Arbitrary arrests, raids and restrictions on freedom of movement
121 cases of arbitrary arrest, including 6 children, were recorded,climaxing on January 23, 2018 and amounting to 44 unlawful arrests and 138 raids on houses and residential establishments that werecarried out without arrest warrants, and in a manner that spreads terror amongcitizens. In addition, the freedom of movement was violated through the continuationof the security siege on Duraz for 589 days and the imposition of house arreston the highest religious authority for the Shiite Muslims in Bahrain, AyatollahSheikh Isa Qassim, for 252 days without a judicial order or administrativedecision.
On January31, 2018, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim was transferred to the hospital after a13-day deliberate delay by the authorities, as he was scheduled for surgery onJanuary 18, 2018, therefore his rights to treatment and to freedom of movementwere violated.
Meanwhile,the security authorities continued to violate freedom of religion and belief bybanning Friday prayers at Duraz for 4 times in January, bringing the number to81 preventions since 2016. In addition, 200Bahraini citizens have been accused or arrested in the Public Prosecution andpresented to the Bahraini judiciary for reasons relating to freedom ofexpression and peaceful assembly.
Hate speech: 342 media materials
342 mediamaterials and messages that incite or help to incite hatred against humanrights defenders, political activists and Bahraini citizens were observedinJanuary. Those materials are divided into 89 media articles published in theofficial press and 253 materials published on social media by users thatinclude official and media figures, such as Assistant Undersecretary forInformation and Follow-up at the Prime Minister's Court, Ibrahim Al-Dosari,Ministry of Information Affairs’ adviser, Sawsan Al-Shaer, former MP MohammedKhaled, and journalists Faisal Al-Sheikh, Farid Hassan, Mona Mutawa and SaeedAl-Hamad.
The mediamaterials inciting hatred published in local press are as follows: 18 articlesin the Bahraini Al-Ayam newspaper, 25 articles in Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper, 13articles in the Bahraini Al-Bilad newspaper, and 33 articles in the BahrainiAl-Watan newspaper.
Torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and destruction ofproperty
18 cases oftorture and ill-treatment, which climaxed on January 14, 2018, were observed.The cases include four women and eight children – one of them an infant – who weresubjected to ill-treatment while attempting to enter the sieged area of Duraz. Inaddition, three children from Buri were also subjected to ill-treatment. Thedetained child, Sayed Hadi Ali Ne'ma from Iskan Aali and detainee Ammar AbdulGhani from Al-Daih were subjected to torture. Moreover, the right to treatmentand health care of Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the Movement for CivilLiberties and Democracy (HAQ), was violated. Moreover, 2 cases of destruction of property were observed onJanuary 24 and January 27, 2018. Also, 17 cases of enforced disappearance ofBahraini citizens were observed, including Ali Hussein Jassem who disappearedfor 45 days, Salman Ismail who disappeared for 40 days, Hussain Humaid Madanwho disappeared for 28 days, Mustafa Bahr who disappeared for 27 days, AbbasRahma who disappeared for 20 days and Mansour Al-Dulabi who disappeared for 20days.The cases of enforced disappearances were regionally distributed as follows:10 cases from Duraz, 3 cases from Nuwaidrat, and 1 case from each of Manama,Abu Saiba, Bilad Al-Qadeem, and Barbar.
In addition,77 Bahraini citizens were handed arbitrary sentences, whichclimaxed on the 24th and 29th of January, 2018, amountingto 24 cases. The total arbitrary sentences amounted to the following: 679 years of imprisonment, 3 years of imprisonment suspended forone year term, total fines of US $268,000, 39 sentences of revoking nationalities, and 10 sentences of deportingcitizens whose nationalities were revoked, four of them were deported before January1, 2018. In addition, the death sentence against Maher Al-Khabaz was upheld,even though four UN experts issued a report saying that he was subjected to tortureand ill-treatment. 2 death sentences were issued against Ali Al-Arab and AhmadAl- Mullali. Also, amongthose who were arbitraily imprisoned are 4 women.
The trial hearings,which violate the freedom of political action of Bahraini opposition leaderSheikh Ali Salman, as well as two former MPs of the Al-Wefaq parliamentarybloc, Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Al-Aswad, continued.The fourth hearing washeld on January 4, 2018 and the fifth hearing on January 25, 2018. In the fifthhearing, Sheikh Ali Salman emphasizedthat the audio recordings which were usedas indictments for the charge of spying for Qatar are cut in a way thatdistorted their contents.
On January 16,2018, Bahrain's Court of Cassation upheld a two-year prison sentence againstNabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and DeputySecretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights. A statementby the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said,“We are very worried about Nabeel's safety and well-being,”adding, “Authoritiesshould release him immediately, drop the charges against him, and investigatethoroughly his possible ill-treatment in detention.”
Appeals hearingsat the military judiciary for 17 civilians and one soldiercontinued to be held,in which civilian victims were tortured and ill-treated. Three appeals hearingswere held on January 10, 14 and 31, 2018, and the case was reserved until February21, 2018 without investigating the torture complaints which include 11violations: torture by electric shock, enforced disappearance, sleep andbathing deprivation, severe beatings and solitary confinement. On December 25, 2017,the military court sentenced five civilians and one soldier to death in thiscase, including human rights activist and head of Liberties and Human RightsDepartment at Al-Wefaq Society, Mohammed Al-Motaghawi, and the personal escortof Sheikh Isa Qassim, communications engineer Sayed Alawi Hussein.
Bahraini authorities have deported eight stateless Bahrainis, whom they had previously stripped of their citizenship, since January 29, 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. The deportations followed an appeals court decision to uphold a 2012 ruling that ordered the deportation and stripping of citizenship of nine Bahraini nationals for “damaging state security.”
Since 2012, Bahraini authorities have stripped 578 nationals of their citizenship, leaving many stateless. In the most recent cases, on January 31, the Fourth High Criminal Court stripped 47 people of their citizenship on terrorism related charges, and on February 1 the same court stripped another 25 people of their citizenship. Bahrain should immediately put an end to these arbitrary deportations and restore citizenship to those who have been left stateless or whose citizenship was revoked unfairly or arbitrarily, Human Rights Watch said.
“Bahraini authorities have dropped all pretense of pluralism and tolerance for dissent and are clearly stripping away the citizenships of people whom they find undesirable,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Right Watch.
On January 24, the First High Court of Appeal upheld a November 7, 2012 ruling to strip citizenship from the nine people and to deport them, according to a news report citing their lawyer.
Authorities deported four of them to Najaf, Iraq – two brothers, Ibrahim and Ismail Darwish, on January 29, and Adnan Kamal and Habib Darwish on January 30, a human rights activist in Bahrain told Human Rights Watch. Due to concerns for their safety, the human rights activist requested to remain anonymous. Bahrain deported another four to Najaf on February 1: Abdulnabi al-Mosawi; his wife, Maryam Ibrahim; and his two brothers, Mohamed al-Mosawi and Abdulamir al-Mosawi. The ninth person, Adnan Ahmed Ali, was not in Bahrain when the judgment was delivered. The human rights activist said that Ali had agreed to voluntarily leave Bahrain for Iran some years ago.
These nine people were part of a larger group of 31 people, including opposition political activists, lawyers, and rights activists, whose citizenship an Interior Ministry decree revoked on November 7, 2012. The ministry based its decision on Article 10 (3) of the Bahraini Citizenship Act of 1963, claiming the 31 were “damaging the security of the state.” Only 18 of the 31 were in Bahrain at the time. Only an estimated five had dual citizenship, leaving the majority affected by the 2012 decision stateless.
The activist also told Human Rights Watch that the High Appeal Civil Court had moved up a session to consider the group’s appeals from December 31, 2017, to October 26 without informing the legal teams. Though the lawyers were not at the hearing and had no opportunity to present their cases, the court refused to rescind the order. The court action deprived the 31 people of their chance to exhaust all legal means to challenge the charges against them, the activist said. The Appeals Court used this decision in its ruling to uphold the deportation orders for the nine members of the group.
Since 2012, Bahrain’s courts have on several occasions issued mass sentences that included stripping of citizenship and prison terms. The 47 people stripped of citizenship on January 31 were among 60 the Fourth High Criminal Court sentenced that day on charges of forming a terrorist group.
Bahrain’s Supreme Court on January 29 also upheld a one-year prison sentence for Sheikh Isa Qassim, a Shiite spiritual leader of the now dissolved main opposition group al-Wefaq, and confirmed the revocation of his citizenship.
On July 24, 2014, Bahrain’s Official Gazette published amendments to the Citizenship Law of 1963. Article 10 permits the Interior Ministry, with cabinet approval, to strip the citizenship of a person who “aids or is involved in the service of a hostile state” or who “causes harm to the interests of the Kingdom or acts in a way that contravenes his duty of loyalty to it.” The July 2014 amendments to Bahrain’s citizenship laws grant the Interior Ministry additional authority to revoke the citizenship of people who fail in their “duty of loyalty” to the state.
Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality. Article 12 of the declaration states that, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.” In 1999, the Human Rights Committee, which interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has signed, stated that “The scope of ‘his own country’ is broader than the concept ‘country of his nationality,’” and that it would apply to people who have been stripped of their nationality in violation of international law.
Article 29 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, states that “Every person has the right to a nationality, and no citizen shall be deprived of his nationality without a legally valid reason.”
