Saudi Arabia has been accused of using anti-terror laws to suppress free expression and failing to carry out independent inquiries into its Yemen bombing campaign in a hard-hitting report published on 4th May by the UN special rapporteur on human rights. The report follows a five-day visit by Ben Emmerson QC on behalf of the UN to Riyadh, where Saudi officials refused to grant the rapporteur access to prisoners the UN believes are being wrongly held under anti-terror laws. He also said he had heard repeated stories of wrongful arrest, misuse of court procedures, cases of torture to extract confessions and clear cases of miscarriages of justice in recent beheadings. Emmerson also called specifically for the release of 10 named Saudis who he said had been arbitrarily arrested, largely because they had expressed criticism of aspects of the kingdom. Despite this bleak HR record, the US is trying to push through multi-billion dollar arms sales contracts with Saudi Arabia before President Trump’s forthcoming kingdom visit. More than $1bn worth of munitions including armour-piercing Penetrator Warheads and Paveway laser-guided bombs made by Raytheon are among the contracts being negotiated. The Obama administration had suspended the planned Raytheon sale because of concerns over civilian casualties in the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. In past few days Awwamiyah Town in Eastern Province has been targeted by Saudi forces attempting to alter the demographic composition of the province. Citizens homes and cars were hit and destroyed.
In the week 1st to 7th May the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has documented at least 73 protests in 29 towns and villages. At least 11 of these protests were attacked by regime’s mercenary forces using chemical and tear gases and shotguns causing injuries to at least three native citizens. There were several arrests including one woman. Eighteen people were brought to Alkhalifa courts which sentenced them to a total of 121 years. One of them was given life sentence. A senior member of AlWefaq Society has been remanded in custody for 30 days after his arrest. Nazar Al Qari was arrested on 5th May and his house thoroughly searched. He had been jailed and tortured in the nineties. At one stage he took refuge at the British Embassy in Manama which subsequently forced him out and into the hands of the regime’s torturers.
The regime has started implementing one of its most draconian rules; trying civilians by military courts. After eight months of forced disappearance, young native Fadhel Sayed Abbas was yesterday brought to a military court. He has endured incalculable torture throughout. Yesterday Amnesty International issued a Press Release condemning this step: “This is a shameful move by the authorities designed to strike fear in the heart of the population. It is also a serious blow for justice in Bahrain. Military trials in Bahrain are flagrantly unfair. And trying civilians before military courts is contrary to international standards,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office. “The decision to transfer Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi to the military court must immediately be quashed. He must be given immediate access to proper legal representation, informed of the charges against him, and tried in a civilian court, according to international fair trial standards.”
On 4th May The Associated Press joined with other news organizations in signing a letter to Bahrain’s dictator, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, calling on him to instruct his government to allow journalists to freely operate in the country. After describing the dire situation and the ill-treatment of journalists, the letter said: “These recent actions have had a chilling effect on the media’s ability to cover Bahrain at a time when the country faces a growing set of challenges. The apparently coordinated action against journalists working for international news agencies suggests that Bahrain—which prides itself as being a business friendly, reform-minded beacon of openness and tolerance—aims to block independent news and images from reaching the wider world. The letter said: “We collectively call on you to instruct your government to allow journalists to freely operate in Bahrain and to give foreign media organizations equal access to the country.” It was signed by: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Agence France-Presse (AFP), The Associated Press (AP), France 24, International Press Institute (IPI), Monte Carlo Doualiya and Reporters Without Borders (RSF.
Bahrain has barred German ARD reporter Robert Kempe from entering the country to attend the FIFA Congress. He had been critical of Alkhalifa candidate for FIFA presidency who was crushed by his competitor, the present president. Revenge is an Alkhalifa art used against anyone who criticises them.
UK MPs and rights groups have reacted with dismay over the use of a secretive £1bn government aid and security fund to pay for a Royal Marines band to play in Bahrain for the Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, despite the country’s dire human rights record. Funds from the conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF), which is aimed at tackling conflicts and building stability overseas, were used to send the Royal Marines band to Bahrain in April 2016 at a cost of £25,000 to the taxpayer.
Bahrain Freedom Movement,