei Ministri degli Interni Arabi, sostenendo che “l’Iran ha violato le convenzioni e le norme internazionali e non ha dato all’Interpol nessun aiuto nelle informazioni. Si è posto al di sopra della legge e offre i suoi territori per addestrare terroristi ed esportare armi ed esplosivi”.
Il Bahrain, di concerto con gli altri paesi del Golfo, si è portato ancora più avanti e il 6 marzo ha ospitato la firma per l’accordo tra il ministro dell’Informazione e il consiglio di amministrazione dell’Indirizzo del Bahrain per lo Sviluppo Politico (BIPD), Ali bin Mohammed Al-Romaihi e il presidente del sindacato dei giornalisti egiziano e il presidente del consiglio di amministrazione della Fondazione Al-Ahram, Abdel Mohsen Salameh. Tutto sotto la guida Re Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa e del presidente Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Al-Romaihi ha elogiato le prese di posizione solidali della stampa e dei media egiziani nei confronti della sicurezza, della stabilità, dell’identità araba, del processo di sviluppo e del progresso “democratico” del Bahrain. Il ministro ha espresso la volontà dei due Paesi, nell’attivare la cooperazione nei settori della stampa, dell’informazione e della comunicazione attraverso lo scambio di notizie, informazioni e competenze tecniche per contrastare le ideologie estremiste che incitano all’odio e al terrorismo.


3/14/2018

Gina Haspel, Trump’s Pick for CIA Director, Ran a Black Site for Torture

https://theintercept.com/2017/02/02/trumps-cia-chief-selects-major-torture-operative-to-be-agencys-deputy-director/

February 2 2017,

Update: March 13, 2018
President Donald Trump nominated Gina Haspel as the new director of the CIA, announcing the news on Twitter. Mike Pompeo, the previous director, was nominated to run the State Department to replace the ousted Rex Tillerson.
* * * * *
IN MAY 2013, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the head of the CIA’s clandestine service was being shifted out of that position as a result of “a management shake-up” by then-Director John Brennan. As Miller documented, this official — whom the paper did not name because she was a covert agent at the time — was centrally involved in the worst abuses of the CIA’s Bush-era torture regime.
As Miller put it, she was “directly involved in its controversial interrogation program” and had an “extensive role” in torturing detainees. Even more troubling, she “had run a secret prison in Thailand” — part of the CIA’s network of “black sites” — “where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques.” The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture also detailed the central role she played in the particularly gruesome torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah.
Beyond all that, she played a vital role in the destruction of interrogation videotapesthat showed the torture of detainees both at the black site she ran and other secret agency locations. The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated multiple court orders as well as the demands of the 9/11 commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as “obstruction” by commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane. A special prosecutor and grand jury investigated those actions but ultimately chose not to prosecute.
The name of that CIA official whose torture activities the Post described is Gina Haspel. Today, as BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold noted, CIA Director Mike Pompeo announced that Haspel was selected by Trump to be deputy director of the CIA.
This should not come as much of a surprise given that Pompeo himself has said he is open to resurrecting Bush-era torture techniques (indeed, Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, was forced to withdraw from the running in late 2008 because of his support for some of those tactics only to be confirmed in 2013). That’s part of why it was so controversial that 14 Democrats — including their Senate leader Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Tim Kaine — voted to confirm Pompeo.
That Haspel was the actual subject of the 2013 Post story was an open secret. As Leopold said after I named her on Twitter as the subject of that story: “All of us who covered CIA knew. She was undercover and agency asked us not to print her name.” Gina Haspel is now slated to become the second-most powerful official at the CIA despite — or because of — the central, aggressive, sustained role she played in many of the most grotesque and shameful abuses of the war on terror.

3/11/2018

Qatar informs UN of more UAE, Bahrain airspace violations

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/qatar-informs-uae-bahrain-airspace-violations-180310074922788.html

Letter sent to UN Security Council details yet more airspace violations committed by Emirati and Bahraini aircraft.