“By slapping human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and religious scholars with arbitrary citizenship revocations and deportations, Bahraini authorities are reducing courts to rubber-stamps on their quest to stifle dissent completely,” Whitson said.
Brothers Ismail and Ibrahim Darwish were expelled to Iraq at 09:00am on 28 January 2018, followed by Adnan Kamal and Habib Darwish on 29 January 2018. Four other people, Mohammed Ali, Abdul Amir, Abdulnabi Almosawi and his wife Maryam Redha, who also had their nationality revoked that same year, were told they would be forcibly deported to Iraq on 1 February 2018.
“The Bahraini government is using revocation of nationality – rendering many of its citizens stateless in the process - and expulsion, as tools to crush all forms of opposition, dissent and activism.” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director
“It is doing so with little to no pushback from the international community, including key allies such as the United Kingdom that could use their leverage to publicly condemn these actions,”
“Turning citizens into stateless people and banishing them by forcing them to leave the country is a violation of international law. Bahrain’s authorities must immediately halt all planned expulsions and allow those it has already expelled to return to the country and reinstate their nationality.”
The four men who were expelled are part of a group of 31 Bahraini citizens who were stripped of their nationality on 7 November 2012 on grounds that they had caused “damage to state security”. The 31 people, who were never officially notified of this decision and learned about it from the media, include activists who are now in exile, a lawyer, Shi’a clerics, two former members of parliament and other individuals with no political or religious affiliation.
Since 2011, the Bahraini authorities have revoked the nationality of over 550 people, including at least 150 in 2017.
Article 10 of the Bahrain Citizenship Law and its amendments stipulates that nationality can be revoked if a person engages in the military service of a foreign country; if a person helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; or if a person causes harm to state security.
This paragraph is framed too broadly and does not clearly define what could amount to “harm to state security” - thus enabling the state to crush the legitimate and peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly through revocation of nationality, even when doing so renders people stateless.
On 28 October 2014 a lower court in the capital, Manama, ordered the deportation of 10 out of the 31 people whose Bahraini nationality was arbitrarily revoked on 7 November 2012 and fined them 100 Bahraini Dinars.
On 29 January 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld the citizenship revocation and the one-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, of Sheikh Isa Qassem, the country’s most prominent Shi’a cleric and spiritual leader of the al-Wefaq opposition party, who is also now at risk of being forcibly expelled.
Bahrain’s preeminent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, is serving a two-year sentence for speech crimes, a punishment that a Manama appeals court upheld on January 15, 2018. Rajab faces an additional 15 years in a separate trial on charges that include tweets criticizing the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen. A Bahraini court in May dissolved the secular-left National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) after the group condemned the January execution of three men. And in June, the government ordered the suspension of Al Wasat, Bahrain’s only independent newspaper.
“Bahrain’s tolerance for dissent is approaching vanishing point, erasing whatever progress it made after promising to make reforms following the unrest in 2011,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that political leaders willing to stand up for human rights principles showed that it is possible to limit authoritarian populist agendas. When combined with mobilized publics and effective multilateral actors, these leaders demonstrated that the rise of anti-rights governments is not inevitable.
Bahrain’s authorities placed 20 rights activists, lawyers, and political opposition figures under a de facto travel ban in September that prevented them from attending Geneva meetings in connection with Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
According to one human rights group, Bahraini authorities also stripped at least 156 citizens of their nationality in 2017, leaving them de facto stateless. Authorities also enacted a law that allows for the prosecution of civilians in military courts. In 2017, Bahraini courts sentenced to death a total of 14 people, including Sayed Alawi, a civilian engineer, who was one of six sentenced to death by a military court on December 25, 2017, for alleged terrorist activities.
Two relatives of Sayed Alwadaei, a human rights defender exiled in the United Kingdom, were sentenced to three years and another relative to six years in prison, on terrorism-related charges, despite due process violations and allegations of ill-treatment and of coerced confessions. It was not the first time that Bahraini authorities have targeted relatives to pressure or punish activists in exile.
The oversight bodies that the government set up in 2012 in response to a recommendation by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, failed to perform their stated mission of investigating credibly allegations of prison abuse.
Death or Confession": a report by human rights organizations monitors the torture of civilians in Bahrain's first military trial
Four Bahraini human rights organizations issued a report under the title of "Death or Confession", a report that monitors the violations due to secret military courts that tried civilians whose confessions were extracted under torture. These civilian were accused of attempting to commit crimes against Bahrain Defense Force, including human rights activist Mohammed Al Mutghawi and Sayed Alawi Husain, who is the personal attendant of the highest religious cleric in Bahrain Shaikh Isa Qassim.
It is important to note that this is now the first military trial for civilians since the recent legal amendment to the military judiciary.
The human rights organizations participating in drafting and writing of this report are: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said that "the trial violates fair trial procedures and that some of the accused were subjected to torture and ill-treatment". It added: "The recent constitutional amendment to the military judiciary was used to expose them to a trial that produces harsh sentences, as well as the arbitrariness of punitive sentences against three accused persons arrested as children", explaining that "two of the accused were forcibly disappeared around the year, namely Sayed Alawi Husain and Fadhel Abbas, without being investigated for their enforced disappearance.
The President of the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, Baqer Darwish, said that the "judiciary did not investigate the defendants' allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Military courts resorted to intimidating methods to threaten some of the families of victims and lawyers by exposing them to degrading treatment if violations were revealed on the media, or by human rights organizations". He also noted "In view of this, the judiciary has used the decision to secrecy of hearings to commit abuses and to enable those involved in torturing the accused with impunity".
Asma Darwish, the Head of International Relations in SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, pointed out that "the right to fair trials is an inherent right of any citizen anywhere and at any time, and no one has the right to violate such rights. incompatible with these inherent rights. Therefore, the decision to try citizens in military courts must be brought to an end because they do not conform to these inherent rights".
Yahya Al Hadid, President of the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, criticized the "role played by the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) by issuing a statement praising the proceedings of the case, while it did not mention in its statement on the 14th of November 2017 that the military judiciary is not the usual judge stipulated in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That means the NIHR is contributing to the legitimization of the role of the military judiciary in the trial of civilians in spite of its violations to the international Military Justice Law. It also did not have a clear position on the matter of the enforced disappearance of the four defendants".
The report recommended the repeal of the constitutional amendment and the restoration of Article 105 of the Bahraini Constitution as it was; to ensure that civilians are not tried in military courts and to repeal Law No. 12 of 2017 amending the Military Jurisdiction Law, which allowed civilians to be tried by military courts. That is to also open an independent investigation into all complaints of violations in this and other cases, concerning complaints of torture and ill-treatment.
The report also stressed that the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner and the members of the Human Rights Council should urge the Government of Bahrain to adopt the basic principles on the independence and application of the judiciary. That is in order to ensure that the Government of Bahrain retracts the trial of civilians in military courts and amends the law. It also urges the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to request a visit to Bahrain and to call on the Bahraini authorities to accept the request for his visit.
To read the report click here
Reuters: Bahrain's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric underwent surgery on Friday, activists said, after he was hospitalized following months under virtual house arrest.
Qassim, who is believed to be in his 70s, was suffering constant pain and excreting blood, citing a groin hernia, diabetes and a form of heart disease, the group said on Nov 27.
DJIBOUTI (Reuters) - Late last year, the Kota Nazar, a Singaporean ship with 636 containers of steel, paper, medicine and other goods, set sail to Hodeida, the largest cargo port in war-torn Yemen.
It never got there. Like dozens of other ships carrying food and supplies to Yemen over the past 30 months, the Kota Nazar was stopped by a Saudi Arabian warship blocking Yemen’s ports on the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been stationing naval forces in and around Yemeni waters since 2015. Western governments approved the show of military force as a way to stop arms reaching Houthi fighters trying to overthrow Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
The de facto blockade is exacting a dire humanitarian toll. The Saudi-led coalition’s ships are preventing essential supplies from entering Yemen, even in cases where vessels are carrying no weapons, according to previously unreported port records, a confidential United Nations report and interviews with humanitarian agencies and shipping lines.
A U.N. system set up in May 2016 to ease delivery of commercial goods through the blockade has failed to ensure the Yemeni people get the supplies they need.
The result is the effective isolation of Yemen, a nation of 28 million people where a quarter of the population is starving, according to the United Nations. The war has claimed 10,000 lives. Half a million children under the age of five are severely malnourished, and at least 2,135 people, most of them children, have died of cholera in the past six months.
Aid agencies have ramped up their deliveries of food to some parts of Yemen this year. But Yemen imports more than 85 percent of its food and medicine, and commercial shipments have plunged. In the first eight months of this year, only 21 container ships sailed to Hodeida, according to port data compiled by the U.N. World Food Programme and Reuters. By comparison, 54 container ships delivered twice the volume of goods in the same period last year. Before the war, 129 container ships reached the port in the first eight months of 2014.
Food and medicine are being choked off. No commercial shipment of pharmaceuticals has made its way to Hodeida since a Saudi-led airstrike destroyed the port’s industrial cranes in August 2015, according to the administrator of the port, which is under Houthi control. In at least one case this year, a blocked commercial shipment contained humanitarian aid as well.
Representatives of the Houthi movement could not be reached for comment. Yemeni government officials declined to comment.
Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, the Saudi ambassador to the U.N., denied last week that the coalition was blocking commercial shipments of food, medicine and fuel. Mouallimi said Yemen was receiving humanitarian aid.
