UN experts decry Saudi repression, Alkhalifa escalate citizenship revocation

On the second anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s last mass execution, of 47 adults, UN human rights experts and groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have decried the latest crackdown on dissent, which began after Prince Mohammed bin Salman became the new crown prince in June. In a statement, five UN experts condemned a “worrying pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detention” through the Gulf kingdom’s use of counter-terrorism and security laws. “We are witnessing the persecution of human rights defenders for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and belief, as well as in retaliation for their work,” the experts said. “The government has ignored repeated calls by UN experts and others to halt these violations, rectify them, and prevent their recurrence.” The statement added: “Despite being elected as member of the [UN] Human Rights Council at the end of 2016, Saudi Arabia has continued its practice of silencing, arbitrarily arresting, detaining and persecuting human rights defenders and critics,” the experts said.

Reprieve, which lobbies to abolish the death penalty, warned of fresh repression under the new Saudi crown prince. Yesterday it issued a statement to highlight he anniversary of Saudi’s mass execution two years ago. The group raised concerns for 14 political prisoners, including one arrested as a juvenile, who face imminent execution, after their death sentences were upheld in July 2017.

Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz, one of the last surviving sons of the founder of the Saudi kingdom has been on hunger strike since 10th November 2017. He is protesting the purge that his nephew, Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) has undertaken against many of his cousins including his son AlWaleed bin Talal. The 86-year-old prince, who is the half brother of King Salman, stopped eating on 10 November, shortly after his first son, Alwaleed, was arrested on 4 November, and has lost 10 kilos in one month. Last week, a feeding tube was inserted into him, but his condition at the King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh remains weak, according to several people who have visited him. He is known for his relatively liberal views. He was shocked by the arrest of his son, AlWaleed on 4th November with many other nephews and relatives. Al Waleed has refused to pay $7 billions for his release as demanded by MBS. Yesterday Saudi authorities arrested Saleh Al Shaihi, a columnist with Al Watan newspaper published in Riyadh.

On 28 December 2017 Alkhalifa court again postponed until 4 January 2018 the trial of Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of the now-dissolved Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, on new charges of maintaining “intelligence contacts with Qatar.” Sheikh Salman is currently incarcerated on separate charges stemming solely from political speeches he delivered in 2014, and this new case could further extend his arbitrary prison term. In a statement, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemned the Bahraini government’s judicial campaign against peaceful political opposition and called on the authorities to immediately drop these baseless charges against Sheikh Ali Salman.

Yesterday regime forces detained Sheikh Mahmood Al Aali from Alkhalifa court for openly defending Ayatuallah Sheikh Isa Qassim in one of his sermons. He was deputy president of the Islamic Scholars Council which had been dissolved by the regime. Masked members of regime’s Death Squads have snatched young Bahraini native, Mohammad Habib Helal from the town of Demstan. He had been in hiding since he was given a life sentence and had his nationality revoked. His main offence was his participation in anti-regime protests to mark the Martyrs Day in 2012. Also Hussain Abdulla Al Rashed from the same town was snatched. He had been sentenced to death for his anti-regime activities.

Worrying reports have been leaked from the notorious Jaw prison that infectious skin diseases have spread among inmates as the prison conditions continued to deteriorate. Scores of native Bahraini inmates have been transferred to solitary confinement ostensibly to “contain” these diseases. Serious medical care has not been given to the victims.

On 27th December regime’s courts have issued life sentences against ten natives for opposing the tribal autocracy. Eleven others have had their nationality revoked. More than 500 natives have been stripped of their nationality as the regime continues its policy of demographic change in the country.

In the span of four years more than 1400 travel ban verdicts were issued in Bahrain in the period between the years 2013-2016. This came in the reply of Alkhalifa justice minister, Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa to parliamentary queries recently submitted by one of the members. The queries were regarding the latest statistics of the ministry in relation to court cases, their types and numbers. Alkhalifa confirmed that travel bans were taken in 1,442 cases between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2016.

Bahrain Freedom Movement
3rd January 2018 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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