Qatar informs UN of more UAE, Bahrain airspace violations
In a letter sent the UNSC, Qatari authorities said a Bahraini aircraft overflew Qatar's exclusive economic zone [Al Jazeera]
Qatar has informed the United Nations Security Council of yet more airspace violations committed by aircraft of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the third such violation in four months.
In a letter sent the UNSC on Friday, Qatari authorities said a Bahraini military aircraft overflew the exclusive economic zone of Qatar on February 28.
The plane was intercepted by a Qatari fighter jet before it left Qatari airspace, according to the letter.
On January 14, an Emirati military aircraft overflew Qatari territorial waters without permission from authorities in Doha, the letter further stated, adding that on February 25, another Emirati military aircraft approached the Qatari border before changing course after warnings were issued.
The Qatari mission to the UN called on the members of the Security Council to take the necessary steps to end the violations, asserting that the Qatari government reserved the right of response and defence, guaranteed by international covenants.
In a similar letter sent in January, Qatari authorities informed the UNSC of UAE airspace violations, saying they took place in the context of "irresponsible and provocative" actions by the UAE against Qatar.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt broke off ties with Doha accusing it of supporting "terrorist" groups and aligning itself too closely to their regional rival, Iran.
The quartet imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on Qatar, and also prevented Qatari aircraft from entering their airspace.
Qatar vehemently rejected the accusations but refrained from imposing reciprocal punitive measures on the four states.
In July 2017, the Qatari government condemned the UAE for its alleged role in orchestrating the hack of Qatar's state news agency and publishing false comments attributed to Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
The UAE has denied involvement in the hack.



3/06/2018

Bahrain arrests 116 on charges of terrorism, Iran collusion

http://www.dw.com/en/bahrain-arrests-116-on-charges-of-terrorism-iran-collusion/a-42814332


Bahraini security forces have arrested 116 people on charges of terrorism, accusing them of being part of a network established by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The suspects allegedly plotted attacks on state officials.

Bahrain authorities have busted a network "formed and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard," the official BNA agency reported on Saturday.
The Bahraini interior ministry said 116 people were arrested, with security forces seizing weapons and explosives in raids across the Gulf state.
The crackdown thwarted multiple terror plots, according to the report.
"The network was planning to target Bahraini officials, members of the security authorities and vital oil installations, with the objective of disturbing public security and harming the national economy," the interior ministry said in a statement.
During the raids, police seized 42 kilograms (93 pounds) of high explosives, 757 kilograms of explosive-making materials, grenades, magnetic bombs, as well projectiles and vehicles.  The authorities also discovered weapons, including pistols and several Kalashnikov rifles.
Officials claim that 48 of the 116 suspected militants received training in facilities ran by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and its allies.
Bahrain is ruled by Sunnis despite having a Shiite-majority population. The country holds a key strategic position Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf and serves as the host for the US 5th fleet.
The Manama government has repeatedly accused Iran of trying to destabilize it, with Tehran denying the charges.
Oil-rich Bahrain is still struggling with the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring. During the unrest, the country's Shiite population rallied against the Sunni-dominated government. In response, authorities launched a massive crackdown and called Saudi military to quash protests.
In recent years, Bahrain has faced bombings and small-scale attacks by Shiite militias. The country also launched a wave of arrests on against dissidents as well as suspected militants, with 47 people detained on terrorism charges in January.
dj/rc (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

Bahrain says seizes armed network set up by Iran's Revolutionary Guard

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bahrain-security/bahrain-says-seizes-armed-network-set-up-by-irans-revolutionary-guard-idUSKCN1GF0G4

