HC to decide UK’s arming of Saudis, as Alkhalifa revenge from AlWefaq

HC to decide UK’s arming of Saudis, as Alkhalifa revenge from AlWefaq

Yesterday, The High Court in central London began to examine the legality of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The case was brought to court by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). The UK government has been repeatedly asked to stop supporting the Saudi-led aggression on Yemen which was launched in March 2015 and has killed more than 20,000 people. There is a good possibility that the court could rule against the government, in which case the Saudis will lose the moral and political support it has enjoyed for two years. It could herald the beginning of the end of the Saudi expansionist policy in the region and could expose its leaders to war crimes tribunals. It will also signal a military and moral defeat of the Saudis.

Anger is growing among the British public after it emerged that Ministers had refused to stop bomb sales to Saudi Arabia despite being told to do so by own export control chief. Sajid Javid, the then business secretary was told a year ago about concerns that weapons could be used to kill civilians in Yemen, according to ministerial correspondence that emerged on the first day yesterday of a judicial review into UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Edward Bell, head of the Export Controls Organisation, wrote in an email about the decision: “To be honest, and I was very direct and honest with the secretary of state, my gut tells me we should suspend [weapons exports to the country].” The question had also been raised with the prime minister, Bell wrote.

In the week 30th January to 5th February the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights documented at least 21 arbitrary arrests including one child. At least 36 citizens were sentenced by Alkhalifa courts to long term jail sentences. There were at least 52 protests calling for regime change, thirteen of which were attacked by Alkhalifa mercenaries and Death Squads. On 3rd February three children from Saar Town were detained from their home and abused. Kadhim, Amir & Loay were playing on their Playstation when their home was raided by masked men using extreme force. On Monday 6th February, Alkhalifa top court rejected an appeal by the country’s main opposition group Al Wefaq against its dissolution over its anti-regime stands. The court of cassation “denied the appeal against the dissolution of Al Wefaq and the seizure of its assets,” the source said. The court ruling drew criticism from the United Nations.

Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi has been detained without charge since his arrest on 29 September 2016. He has had no access to a lawyer and only limited access to his family. His family have not heard from him since 10 December 2016 nor have they received any information about his whereabouts or well-being. Amnesty International (AI) has expressed concern that he is a victim of enforced disappearance and at risk of torture and other ill treatment. AI has asked people to write: Urging the Bahraini authorities to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, and to release him unless he is promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence, in accordance with international law and standards;  Calling on them to provide him with prompt and regular access to his family, lawyer and any medical attention he may require and ensure that, pending his release, he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment.

The Foreign Office has been accused of trying to cover up its funding of a programme to train the Alkhalifa police in crowd control techniques, including the use of water cannons and dogs. Officials have consistently denied that the £1bn conflict, stability and security fund has been used for any public order programmes with Bahrain’s security forces. On 5th February the Sunday Times said that the fund was used to pay for Bahrain’s chief of police, Tariq al-Hassan, and other senior officers to travel to Belfast to learn how police in Northern Ireland deal with public protests. It also emerged that “journalist” Justin Hunter who was killed in a car accident in early December was working privately to help train Bahraini police and government officials, according to “Belfast Live” on 5th February. Human rights group Reprieve has criticised the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland” for “sharing its expertise on gathering intelligence ahead of parades” with around half a dozen Bahraini police officers during the visit to Belfast in August 2015.

English PEN has joined 20 other NGOs and rights campaigners to send an open letter to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, urging him to call for the release of jailed human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The letter, signed by Amnesty International, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), PEN International, Index on Censorship and others states: “The UK’s significant historical, economic, security and political ties with Bahrain incur a responsibility to acknowledge and criticise negative human rights developments within the country. The UK’s voice is strongly heard in Bahrain, and we urge you to act publicly and promptly in support of Nabeel Rajab’s human rights work and call for his release.”

Bahrain Freedom Movement

8th February 2017 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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