”I can assure you that no shipment of humanitarian aid is being prevented from reaching Yemen by the coalition or for that matter by the Yemeni government. We have given clearance to all such requests for docking by any ship that carries humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen.
“We are the largest contributor of aid to the people of Yemen so it doesn’t make sense for us to, on the one hand, be providing that aid and, on the other hand, be blocking it somewhere else.”
In the cases of the Kota Nazar and 12 other ships examined in detail by Reuters, the Saudi-led blockade turned away or severely delayed vessels carrying aid and commercial goods before they reached Yemeni ports even though the United Nations had cleared the cargo and there were no arms aboard. Seven of those vessels were carrying medicine and food in addition to other supplies.
Aid shipments are caught in the net. One of the seven vessels was carrying antibiotics, surgical equipment and medication for cholera and malaria for 300,000 people. The shipment was held up for three months, during which $20,000 worth of medicine was damaged or expired, according to U.K.-based aid group Save the Children.
In July, four oil tankers carrying 71,000 tonnes of fuel, equivalent to 10 percent of Yemen’s monthly fuel needs, were denied entry. Two were allowed in after five weeks, port records show.
In a report published last month, Human Rights Watch said that the Saudi-led coalition “arbitrarily diverted or delayed” seven fuel tankers headed to Houthi-controlled ports between May and September this year. In one case, a vessel was held in a Saudi port for more than five months, the group said.
Early this summer, Yemen’s internationally recognized government notified the United Nations that it had closed a rebel-held oil port due to its “illegal status” and “damage to the marine environment.”
The government is also diverting all vessels carrying cement and iron to the Yemeni port of Aden, which is under its control, according to the U.N.
As a result of the blockade, there have been no commercial flights to Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, since last summer. And two of the world’s biggest container shipping lines — Swiss-based MSC and Singapore-based PIL — stopped sailing to Houthi-held ports in early 2017, because of the delays and dangers involved. PIL has not yet resumed services.
In a confidential report submitted to the Security Council in April, U.N. investigators detailed many of the delays ships have faced getting through the blockade. In one case, a shipping company’s vessels waited 396 days to dock at Hodeida, incurring $5.5 million in fuel and refrigeration costs. The U.N. report also said that the coalition of Saudi Arabia and its allies takes an average of 10 days to grant vessels permission to dock at Hodeida even when the vessels are not delayed.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which oversees the U.N.’s clearance system, disputed the World Food Programme’s and Reuters’ count of container cargo delivered to Hodeida port.
In a statement to Reuters, UNOPS said its system, called the U.N. Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM), has cleared vessels to deliver nearly 10 million tonnes of food, fuel and general cargo to Yemen over the past 16 months. UNOPS did not provide evidence for the figure. It also did not specify how many of the ships it cleared were later stopped, delayed or rerouted by the Saudi-led coalition. UNOPS also said that events that transpire in international waters are beyond its remit.
“UNVIM has contributed to meeting the challenges of the current humanitarian crisis as much as possible by making basic commodities available in the Yemeni market,” the U.N. said in a statement.
In at least two private correspondences with U.N. member states and aid agencies this year, UNVIM officials voiced frustration that the Saudi-led coalition stopped or delayed vessels they had cleared. One internal UNVIM report from March said the coalition had delayed six vessels, which were later granted access “after continuous liaison and effort.”
The Saudi coalition isn’t the sole reason for the plunge in imports to Yemen. Foreign banks have cut credit lines to businesses because of concerns about being repaid and difficulties with processing transactions. The Yemeni central bank’s activities have been paralyzed over a tussle between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi fighters.
It is difficult to assess precisely the cumulative commercial and humanitarian effects of the blockade on Yemen. Many parts of the country are inaccessible to relief groups and reporters. Yet the U.N. has warned for more than two years that Yemen is a step away from famine. The World Food Programme estimates that the number of people needing aid has risen to 20 million this year, or more than two-thirds of the population, compared with 17 million in 2016.
Yemen is starving because it is a battleground in a political struggle in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia and its allies entered the war in Yemen to counter Houthi fighters, a Shi‘ite group backed by Iran.
Western nations, at odds with Tehran over its nuclear program, supported the Saudi-led intervention by helping coordinate airstrikes and refueling Saudi warplanes. The U.N. Security Council effectively supported Riyadh by imposing an arms embargo on the Houthi fighters; it said Yemen-bound vessels could be inspected if there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect they were carrying arms.
Riyadh has never formally drawn a line beyond which ships are not allowed to sail. It has not published a list of goods and materials covered by its restrictions. But it says it has the right “to take all appropriate measures to counter the threats” from Iran-backed rebels. A senior official with Iran’s foreign ministry denied allegations that his country provides financial and military support for Houthis in Yemen.
“Yemen is a catastrophic case. It is the man-made conflict that is driving hunger and driving the conditions for famine. Simple as that,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme. “If we end the war, we will end the starvation.”
Some in the United States are beginning to criticize the blockade. Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana, a member of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, said Saudi Arabia might be violating humanitarian laws because it has impeded the flow of needed goods to Yemen.
“I do not suggest that the Saudis share all of the blame for this,” he said, referring to the nine countries in the Saudi-led coalition. “But they share a significant portion of it.”
International aid groups grew concerned about the effects of the Saudi blockade in early 2015, shortly after the Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Senegal, entered Yemen’s civil war. Container shipments to Hodeida in 2015 fell to about 40 percent of their pre-war volume.
That summer, the U.N. issued the first of its many warnings that famine was possible in Yemen. Behind the scenes, the U.N. tried to convince Riyadh and its allies to let it inspect ships.
In early September 2015, the U.N. said it had reached a deal with the Yemeni government and the coalition to set up an inspection system that would facilitate the passage of goods to Yemen. The system, UNVIM, would be headquartered in Djibouti, the U.N. said. It took eight more months to secure the $8 million it needed to start operations.
When UNVIM was started in May 2016, its stated goal was “to restore trust among the shipping community” that there would be no unexpected and costly delays to shipments headed for Yemen.
Since then, all commercial vessels sailing to Yemen’s Houthi-held ports have had to submit an application to the U.N., complete with their cargo manifests and lists of their last ports of call. The U.N. reviews the applications and checks if the vessels have called at suspect ports or have turned off their transponders for more than a few hours - a common trick of smugglers seeking to avoid tracking. Occasionally, UNVIM’s contractors inspect the vessels.
UNVIM does not verify or inspect aid shipments unless they are mingled with commercial goods. Vessels fully chartered by aid agencies go through a different process: They directly obtain sailing rights from Riyadh. Nonetheless, a significant proportion of aid must make its way to Yemen aboard commercial vessels.
In the last 16 months, UNVIM has processed 685 clearances and granted vessels the right to sail to Houthi-held ports about 80 percent of the time. These vessels delivered nearly 5 million tonnes of food, 2 million tonnes of fuel and 2.5 million tonnes of general cargo, the U.N. told Reuters.
But even after the U.N. grants clearances, all commercial ships have to get approval from a Saudi-managed warship stationed 61 km west of Hodeida port.
This has proven difficult. Because the vessels are anchored in international waters, UNVIM can only coordinate with regional parties, including the coalition, to facilitate vessels’ access to the ports, the U.N. said in its statement. The rest of the process is up to local port authorities, it said.
The Kota Nazar, for example, had obtained U.N. clearance to sail to Hodeida in late December. But naval officers from the Saudi warship stopped and boarded it.
The officers suspected that the ship carried concealed Iranian arms destined for the Houthi fighters. They ordered the Kota Nazar back to Djibouti, its previous stop. There, the vessel’s crew offloaded 62 containers the coalition deemed suspicious, allowing the ship to set sail again for Hodeida in January.
Then the Saudi-led coalition insisted on another inspection. Three days later, the U.N. ordered the vessel to sail to Jizan, Saudi Arabia. In Jizan, local authorities and two U.N. inspectors offloaded every container aboard the vessel and X-rayed them. They held back 27 containers with cargo they said could be used in the Yemeni military conflict. The contents included bullet-cartridge belts, as well as iron pipes, welding electrodes, motorcycle parts and other manufactured goods.
Saudi authorities should immediately clarify whether they have imposed movement restrictions on former crown prince Mohammad bin Nayef, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair.
A June 28, 2017 New York Times report quotes former and current US officials saying that following King Salman’s elevation of his son, Mohammad bin Salman, to crown prince on June 21, authorities subjected Mohammad bin Nayef to house arrest and banned him from travel abroad.
“Reports that Mohammad Bin Nayef is under a travel ban and home detention without due process are bitterly ironic given his role in imposing similar arbitrary restrictions on thousands of Saudis,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Saudi government needs to call a halt to officials’ arbitrary abuses of power.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry should clarify whether authorities have restricted Prince Mohammad’s freedom of movement inside Saudi Arabia, and whether he is under a travel ban, and if so, clarify the legal basis for the restrictions, Human Rights Watch said.
The Bahraini authorities’ decision to bring terrorism charges against Ebtissam al-Saegh, a human rights defender detained since 3 July 2017, is a chilling blow to human rights in the country, said Amnesty International.
“Ebtisam al-Saegh is a prisoner of conscience who must be immediately and unconditionally released. Her only ‘crime’, is her bravery in challenging the government’s appalling human rights record. By charging her with terrorism for her work on human rights, the Bahraini government is itself attempting to intimidate and silence civil society in Bahrain,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for the Middle-East at Amnesty International.