Reuters Staff

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain said on Saturday it had rounded up 116 members of an armed network established and supported by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, suspected of plotting attacks on Bahraini government officials and security forces.
Iran’s foreign ministry could not immediately be reached for comment. But Iran has denied similar charges in the past.
The interior ministry in Bahrain said in a statement that investigators found sites used by the militants to manufacture and store explosives intended to be used for “terrorist attacks”.
Bahrain put down Arab Spring protests led by majority Shi’ite Muslims demanding reforms, but the Western-allied kingdom has faced a wave of bomb attacks by militants, whom the Sunni-led government says are trained and supported by Iran. Tehran denies the charges.
The island kingdom is strategically located in the Gulf between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran and is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
Bahrain has stepped up a crackdown on dissent since 2016, shuttering the main opposition parties, jailing or stripping citizenship from prominent dissidents and putting the top Shi’ite spiritual leader under de facto house arrest.
“Comprehensive investigations revealed the suspected terrorists were members of a network formed and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC),” the Bahraini ministry statement said.
“The network was planning to target Bahraini officials, members of the security authorities and vital oil installations, with the objective of disturbing public security and harming the national economy,” it said.
The statement said that 48 of the 116 people arrested had received training at IRGC facilities in Iran and their affiliated locations in Iraq and Lebanon.
The items found included explosives materials, automatic weapons, pistols and magnetic bombs and grenades, the statement said.
Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Andrew Bolton

3/04/2018

Saudi Arabia’s new mood: more freedom for women – but is the nation ready?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/03/saudi-arabia-new-mood-freedom-for-women-but-is-it-ready?utm_term=Autofeed&CMP=twt_b-gdnnews#link_time=1520118693

The kingdom’s women can now drive, join the military, visit sports arenas and cinemas – with other changes planned



Nada Qahtani and the seven women with her gathered expectantly in the atrium of the National Museum. Draped in black abayas, their faces shielded by masks that left only their eyes exposed, the group had not seen the building before and knew little about what was inside.
A giant new poster of one of Saudi Arabia’s ancient sites covered most of a wall ahead. And a collection of artefacts, predating the Islamic era, took pride of place inside the entrance. “There are two idols there,” said a museum attendant, pointing to an exhibition that would have been unthinkable in recent decades, when the country’s archaeological past was at best ignored, and often disavowed. “The rest are now being displayed in Japan.”
Once gatekeepers of a culture that regarded anything before the life of the Muslim prophet as a time of ignorance, the attendants were ushering in a new era that embraced – not eschewed – the region’s long history. In November, when the larger exhibition was opened, many feared that openly displaying artefacts regarded by some as idolatry would lead to a backlash. To the relief of many, the response has largely been positive.
“I was afraid,” said art historian Maha al-Sinan. “I did not know what people’s reaction would be. Especially since they were shown to the public for the first time. Religious beliefs have become related to social ideas. There was a need to spread awareness about what those idols really represent. Not each and every one was to be worshipped like a god. People are now driving this change and wanting us to recognise it.”
Qahtani, 26, was just as enthusiastic. “For us as a young generation, we need to know the history of our region,” she said. “We are deeply rooted here. And comprehending our historical identity matters to us.”
Outside the museum, understanding how the modern kingdom got to this point is also in vogue. For the past three months, political leaders have proclaimed – often to sceptical audiences – that acknowledging the country’s past is central to shaping its future. Discussions about history, archaeology and culture have become part of the Saudi lexicon. So, too, have other former taboos, such as individual liberties – and a national identity that has taken on dimensions beyond Islam.
Slowly a view is taking hold that real change is taking place in a kingdom renowned for resistance to anything new. But the pace of the reform programme, introduced by the crown prince and heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, has left many in the kingdom bewildered.
Last month alone, women were told they could join the military and the intelligence service. Driving schools will soon open for women who can legally take to the roads on their own in June. Sports arenas have opened to females and cinemas are being built and reopened across the country. And in a move that has startled many, a senior cleric recently decreed that wearing an abaya was not obligatory under Islam, and should be regarded as a personal choice.
“Most of what we know is Islamic culture. It’s important that there is something beyond that,” said Qahtani. “The way we Saudis were is not something we should hide from.”
Her purple trainers protruding from her robe, Qahtani said she welcomed the abaya decree, especially the bit about choice. “There was no- one forcing us to wear this in Islam,” she said, ignoring the fact that women who did not abide by the rigid dress code would probably have been whipped by the religious police. “For me this is a choice, it is part of my identity.”
Inside the museum Abdullah, a visitor from Mecca, said wearing the abaya was obligatory. Standing next to him, his sister and niece, both covered from head to toe, agreed. New cultural values were one thing, but personal codes another.
“And this is where they are going to run into resistance,” said a Riyadh-based diplomat. “Just how much support there is out there to a reform programme that genuinely is revolutionary is very tough to gauge.”
Nearly one year into his reign as the kingdom’s strongman, Mohammed bin Salman has consolidated his authority through a change agenda that has been so rapid it has muted those who might otherwise have warned against it. At the same time he has sidelined clerics he deems to have been unsupportive, and ousted rival royals who may have had a claim on the throne.
His heady rise will be recognised in London this week when the young crown prince will meet the Queen on his first foreign visit since his father, King Salman,dismissed his cousin, Mohammad bin Nayef, to give him a clear run at the monarchy. The reception awaiting the crown prince is that of both heir and de facto leader. “There is a lot to get behind,” said a senior British official. “The domestic agenda is real. But he has some issues on the regional front. And he needs to be careful who he listens to.”
Saudi Arabia remains embroiled in three regional conflicts – a war in Yemen, a standoff with Qatar, and a feud with Lebanon’s leader, Saad Hariri – all ignited by Prince Mohammed. The conflicts have roots in Saudi perceptions that the regional rival, Iran, has used all three arenas to advance its agenda. Across Riyadh, and in parts of the Middle East, the crown prince has been accused of unwittingly driving all three countries further into the hands of Iran.
“He doesn’t yet know how to lead,” said one leading Riyadh businessman. “But he will get there, hopefully.”
Across the Saudi capital for the past three months, the talk has been the goings-on in the Ritz Carlton hotel, where titans of industry, executives and politicians had been detained, facing graft charges. Hailed by Prince Mohammed as a corruption purge, and a marker of a new, more transparent business environment in a society keen to attract international capital, it was instead labelled by his critics as a blatant power grab.
One senior regional official described the episode, which ended in mid-February with several dozen detainees from an original list of close to 300 being transferred to a prison, as “a bit about all three” – first, a more transparent way of doing business globally; second, recouping assets and cash lost over decades of industrial-scale graft; third, eliminating what remained of Prince Mohammed’s rivals. “How he will emerge from all of this is yet to be written,” said another senior official.
Also uncertain is how a conservative society, unused to upsets, will emerge from such regular bouts of shock therapy. With announcements about the latest reforms being made almost daily, there is a fear that “the system” may derail momentum.
“There are many at medium levels of the bureaucracy who do not want to see women in the workplace, or on the streets,” said a senior military officer. “They know that the best way to stop this is not to appear to defy the rulers, but not do their bidding either. Any real change here will take a lot more than one guy saying it, no matter how strong he is.”
On Riyadh’s streets, a half-finished metro network and a half-finished financial centre suggest the gap between ambition and realisation remained vast. “Prices have more than doubled this past nine months,” said Mahmoud Azzam, a city driver. “If business doesn’t start to increase, that’s when you’ll see whether these reforms succeed or fail.”