“Amnesty International has strong reasons to believe that Ebtisam al-Saegh is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. When she was arrested in May 2017 she was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the National Security Agency. We are deeply concerned for her well-being.
“There must be public outcry over the deteriorating situation in Bahrain. The silence of the UK government, which continues to insist that Bahrain is on a path to human rights reform, is deafening and shameful, and appears to have played a part in emboldening the Bahraini government to commit more human rights violations.”
A group of United Nations experts has expressed, on Tuesday July 18, 2017, deep concern at the alleged arbitrary detention of Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Alsaegh amid reports she has been tortured and sexually abused and is now on hunger strike.
“Ms. Alsaegh has been denied her fundamental right to due process from the very moment of her arrest to this day,” the experts said. “We are very worried at information that her health has dramatically deteriorated in the last few days.”
According to reports received by the experts, Ms. Alsaegh was detained on 4 July when Bahraini security forces raided her home. She is reportedly being held in solitary confinement at Isa Town women’s prison, and is being transported daily to an unknown location where she is interrogated for up to 14 hours without access to a lawyer.
Previous to her detention, on 26 May, Ms. Alsaegh was subjected to a seven-hour interrogation by officers of the National Security Agency, during which she was kept blindfolded and forced to stand up, while reportedly being beaten all over her body and sexually assaulted.
“We express the gravest concern at these allegations of torture and ill-treatment suffered by Ms. Alsaegh and we fear that she may be currently subjected to further acts of torture,” the experts said.
“The use or incitement of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is absolutely prohibited, under all circumstances.”
The experts called upon the Government of Bahrain to strictly abide by its obligations under international human rights law.
“The Bahraini authorities have a duty to investigate all allegations of human rights violations committed against Ms. Alsaegh, including torture by security forces during interrogations, and to prevent their re-occurrence,” they emphasized.
Ms. Alsaegh’s alleged treatment comes amid an ongoing campaign of attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders and political activists in Bahrain.
“We reiterate our serious concerns regarding the wider context of a general crackdown and mounting pressure exerted on civil society and dissidents in Bahrain, the ongoing prosecution and punishment of human rights defenders, and especially intimidation and reprisals against people who have cooperated with UN human rights mechanisms,” the experts underscored.
The Saudi Arabian government is employing the death penalty as a political weapon to silence dissent, said Amnesty International, following the execution of four Shi’a men in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on 11 July.
Yussuf Ali al-Mushaikass, a father of two, was executed along with three other men, for terror-related offences in connection with their participation in anti-government protests in the Shi’a majority Eastern Province between 2011 and 2012. He was convicted of offences that included “armed rebellion against the ruler”, “destabilizing security and stirring sedition by joining a terrorist group”, “firing at a police station in Awamiyya twice, resulting in the injury of a policeman” and “participating in riots”. Yussuf al-Mushaikass’ family were reportedly not informed of the execution in advance, only finding out about it afterwards when they saw a government statement read on TV.
“These brutal executions are the latest act in the Saudi Arabian authorities’ ongoing persecution of the Shi’a minority. The death penalty is being deployed as a political weapon to punish them for daring to protest against their treatment and to cow others into silence,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut office.
“Yussuf al-Mushaikass was convicted following a grossly unfair trial which hinged largely on a ‘confession’ obtained through torture. The international community must come down hard on Saudi Arabia to ensure that others currently facing execution after deeply flawed legal proceedings do not meet the same fate. Saudi Arabia should quash their death sentences and establish an official moratorium on executions.”
“The Saudi Arabian government is showing no signs of letting up in its use of the death penalty and has employed it vigorously since the traditional pause for Ramadan,” said Lynn Maalouf.
“The death penalty continues to be used in violation of international human rights law and standards on a massive scale, and often after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated.”
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The isolation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is precipitating serious human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said in a statement released on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.
It is infringing on the right to free expression, separating families, interrupting medical care – in one case forcing a child to miss a scheduled brain surgery, interrupting education, and stranding migrant workers without food or water. Travel to and from Qatar is restricted, and the land border with Saudi Arabia is closed.
“Gulf autocrats’ political disputes are violating the rights of peaceful Gulf residents who were living their lives and caring for their families,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Hundreds of Saudis, Bahrainis, and Emiratis have been forced into the impossible situation of either disregarding their countries’ orders or leaving behind their families and jobs.”
"Gulf countries need to take a step back and see the harm they are doing to their own citizens,” Whitson said. "Gulf countries should put people’s well-being before their harmful power games.”
The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in Middle East and North Africa said, in a statement released on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, that the arrest of human rights activist Ebtisam Al-Saegh is another example of what women human rights defenders go through, noting that Bahrain authorities’ acts against Al Saegh are a vengeful response to Al Saegh’s work.
The coalition noted that the arrest of Ebtisam Al Saegh comes after a month of her documenting what she went through (torture, sexual and physical assault) which put her in danger of going through that again, especially that Bahrain have promoted a campaign against human rights defenders in the past few months.
The coalition called on the authorities in Bahrain to release Ebtisam al Saegh immediately and unconditionally, and to put a final end to harassments against her, including threatening her family members.
The coalition also reminded Bahrain’s government that the arrest of Ebtisam Al Saegh violates its commitment to human rights laws and international treaties, agreements and conventions it previously ratified.
It concluded that the arrest of WHRD Ebtisam Al Saegh is nothing but a clear attack on those who remain peacefully seeking ways to implement democracy and protecting human rights in Bahrain, “and we should defend them and demand their freedom.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Bahraini government, in a statement released on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, to lift its ban on the country’s only independent media outlet, the Arabic-language daily Al Wasat, which is still closed a month being suspende “until further notice” by the information ministry on 4 June. It was forced to lay off all its employees (about 160) at the end of June.
“Al Wasat was suspended on 4 June for no good reason,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This suspension ‘until further notice’ constitutes an unprecedented act of censorship and means the end of independent journalism in Bahrain. We call on information minister Ali Al-Rumaihi to rescind this disgraceful decision and to do everything possible to help the newspaper to resume operating.”
With at least 14 journalists and citizen-journalists currently detained, the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the Middle East’s biggest prisons for journalists. It is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
Amnesty International called on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, the Bahraini authorities to release human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh who was arrested on the night of 3 July 2017.
“The Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release al-Saegh whose only crime is speaking up against a government committed to crushing all forms of dissent,” Samah Hadid, Director for Campaigns at Amnesty International in the Middle-East said.
“We are deeply concerned about Ebtisam’s wellbeing. When she was arrested in May 2017, she was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the Bahraini National Security Agency. Bahraini authorities have failed to investigate those claims and we fear that she is at high risk of torture as long as she remains in custody.”
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned, in a report released on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, the refusal of Bahraini government to lift a ban on Al Wasat newspaper which led to its closure this week.
The Federation, which represents 180 journalists unions and associations globally, also called on “the Bahraini government to stop its policy of curtailing diversity in Bahraini media and intimidating independent journalists”.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We strongly condemn the refusal of the Bahraini government to lift the ban on Al Wasat newspaper which has forced its closure. The government must be held responsible for the loss of these jobs and the further narrowing of the space for independent journalism”.
Following an Associated Press investigation alleging that United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its allied Yemeni security forces are arbitrarily detaining and torturing detainees, who are also being interrogated by US forces in a network of secret prisons across Southern Yemen, Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research at Amnesty International in the Middle East said that “a UN-led investigation must immediately be launched into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture.”
In a statement released on Thursday, June 29, 2017, Maalouf stressed that thousands of Yemeni men have disappeared in those networks. “Enforced disappearance and torture are crimes under international law,” she highlighted. “They must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable.”
“Allegations about US forces taking part in interrogations of detainees or receiving information that may have been obtained through torture must also be immediately investigated, as the US may be complicit in crimes under international law. Also, given the UAE’s practice of torture domestically, which Amnesty International has consistently documented in the past, it would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” Maalouf pointed out.
“The UAE is obliged to uphold the UN convention against torture which it became a state party to in 2012. As a signatory to the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the UAE must also refrain from acts that defeat the Treaty’s purpose, which includes reducing human suffering.”
“Furthermore, the USA as well as European countries must immediately halt arms transfers to the UAE given the high likelihood those arms could be used to facilitate enforced disappearances, torture or serious violations of international humanitarian law. Otherwise, arms suppliers could be complicit in war crimes.”
The UAE supports Yemeni forces that have arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured, and abused dozens of people during security operations, Human Rights Watch said in a report it released on Thursday, May 22, 2017.
According to the international watchdog, the UAE finances, arms, and trains these forces, which ostensibly are going after Yemeni branches of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The UAE also runs at least two informal detention facilities, and its officials appear to have ordered the continued detention of people despite release orders, and forcibly disappeared people, including reportedly moving high-profile detainees outside the country.
“You don’t effectively fight extremist groups like Al-Qaeda or ISIS by disappearing dozens of young men and constantly adding to the number of families with ‘missing’ loved ones in Yemen,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE and its partners should place protecting detainee rights at the center of their security campaigns if they care about Yemen’s long-term stability.”
Thousands of people in the Gulf face the prospect of their lives being further disrupted and their families torn apart as new arbitrary measures announced by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the context of their dispute with Qatar are due to come into force from today, said Amnesty International.
The three Gulf states had given their citizens the deadline of 19 June to leave Qatar and return to their respective countries or face fines and other unspecified consequences. They had given Qatari nationals the same deadline to leave Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and have refused entry to Qatari nationals since 5 June.
“The situation that people across the Gulf have been placed in shows utter contempt for human dignity. This arbitrary deadline has caused widespread uncertainty and dread amongst thousands of people who fear they will be separated from their loved ones,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme.
“With these measures, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have needlessly put mixed-nationality families at the heart of a political crisis.”
“They should immediately cancel this sinister arbitrary deadline, otherwise thousands of families risk being torn apart, with others losing their jobs or the opportunity to continue their education. People undergoing medical treatment are being made to choose between continuing their treatment or complying with the overly broad and harsh measures announced by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.”
“It is unthinkable that states can so blatantly infringe on the right to freedom of expression. Citizens have the right to express views and concerns about their governments, as well as feelings of sympathy towards others,” said James Lynch.
Bahraini authorities on June 4, 2017, ordered the immediate indefinite suspension of Al Wasat, the country’s only independent newspaper, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Sunday, June 18, 2017. The Bahrain authorities should immediately revoke the order, the international watchdog stressed, while noting that Al Wasat is one of the very few independent news sites in the entire Gulf region.
“A newspaper in Bahrain should be able to comment on and criticize the authorities in Morocco or anywhere in the world,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Shutting down Al Wasat is a prime example of Bahraini authorities’ complete intolerance of any kind of independent expression.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Al Wasat’s suspension is a violation of the right to freedom of expression and an attack on media freedom. It also appears to violate article 28 of Bahrain’s 2002 press law – Decree No. 47 for 2002 – which states that a court order is required to close or suspend a newspaper.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain appear to be violating people's human rights by threatening to jail or fine them for expressing sympathy for Qatar, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein said on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
The four states, which have branded dozens of people and entities with alleged links to Qatar as terrorists, must respect citizens' rights, Zeid said.
"It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation, and have the potential to seriously disrupt the lives of thousands of women, children and men, simply because they belong to one of the nationalities involved in the dispute," Zeid said in a statement.
He said directives issued by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to address the humanitarian needs of families with joint nationalities appeared to be inadequate, and his office had received reports of specific individuals being ordered to return home or to leave the country they are residing in.
"Among those likely to be badly affected are couples in mixed marriages, and their children; people with jobs or businesses based in States other than that of their nationality; and students studying in another country," he said.
"I am also extremely troubled to hear that the UAE and Bahrain are threatening to jail and fine people who express sympathy for Qatar or opposition to their own governments’ actions, as this would appear to be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression or opinion."
Arab countries engaged in a dispute with Qatar have shut down media outlets with links to or considered sympathetic to the Qatari government, Human Rights Watch said in a statement released on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
The action is a violation of freedom of expression, HRW noted. The countries involved include Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain have also threatened criminal sanctions under existing laws against people who criticize the actions these governments have taken against Qatar and its citizens or who have expressed sympathy toward Qatar.
“Individuals have a right to express a variety of perspectives on current events,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments don’t have the right to close down media outlets and criminalize speech to shut out criticism they find uncomfortable.”
Authorities should repeal or amend laws that are used to criminalize peaceful expression. International law on freedom of speech prohibits the banning of peaceful criticism of governments, and crimes such as insulting the president or state authorities.
“The media need protection from political interference, not official muzzling,” Whitson said. “The offending governments should demonstrate they understand and respect the role of media outlets, even those they don’t agree with.”
Amnesty International called on, in a report released on Monday, June 12, 2017, the Bahraini authorities to put an end to the continuous harassment and targeting of the family of human rights activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who resides in the United Kingdom (UK), which Amnesty International believes is an attempt to force him to halt his peaceful activities and muzzle him from afar.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei is the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). His brother-in-law, Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, 18, his mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, 48, and a cousin, Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor, 29, are on trial in Bahrain accused of planting “fake bombs” which the police found in Sheikh Zayed Street and near the al-Mayoof roundabout, in al-Aali area, southwest of the capital, Manama, on 20 and 28 January 2017 respectively. According to Amnesty, all three were forced to “confess”.
Amnesty International called for the charges against Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, Hajer Mansoor Hassan and Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor to be dropped as they are based solely on “confessions” extracted as a result of torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International believes that these trials are part of the ongoing campaign waged by the Bahraini authorities to silence dissenting and critical voices, including those abroad.
On the first anniversary of the detention of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, 15 human rights organizations signed a letter addressed to the UN Member and Observer States to call on the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately.
The undersigned expressed their deep concern over the continued detention of Rajab, on the first anniversary of his arrest. “We urge you to call for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped,” the letter read.
Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016. He remains detained despite a court order to release him on 28 December 2016. He faces three separate legal cases, the trials for two of which have been postponed 23 times. In all cases, Rajab is being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression and faces up to a total of 18 years behind bars.
“We are particularly concerned about Rajab’s health, which continues to deteriorate due to poor conditions and mistreatment,” the undersigned pointed out. On Wednesday, 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent major surgery at a military hospital. Against medical advice, he was returned to his cell at East Riffa Police Station two days later. The following day he was rushed to the police clinic for emergency treatment. On 7 June, he underwent minor surgery. Rajab’s health prevents him from attending his court hearings. The presiding judge has refused all requests submitted by his lawyers to release him on bail, despite the length of his detention period in solitary confinement and clear evidence about the deteriorating condition of his health.
Urgent international pressure for Nabeel Rajab’s release is needed, the letter highlighted. “We urge your delegation to call on Bahrain to end the unlawful detainment of Nabeel Rajab and to release him immediately and unconditionally.”
The undersigned NGOs include: Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, CIVICUS, English PEN, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, IFEX, Index on Censorship, PEN International, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents as part of their dispute with Qatar, splitting up families and destroying peoples’ livelihoods and education, Amnesty International said in a report released on Friday, June 9, 2017.
“For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme, who was in Doha last week.
“These drastic measures are already having a brutal effect, splitting children from parents and husbands from wives. People from across the region – not only from Qatar, but also from the states implementing these measures – risk losing jobs and having their education disrupted. All the states involved in this dispute must ensure their actions do not lead to human rights violations. ”
While Amnesty International said it takes no view on the political dispute itself, which also involves other countries including Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, the organization expressed serious concerns about the impact of some of these steps on the rights to family life and education.
In a fresh blow to freedom of expression in the Gulf, people in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE have also been threatened with harsh punishment if they dare to criticize these measures, Amnesty noted.
According to the organization, people with relations from other Gulf States are particularly at risk. Amnesty International has documented several cases of people cut off from parents, children and spouses as a result.
Residents in Saudi Arabia, UAE or Bahrain have been warned they could face harsh penalties if they make comments in support of Qatar. “These statements from governments with a record of repressing peaceful expression are a flagrant attempt to silence criticism of these arbitrary policies. Prosecuting anyone on this basis would be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression. No one should be punished for peacefully expressing their views or criticizing a government decision,” said James Lynch.
There are also concerns that migrant workers employed by Qatari nationals to look after their properties in Saudi Arabia may find themselves stranded, unable to return to Qatar where they have residence permits – and becoming undocumented in the process, at risk of exploitation or arrest and deportation. Amnesty International has spoken to workers in this situation, who have little information about what might happen to them.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states must protect any workers employed by Qatari nationals, including by facilitating the safe return of those who wish to return to their home countries or assisting those who wish to return to Qatar, Amnesty went on to say.
“Political disputes between states must be handled in a manner that respects human rights. There can be no justification for tearing families apart, suppressing peaceful expression, and leaving migrant workers abandoned and at risk. Arbitrary measures should be suspended immediately,” concluded James Lynch.
Top press freedom organizations and local Bahraini groups raised alarm, in a letter they addressed to ten countries including the UK, over the suspension of Bahrain’s only independent newspaper, Al Wasat, which has been barred from publishing for four days now.
The letter, signed by Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Article 19, Index on Censorship, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and ten others, state Bahrain is “effectively silencing the media in Bahrain and violating the right to freedom of expression.”
The letter is addressed to the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Italy and France – who all have embassies in Bahrain – as well as Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the European Union. It urges them to “publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to allow Al Wasat to resume publication immediately.”
The letter notes that Al Wasat’s suspension is the latest in a recent spate of reprisals against independent media and civil society actors, including journalists, writers, and human rights defenders. “In this context, journalists in Bahrain have expressed to NGOs serious concerns that the newspaper will not be allowed to resume publication”, the letter continues.
According to the letter, the suspension of Al Wasat muzzles the media, unduly restricting the right to freedom of expression and opinion. “As the only independent newspaper in Bahrain, its suspension removes a key voice for public discourse and denies the public the right to access information and diverse views,” the letter stated. “In the context of current, severe human rights violations occurring in Bahrain, calls for the resumption of the only independent newspaper and the respect for freedom of expression and opinion urgently need to be heard and acted on.”
Saudi Arabia should immediately quash the death sentences of 14 members of the Shia community for protest-related crimes, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint report on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
The Court of Appeal of the notorious Specialized Criminal Court upheld the sentences in May 2017, after they were handed down a year ago on June 1, 2016, following a grossly unfair trial of 24 Saudi Shia citizens. The Specialized Criminal Court is Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism tribunal.
“The rise in death sentences against Saudi Arabian Shia is alarming and suggests that the authorities are using the death penalty to settle scores and crush dissent under the guise of combating ‘terrorism’ and maintaining national security,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“The sham court proceedings that led to death sentences for 38 Shia men and boys brazenly flout international fair trial standards,” said Lynn Maalouf, director of research at Amnesty International in the Middle East. “The sentences should immediately be quashed.”