3/02/2018

HRC Written Statement: Under the Guise of Countering Corruption, Saudi Arabia Suppresses Rights and Freedoms

http://www.adhrb.org/2018/02/under-the-guise-of-countering-corruption-saudi-arabia-suppresses-rights-and-freedoms/

On the occasion of the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, ADHRB submitted a written statement to the Council concerning human rights abuses ongoing in Saudi Arabia during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s anti-corruption campaign.
Under the Guise of Countering Corruption, Saudi Arabia Suppresses Rights and Freedoms
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) would like to take this opportunity at the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to discuss Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption campaign. We are concerned that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is using the campaign as a way to arrest rival princes and consolidate power, while holding those accused of corruption in extended pre-trial detention without due process protections. We are further concerned with the broader suppression of peaceful dissent and increased number of executions in the kingdom since bin Salman became Crown Prince in late June 2017.
Corruption Sweep
On 4 November, King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the formation of a committee chaired by the Crown Prince and charged with investigating corruption. The committee is empowered to “issue arrest warrants, travel bans, freeze [bank] accounts and […] take whatever measures [it deems] necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption.”[1]
On 5 November 2017, the Crown Prince ordered the arrest of dozens of people, including former and current ministers, and princes. By 9 November, officials had detained and interrogated 208 people over alleged corruption, while suspending around 1,700 personal domestic bank accounts.[2] While Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General estimated that “at least USD $100 billion had been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades,” the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimated $800 billion had been embezzled.[3]
While corruption in Saudi Arabia and among the royal family more specifically is something of an open secret, bin Salman has used the campaign as a way to consolidate power, and remove political rivals.
Consolidation of Power
For many years, the leadership of the kingdom’s three security agencies – the regular military, the internal security services, and the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) – had been “distributed among branches” of the Saudi royal family to ensure a balance of power.[4]
However, under the guise of tackling corruption, bin Salman ordered the arrest of Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah on corruption charges. Bin Abdullah was a favored son of King Abdullah and was once considered a contender for the throne.[5] He was also the commander of the SANG. The SANG has 100,000 men and is considered almost a “parallel army,” while holding considerable influence among the kingdom’s tribes.[6] In his place, King Salman appointed the young and inexperienced Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf Al Muqrin, about who little is known.
This move builds on previous royal decisions. In early 2015, King Salman named bin Salman Minister of Defense, granting him influence over military policy. In June 2017, the King removed Mohammed bin Nayef from his position as the powerful Minister of Interior, replacing him with someone younger and less experienced. In July 2017, King Salman signed a decree transferring security and intelligence responsibilities away from the Ministry of Interior to the newly created Presidency for State Security overseen directly by the King, significantly reducing the Ministry of Interior’s power.[7]
These moves eroded the balance of power established by distributing the security service portfolios to different familial branches, while serving to consolidate the King and the Crown Prince’s control and influence over the security services.
Human Rights Concerns
There have also been concerns of torture. While some of those detained have been held under house arrest in Riyadh’s luxurious Ritz-Carlton, officials have allegedly tortured other detainees. According to Middle East Eye, during their detention, “some senior figures were beaten and tortured so badly during their arrest or subsequent interrogations that they required hospital treatment.”[8]
There have also been concerns surrounding the lack of due process, as many detainees have not been officially charged with committing any crime, nor have they been brought before a judge. Instead, they have been held for several months without any formal charges, but only on suspicion of “corruption,” which has yet to be delineated, as the Attorney General has not enumerated specific charges. However, some detainees have secured their release by paying a fee – sometimes up to USD 1 billion. According to Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch, “this appears to be taking outside of anything that resembles a clear legal process. If the Saudi authorities don’t offer a chance for legal defense, then this is nothing other than a shakedown.”[9]
This swift detention of scores of individuals without due process protections is similar to the arrests in September 2017 of dozens of peaceful dissidents by bin Salman. In September 2017, authorities arrested at least 16 people deemed to be critical of bin Salman. The detainees had advocated for mild political reforms. Among them are prominent religious figures, writers, journalists, academics, and activists Abdulaziz al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid – founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), a human rights organization.[10] In early October, officials arrested 22 individuals on charges of “inciting against public order” on social media, and then detained another 24 people for “promoting lies and exaggerations on social media.”[11]
In addition to overseeing a widespread program of suppression of free expression, Mohammed bin Salman has also overseen a dramatic increase in the number of executions. Throughout 2017, Saudi Arabia executed 143 people. From the beginning of 2017 to 21 June, the kingdom executed 39 people. However, since bin Salman became Crown Prince in late June, the kingdom has executed over 100 more people. Among them were four peaceful protesters who were sentenced after they were tortured into confessed to committing spurious terror crimes. In addition, in late July, the Court of Appeal upheld the death sentences of 15 men, who were convicted of spying for Iran, but whose trials were severely marred by unfair trials, ridiculous charges, and torture-induced confessions.[12] In addition to the 15 men, there are 17 other individuals on death row for peaceful expression- and assembly-related crimes. Among them are seven minors, including Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, Mujtaba al-Suwaiket, Salman al-Quraish, Abdullah al-Sareeh, Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, and Abdullah al-Zaher. They are at risk of impending execution, with several having exhausted their legal appeals.
Conclusion
While Saudi Arabia faces significant problems concerning corruption, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s anti-corruption drive has raised serious concerns about the centralization of power and the silencing of peaceful dissidents and opponents. In the course of the sweep, the Crown Prince have consolidated his control over the kingdom’s three main security services and extended his personal power through the office of the King. More broadly, under the oversight of bin Salman, the kingdom has seen a dramatic increase in executions and death sentences related to peaceful dissident political activity.
Recommendations
ADHRB calls on the Government of Saudi Arabia to:
  • End the arbitrary detentions of those detained and either immediately and unconditionally release them without bail, or immediately bring substantiated charges against in line with international law-enforcement standards;
  • Hold any trials in a transparent manner and in a court that respects due process and internationally-recognized standards of fair trials;
  • Immediately empower an independent and impartial committee to investigate allegations of torture against detainees and prosecute and hold accountable any officials responsible for abuse and torture;
  • Immediately release all prisoners of conscience and drop all charges against them;
  • Immediately establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with the aim of abolishing capital punishment.
                            