“Death sentences based on coerced ‘confessions’ violate international human rights law and are a repugnant yet all-too-common outcome in security-related cases in Saudi Arabia,” Maalouf said. “These death penalty trials fail to meet even the most basic requirements for due process.”
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment and unique in its finality. It is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.
Bahraini authorities should revoke an order barring the independent news outlet Al-Wasat from publishing and stop harassing the newspaper and its journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday, June 5, 2017.
"Al-Wasat has long been the scapegoat for a government fearful of allowing a free press," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "This ban should be lifted immediately."
Last month, CPJ joined several news agencies and press freedom organizations in calling on King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to allow journalists to operate freely in the country. The call is in response to Bahraini authorities denying entry to a German journalist involved in a documentary critical of the country's human rights record and authorities questioning three Bahraini journalists, including an Al-Wasat staff writer, about social media posts and a protest.
Responding to news about the re-arrest of Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul at King Fahad International Airport in Dammam in Saudi Arabia on 4 June, Samah Hadid Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle–East said that “the Saudi Arabian authorities’ continuous harassment of Loujain al-Hathloul is absurd and unjustifiable.”
“It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women's rights, which are consistently trammeled in the kingdom,” Hadid highlighted. “If so she must be immediately and unconditionally released,” she added.
“Instead of upholding its promise of a more tolerant Saudi Arabia, the government has again shattered any notion that it is genuinely committed to upholding equality and human rights.”
Front Line Defenders said, in a report released on Thursday (June 1, 2017), that human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh was sexually assaulted by the interrogators, after being summoned on May 26 by the National Security Agency (NSA) to Muharraq police station, in the North of the country. She was also subjected to verbal abuse, and interrogators threatened to rape her if she did not put an end to her human rights activities.
Front Line Defenders strongly condemned the torture and sexual abuse of Ebtisam Al-Saegh by agents of the NSA as well as the threats made against her and her family, which are directly related to her legitimate work in exposing human rights abuses in Bahrain. Front Line Defenders also called on the Bahrain authorities to immediately end all further harassment of Ebtisam Al-Saegh.
The international watchdog urged the authorities in Bahrain to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of torture and sexual assault against Ebtisam Al-Saegh, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.
Front Line Defenders called on the Bahraini authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Ebtisam Al-Saegh, as well as of the members of her family. It also urged the authorities to cease targeting all human rights defenders in Bahrain and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday called on the Government of Bahrain to promptly launch an independent, effective investigation into the deaths of five protestors during a security operation last week.
“I urge the Government to investigate the events of 23 May, in particular the loss of lives, to ensure that the findings are made public and that those responsible are held accountable,” High Commissioner Zeid said, as he also called on all sides to refrain from violence. Reports that those who died were buried without the consent of their families were also disturbing, the High Commissioner said, adding that loved ones must be allowed to perform funerals in line with their customs and traditions.
The High Commissioner also called on the authorities to release any individuals being detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Those suspected of crimes should be treated with full respect for their rights, including to due process.
Zeid expressed particular concern that the violence and arrests occurred as part of a wider crackdown on dissent in the country. On Wednesday, one of the country’s last remaining opposition groups, the National Democratic Action Society, also known as Waad, was dissolved by a court in Manama. Sources suggest that a number of activists and human rights defenders have also been summoned for interrogations in recent days, with allegations of ill treatment during the questioning. In April this year, a constitutional amendment granted military courts the right to try civilians.
“Human rights defenders working in Bahrain reportedly continue to face restrictions, intimidation, interrogations, detentions and travel bans,” Zeid said. “I urge Bahrain to choose a different path – one of engagement and dialogue, as well as accountability for violence, regardless of the perpetrator. My Office stands ready to offer technical assistance and advice on the promotion and protection of human rights in Bahrain.”
Amnesty International called on Wednesday (May 31, 2017) the Bahraini authorities to immediately end the torture and other ill-treatment of human rights defenders and other critics of the government, and to investigate all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment with the intention to bring those responsible to justice through fair trials.
The state must end all forms of reprisals it is currently using against human rights defenders and government critics, targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, Amnesty stressed.
This call comes after woman human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh described to Amnesty International the torture she was subjected to for around seven hours on 26 May at the National Security Agency (NSA) building in Muharraq.
Amnesty International is gravely concerned that other peaceful critics and human rights defenders,
Ebtisam al-Saegh told Amnesty International that she received a phone call on 25 May from the NSA who told her to present herself to the NSA building in Muharraq the following afternoon. When she arrived, she was immediately blindfolded, and in the subsequent hours, she was beaten all over her body, kicked in the stomach and kept standing for most of the seven hours she was being interrogated.
“They beat me on my nose and they kicked me in the stomach, knowing that I had undergone surgery on my nose and that I was suffering from my colon. I could hear an electric device next to me, which was to scare me. I was made to stand up for most of the time, except for ten minutes when they wanted to eat something. I fainted twice and was woken up with cold water thrown on me. They sat me on a chair only for a few seconds while still interrogating me. I was threatened that my daughter would be raped and that they would bring my husband and torture and electrocute him. The men told me ‘no one can protect you’. They took away my humanity, I was weak prey to them.”
Amnesty warned that the torture of human rights defenders, in this instance a woman, is a clear indication that the Bahraini government has stepped up its repression of peaceful critics and human rights defenders, moving from locking them up or banning them from travel, to now resorting to torture in order to force them to halt their activities.
Amnesty International said on Wednesday (May 31, 2017), that Bahrain’s dissolution of a major political opposition society is the latest troubling move in its blatant campaign to end all criticism of the government.
The secular National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) was dissolved today after having issued a statement in February, saying that Bahrain was suffering from a “constitutional political crisis” amid continuous human rights violations. The group was subsequently charged with “advocating violence, supporting terrorism and incitement to encourage crimes and lawlessness”.
“By banning major political opposition groups, Bahrain is now heading towards total suppression of human rights,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director of research at Amnesty International’s Beirut Regional Office. “The suspension of Wa’ad is a flagrant attack on freedom of expression and association, and further proof that the authorities have no intention of delivering on promises of human rights progress.”
“The allegations made by the Ministry of Justice against Wa’ad and its leaders are baseless and absurd,” said Lynn Maalouf. “Their only so-called ‘crime’ is exercising their right to freedom of expression and association.”
Amnesty International said on Tuesday (May 23, 2017) that Bahraini security forces used excessive force against protesters in the village of Duraz, the majority of whom were peaceful, as part of an ongoing crack down on the village which has been under siege by the authorities for 11 months, according to evidence uncovered by Amnesty International.
At least one person has been killed and hundreds injured as security forces fired birdshot from shotguns and teargas against protesters. According to Amnesty’s sources, during the violent clashes, the houses surrounding that of leading Shi’a spiritual leader Sheikh Issa Qassem were raided and people inside arrested.
“Today’s disturbing developments again show the consequences of rampant impunity enjoyed by the security forces. There must be a prompt, independent investigation and those responsible for unlawful killing and other arbitrary or abusive force must be prosecuted. The authorities must rein in the security forces, order that they strictly comply with international standards on police use of force, and ensure the right to peaceful protest is protected,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns, Middle East at Amnesty International.
“Our information indicates that police attacked what started out as a peaceful demonstration. International standards require that law enforcement must not use lethal force unless unavoidable to protect against a threat to life or risk of serious injury. ”
Amnesty International said on Thursday (May 18, 2017) that on May 11, the Bahrain High Court of Appeal upheld the death sentence imposed against Maher Abbas Ahmed (also known as Maher Khabbaz). His case will now go before the Court of Cassation. Maher Abbas Ahmed will be at imminent risk of execution if the sentence is upheld again.
According to the international watchdog, Maher Abbas Ahmad told his lawyer that he had been tortured during the first few days he was detained, while he was being interrogated. This included being beaten and threatened. During one hearing, he told the judge that he had been tortured, but no investigation is known to have been launched into his torture's allegations.
In a call for action, Amnesty International expressed grave concern that Maher Abbas Ahmad’s death sentence was upheld again. It urged the King of Bahrain, Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, to immediately commute the death sentence imposed on Maher Abbas Ahmad and establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
The international watchdog called on the authorities to conduct an investigation into the allegations of torture made by Maher Abbas Ahmad and his co-defendants, and acknowledged the Bahraini government’s responsibility to protect the public and bring to justice those who commit crimes, but insisting that this should always be done in accordance with international law and Bahrain’s international human rights obligations.
Amnesty International warned on Monday (May 15, 2017) Nizar al-Qari, a member of the opposition party al-Wefaq, who was arrested on May 5, is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
According to the international watchdog, al-Qari was taken after arrest to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where he alleges he was deprived of sleep and handcuffed behind his back for long periods of his detention. On 8 May, he was charged with “illegal gathering in Duraz” and taken back to the CID.
Amnesty International pointed out that it fears that he may have been tortured and remains at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. In a call for urgent action, it called for appeals to urge the Bahraini authorities to immediately disclose Nizar al-Qari’s legal status, and give him immediate and regular access to his family and lawyer; urge them to investigate Nizar al-Qari’s allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and to ensure Nizar alQari is not further tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and is given prompt access to his medication and any medical attention he may require; call on them to release him unless he is charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence.
The United Nations Committee against Torture called on Friday (May 12, 2017) Bahrain to release prominent activist Nabeel Rajab from more than nine months of solitary confinement and investigate widespread allegations of ill-treatment and torture of detainees.
The United Nations panel, composed of 10 independent experts, conducted its first review of Bahrain's record in five years at a session ending on Friday.
The UN experts, in their findings, urged authorities to "put an end to the solitary confinement of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and ensure that he is provided with adequate medical assistance and redress". His solitary confinement "is reported to have exceeded nine months during which he has been denied adequate medical care".
The UN experts cited "continued, numerous and consistent allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in all places of detention" in Bahrain. A "climate of impunity" seemed to be prevailing, with few convictions and light sentences, they said.
The panel voiced concern at reports of coerced confessions obtained under torture, including those of three men executed in January and two men facing the death penalty, Mohammed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa. The panel suggested that the latter be retried.
It also said that Bahrain should ensure that people arrested on criminal charges, including under the terror act, be brought before a judge within 48 hours.
Authorities should also consider repealing provisions that allow civilians to be tried in military courts and improve conditions, especially in Jaw prison where inmates rioted in January. “Authorities can take reasonable measures to prevent escapes, but shackling infirm patients, many of them torture victims, clearly goes beyond any need for security,” it said.
Human Rights Watch said that Bahraini authorities denied on Wednesday May 10, 2017, an entry visa to a Human Rights Watch researcher, Omar Shakir, an American citizen, who arrived at Manama Airport in the afternoon of May 9 and identified himself to border authorities as Human Rights Watch’s researcher, and indicated that he had come to hold meetings on the margins of an assembly convened by FIFA, the world football federation.
The international watchdog highlighted that Bahrain allows US passport-holders to apply for entry visas upon arrival at the airport. However, Bahraini authorities at the airport informed Shakir that a decision had been made by “security” that he was “not welcome” and ordered him to board a departing flight today.
In recent years, Bahrain has denied entry to scores of human rights advocates and critical journalists, as well as the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and jailed Bahraini rights defenders, HRW noted.
“Bahrain has yet again shown its intolerance of human rights advocates,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Bahrain’s authorities have referred a civilian to trial before a military court for the first time since 2011, after the King of Bahrain ratified a disastrous constitutional amendment in April 2017. Bahrain’s public prosecution referred the case of Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, a victim of enforced disappearance, to the military court earlier today.
“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.”
Amnesty International also fears that another individual who has been subjected to enforced disappearance for more than six months, Al-Sayed Alawi Hussain al-Alawi, will be referred to military court. He too has been cut off from the outside world since his arrest in October 2016, has had no access to a lawyer throughout his detention and his charges are also unknown. He remains at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Human Rights Watch said on Monday (May 8, 2017) that Saudi Arabia’s election to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, a body “dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women,” is an affront to the mission of the commission itself and a rebuke to Saudi women.
Adam Coogle, Middle East Researcher at HRW, noted that several days before the vote, Mariam al-Oteibi, 29, fled abusive family members in al-Qassim Province for Riyadh, only to be captured by authorities captured and jailed for having the temerity to dream of making her own life decisions. She currently sits in Buraida Prison back in al-Qassim.
Coogle highlighted that Mariam chafed for years under the oppressive male guardianship system which forbids women from obtaining a passport, marrying, or traveling abroad without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son. Authorities previously arrested Mariam briefly in November 2016, after she attempted to file an abuse claim against her brother, but her family pre-empted her and had her jailed on a counter “disobedience” complaint. Following a brief detention, authorities returned her to her family and the abuse continued.
He pointed out that Mariam isn’t alone. On April 10, Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, attempted to flee to Australia from Kuwait to escape the restrictions imposed by her family, only to be returned to Saudi Arabia while in airport transit in Manila in the Philippines. According to a Saudi official, she is now in a detention center facing indefinite detention or possible forced return to the family she fled.
According to Coogle, Saudi Arabia has made marginal improvements on women’s rights in recent years, primarily in employment and access to higher education, but such changes have been hindered or even nullified because authorities have allowed the male guardianship system to remain largely intact, enabling men to maintain control over female relative’s lives.
He concluded that the Saudi government's seat on the commission should not stop it from standing with Saudi women seeking to empower themselves. It can start by calling on Saudi Arabia to release Mariam al-Oteibi and Dina Ali Lasloom, and guarantee their right to travel freely, live independently, and make decisions for their own lives, and then urge the government to finally deliver on its promise to take holistic steps to scrap the guardianship system altogether.
A coalition of ten rights groups said, in a report they released on Sunday (April 30, 2017), that Bahraini authorities’ treatment of wrongfully imprisoned detainees violates international standards on prisoner treatment and in some cases may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
The rights groups underlined that authorities should ensure that all detainees are treated with humanity and in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, including access to the adequate medical care they require and contact with their relatives.
The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the groups said.
According to Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, “the new regulations degrade and humiliate prisoners who clearly pose no escape risk.” He said “authorities can take reasonable measures to prevent escapes, but shackling infirm patients, many of them torture victims, clearly goes beyond any need for security.”
“These leading Bahraini political and human rights activists have suffered deteriorating health during their prolonged arbitrary detention since 2011,” said Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. “Shackling these prisoners of conscience is not a legitimate prison security measure but is intended to degrade and humiliate them,” he pointed out, while noting that “the international community must not forget these long-term prisoners of conscience and should work to end their unjust and punitive detention.”
“These opposition activists are prisoners of conscience who should not have spent even a single day in prison,” said Lynn Maalouf, research director at Amnesty International’s Regional Office in Beirut. “The authorities must immediately put an end to the collective and arbitrary punishment of the entire Jaw prison population as a result of the escape of a group of prisoners; they must release all prisoners of conscience without delay and ensure all prisoners are treated humanely and receive the adequate medical treatment they require.”
Freedom House classified, in its annual report on World Press Freedom, Bahrain among the "Not Free" countries, and one of the worst countries on the level of freedom. It also noted that Bahrain, which came in rank 193 out of 211 countries, "has become one of the Middle East's most repressive states."
Bahrain scored 12/100 (0 being the least free) in the Freedom in the World Scores. In the general Freedom Rating it scored 6.5/7 (7 being the least free), while it scored 7/7 on political rights, and 6/7 on civil liberties, with also 7 being the least free.
In the report issued Friday (April 28, 2017), the international watchdog stated that “since violently crushing a popular pro-democracy protest movement in 2011, the Sunni-led monarchy has systematically eliminated a broad range of political rights and civil liberties, dismantled the political opposition, and cracked down harshly on persistent dissent in the Shiite population.”
According to Freedom House, the Bahraini authorities’ drive to outlaw peaceful political opposition intensified in 2016. It highlighted the key developments of 2016 in this regard, such as suspending Al-Wefaq, the country’s largest opposition group, harassing and detaining leading political and human rights activists, as well as revoking the citizenship of Isa Qassim, the country’s most important Shiite cleric.
It pointed out that violent confrontations between protesters and security forces continued in 2016, leading to widespread arrests and a militarized police presence in predominantly Shiite villages and neighborhoods.
Bahraini authorities maintained legal pressure on outspoken activists during the year, the international organization went on to say, while highlighting that in July, the minister of information issued strict new guidelines for newspapers’ use of internet or social media to disseminate content, further limiting the press’s freedom to operate.
Bahrain’s authorities have dramatically escalated their crackdown against perceived critics with 32 people summoned for questioning by the Public Prosecution within the past five days and charges brought against the majority of them, said Amnesty International, less than a week ahead of the country’s UN human rights review session in Geneva on 1 May.
In a report it released on Tuesday (April 25, 2017), Amnesty noted that those summoned include human rights defenders, political activists, lawyers, a journalist and relatives of victims of human rights violations, raising fears that they are being targeted as part of a deliberate attempt to stop them – and deter others - from criticizing Bahrain ahead of and during its upcoming review at the UN Human Rights Council.
“The intensified crackdown against Bahraini dissidents in recent days is highly alarming and exposes the shocking extremes to which Bahrain’s authorities are prepared to go to silence criticism of their human rights record,” said Samah Hadid Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut Office.
“The timing, just a week before the examination of the country’s human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council, strongly suggests that this is part of a deliberate attempt to prevent peaceful critics from speaking out about the government’s record in Geneva.”
According to Hadid, the “charges against these individuals are baseless and are merely a ploy to punish human rights defenders and other peaceful critics for highlighting the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. The world must not stand by as Bahrain continues with its calculated campaign to persecute human rights activists, political opponents and anyone else who dares to speak out about human rights.”
“The international community and in particular allies of Bahrain, such as the UK and USA, must urge the authorities to ensure that the charges are dropped and travel bans are lifted. Anyone who wishes to participate in Bahrain’s Human Rights Council session must be allowed to travel to Geneva,” Hadid concluded.
A prominent Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, is suffering from health problems that have developed or deteriorated during more than 10 months of arbitrary detention, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday (April 26, 2017). The charges against him violate his right to free expression, and there is evidence he has been punished arbitrarily.
Bahraini authorities arrested Rajab in June 2016, following his social media comments critical of Saudi Arabian airstrikes in Yemen and alleged torture in a Bahrain prison. Since then, his health has deteriorated dramatically. He has undergone two operations, suffered two bouts of heart palpitations that required emergency medical care, and has developed a range of other medical conditions, including a low white blood cell count and depression. Most recently, his family told Human Rights Watch, the authorities returned him to his cell two days after an April 5, 2017 operation, contrary to medical advice, leading to his re-hospitalization on April 8. He is in the Public Security Forces Clinic in Qalaa.