[1] “A Series of Anti-Graft Royal Orders Announced, related Committee led by Crown Prince Formed,” Saudi Press Agency, 4 November 2017,http://www.spa.gov.sa/viewstory.php?lang=en&newsid=1684252.
[2] Center for International Communication, “Statement by the Attorney General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 9 November 2017, https://cic.org.sa/2017/11/statement-by-the-attorney-general-of-the-kingdom-of-saudi-arabia-2/; Stanley Carvalho and Tom Arnold, “Saudi graft inquiry spreads beyond borders as UAE examines bank accounts,” Reuters, 9 November 2017,https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests/saudi-graft-inquiry-spreads-beyond-borders-as-uae-examines-bank-accounts-idUSKBN1D91BL.
[3] Saeed Azhar and Joshua Franklin, “Saudi Arabia faces battle to repatriate assets after corruption crackdown,” Reuters, 9 November 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests-assets/saudi-arabia-faces-battle-to-repatriate-assets-after-corruption-crackdown-idUSKBN1D91LT.
[4] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Saudi Crown Prince’s Mass Purge Upends a Longstanding System,” New York Times, 5 November 2017,https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/world/middleeast/saudi-crown-prince-purge.html.
[5] Katie Paul, “Saudi prince, relieved from National Guard, once seen as throne contender,” Reuters, 4 November 2017,https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-government-defence-newsmaker/saudi-prince-relieved-from-national-guard-once-seen-as-throne-contender-idUSKBN1D40VG.
[6] Katie Paul and Stephen Kalin, “Saudi mass arrests jolt markets but many see overdue swoop on corruption,” Reuters, 7 November 2017,https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests/saudi-mass-arrests-jolt-markets-but-many-see-overdue-swoop-on-corruption-idUSKBN1D71NN; “Mapping the Saudi State Chapter 5: The National Guard,” Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, 3 August 2015, http://www.adhrb.org/2015/08/mapping-the-saudi-state-chapter-5-the-national-guard/.
[7] “Presidency of State Security: A vision for development and prosperity,” Saudi Gazette, available athttp://saudigazette.com.sa/article/513537/SAUDI-ARABIA/State-Security.
[8] David Hearst, “EXCLUSIVE: Senior Saudi figures tortured and beaten in purge,” Middle East Eye, 9 November 2017,http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-senior-figures-tortured-and-beaten-saudi-purge-1489501498.
[9] Ben Hubbard and David D. Kirkpatrick, “Saudi Arabia Squeezes Detainees as It Tries to Seize Assets,” New York Times, 20 November 2017,https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/20/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-corruption.html.
[10] “At Least 16 More Arrests in Saudi Arabia Amid Succession and Qatar Crisis,” Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, 28 September 2017, https://www.adhrb.org/2017/09/at-least-16-more-arrests-in-saudi-arabia-amid-succession-and-qatar-crisis/.
[11] “Saudi Arabia arrests 22 for spreading online videos,” AlJazeera, 5 October 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/saudi-arabia-arrests-22-spreading-online-videos-171005084136674.html.
[12] “Saudi Arabia: Death sentence upheld on appeal for 15 men,” Amnesty International, 24 July 2017,https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde23/6786/2017/en/.
[1] “Saudi Arabia: Death sentence upheld on appeal for 15 men,” Amnesty International, 24 July 2017,https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde23/6786/2017/en/.