“Filing criminal charges against Nabeel Rajab solely for his peaceful criticism and then refusing to free him while the courts cavalierly postpone hearings shows Bahrain’s contempt for the most elemental human rights,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Nabeel Rajab should not be in jail, and his deteriorating health underscores the injustice of arbitrarily detaining him.”
“The silence on Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for human rights from London, and now from Washington under Trump, is nothing less than shameful,” Stork said.
Reporters without Borders (RSF) said the 2017 World Press Freedom Index it compiled shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is very grave and highlights the scale and variety of the obstacles to media freedom throughout the world.
According to the international watchdog, the global indicator calculated by RSF has never been so high, which means that media freedom is under threat now more than ever. Three more countries sank into the darkest depths of the Index in 2017: Burundi (down 4 at 160th), Egypt (down 2 at 161st) and Bahrain (down 2 at 164th).
RSF highlighted that two countries have entered the Index’s black zone, both from the region with the worst score – the Middle East. Many journalists have been imprisoned in both countries– 24 in Egypt and 14 in Bahrain – and they both detain their journalists for very long periods of time.
In regards to Bahrain, the organization underlined that dissidents or independent commentators such as Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, pay a high price for daring to criticize the authorities in tweets or interviews. “The regime intensified its repressive methods in 2011, when it feared it might be overthrown. Any content or media suspected of posing a threat to the country’s unity is simply suppressed, and detained journalists face the possibility of long jail terms or even life imprisonment.”
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said that religious freedom for the majority-Shi’a community in Bahrain deteriorated this year.
In the annual report it released on Wednesday (April 26, 2017), the USCIRF noted that there was a sharp increase in the number of interrogations, arrests, convictions, and arbitrary detentions of Shi’a Muslim clerics, mostly on unfounded and unsubstantiated charges.
In addition, the American commission highlighted that Bahraini authorities denied some Shi’a clerics access to specific mosques and banned others from conducting Friday prayers, sermons, and other religious services.
Discrimination against Shi’a Muslims in government employment and other public and social services continued, as did inflammatory, sectarian rhetoric by pro-government media, despite officials often making public statements condemning sectarian hatred and violence, the report said.
Although the government continued to make progress in implementing some recommendations from the 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), it has not fully implemented recommendations that would redress past abuses against Shi’a Muslims and further improve religious freedom conditions, the report highlighted.
As a consequence of deteriorating conditions, in 2017 USCIRF places Bahrain on its Tier 2 for the first time. Between 2012 and 2016, Bahrain was covered in the Other Countries Monitored section of the Annual Report.
Concerning recommendations, the American Commission called to address religious freedom concerns with the Bahraini government both privately and publicly and report openly on the government’s success or failure to implement genuine reforms.
It also urged to press for at the highest levels and work to secure the unconditional release of prisoners of conscience and religious freedom advocates, and press the country’s government to treat prisoners humanely and allow them access to family, human rights monitors, adequate medical care, lawyers, and the ability to practice their faith.
The commission urged the Bahraini government to cease its targeting of individuals, particularly religious leaders, on the basis of religion or belief or advocacy of human rights and religious freedom.
It also called to ensure clear and consistent messaging at all levels of the U.S. government regarding Bahrain’s human rights and religious freedom obligations under international law, and to assist in the training of government entities, including security officials, prosecutors, and judges, to better address sectarian violence and incitement through practices consistent with international human rights standards.
The USCIRF recommended to include Bahraini civil society and religious leaders in exchange and U.S. visitor programs that promote religious tolerance, interreligious understanding, and interfaith dialogue. It urged the Bahraini government to implement fully the BICI recommendations, including those related to freedom of religion and belief, sectarian incitement, and accountability for past abuses against the Shi’a community;
The American watchdog reiterated its call to undertake and make public an annual assessment of Bahrain’s progress, or lack thereof, on implementing BICI recommendations. It urged the Bahraini government to reimburse the Shi’a community for expending its own funds to rebuild seven mosques and religious structures that were demolished in 2011.
While urging the Bahraini government to pass a law in the Shura Council addressing incitement to violence in the media, ensuring compliance with international human rights standards; the commission also urged the Bahraini government to cooperate fully with international mechanisms on human rights issues, including by inviting visits from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
Human Rights Watch said that Qatari authorities should not deport prominent Saudi human rights activist Mohammed al-Oteibi, who would be at risk of a long prison sentence and possible ill-treatment if forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia, given that he fled to neighboring Qatar in March 2017, and he is on trial in Saudi Arabia based on charges related solely to his peaceful human rights work.
In a report it released on Tuesday (April 25, 2017), the international watchdog underlined that Al-Oteibi and Abullah al-Attawi, another Saudi activist, face a series of vague charges relating to a short-lived human rights organization they set up in 2013. Human Rights Watch has also documented allegations that Saudi officials at detention facilities sometimes subject detainees to torture and other ill-treatment, including at detention facilities run by Saudi Arabia’s Public Security Department (police) and by the General Directorate of Investigation (al-Mabahith).
“No one should be sent back to face an unfair trial and possible ill-treatment based on peaceful human rights work,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East executive director at Human Rights Watch. “Qatari authorities should protect Mohammed al-Oteibi and decline possible Saudi requests to return him,” she stressed.
According to Human Rights Watch, Qatar’s return of al-Oteibi might amount to refoulement, which violates the prohibition in customary international law on returning a person to a real risk of persecution – where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion or where there is real risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment or other serious violations of their human rights.
“Saudi Arabia regularly charges its domestic critics with harming the reputation of the country, but prosecutions like this do far more damage to the country’s reputation and often prove that its critics’ complaints are spot on,” Whitson said.
Fears are growing for the safety of civilians in the strategic western port city of Hodeidah amid reports that a major offensive by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is due to get under way soon, said Amnesty International as UN states meet at a donor conference in Geneva on 25 April.
“The conflict in Yemen has already inflicted unbearable suffering on the country’s civilians, who have borne the brunt of the fighting for more than two years. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has flagrantly flouted international humanitarian law by repeatedly carrying out indiscriminate and other unlawful air strikes in densely populated areas throughout Yemen. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured; and there has been massive destruction and damage to homes and infrastructure. There must be no repeat of such unlawful killing and destruction in Hodeidah,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s office in Beirut.
“As the frontline steadily shifts north along the Red Sea coast and the risk of an assault on Hodeidah city and surrounding areas looms, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, as well as Huthi-Saleh forces and other parties, must refrain from carrying out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks. It is vital that they take all feasible precautions to ensure that the civilian population is protected. This includes giving residents effective advance warning of any attacks, and allowing time for them to evacuate safely.”
Transparency International called, in a statement it released Friday (21 April, 2017) on the government of Bahrain to lift its travel ban on Sayed Sharaf Almosawi, the chair of its partner organization in Bahrain, the Bahrain Transparency Society.
The organization also strongly condemned the ongoing intimidation and harassment of anti-corruption activists and human rights defenders in Bahrain.
It urged the government of Bahrain to show its support for civil society by ending the harassment of activists and by upholding the commitments it has made to protect the freedom of expression, assembly and association of its citizens, including civil society activists.
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates should immediately release Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights defender who is facing charges that violate his right to freedom of expression, a coalition of 20 human rights organizations said on Thursday (April 20, 2017), one month after his arrest.
Mansoor, who received the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, has been in detention since March 20, 2017, facing speech-related charges that include using social media websites to “publish false information that harms national unity.”
“Ahmed Mansoor has an unimpeachable record as a defender of rights and freedoms, and every day he remains in prison will constitute a black mark on the UAE’s human rights record,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“Ahmed has worked tirelessly, at great personal cost to himself, to advocate for human rights in the UAE and the wider region. He should be immediately released and the authorities should end their harassment of him once and for all,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.
“Mansoor’s arrest and detention is extremely alarming because it represents a major assault on human rights defenders in the UAE and signals all-out repression in the country,” said Khalid Ibrahim, executive director at the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Mansoor is a member of GCHR’s Advisory Board.
The organizations stressed that UAE authorities should release Mansoor immediately, since the charges against him relate to his human rights work and his criticism of the authorities. They should give him immediate and regular access to his family and a lawyer of his choosing, and end the harassment of rights defenders and critics of the authorities, the human rights organizations concluded.
The Qatari authorities must not buckle to demands from Saudi Arabia if they request the deportation of human rights activist Mohammad al-Otaibi back to the country, where he is at risk of being imprisoned and tortured or otherwise ill-treated, said Amnesty International in a report it released on Thursday (April 20, 2017), ahead of a hearing by a Saudi Arabian court scheduled for Tuesday 25 April.
“Mohammad al-Otaibi, a former prisoner of conscience has already spent more than three and a half years unlawfully imprisoned for his human rights work. Forcibly returning him to Saudi Arabia where he is almost certain to be ill-treated and face another unfair trial and prolonged arbitrary detention would not just be cruel, it would be a blatant violation of Qatar’s international obligations,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research at Amnesty International’s Regional office in Beirut.
“Standing up for human rights is not a crime,” Maalouf highlighted. “Instead of relentlessly persecuting peaceful activists the Saudi Arabian authorities should drop the ludicrous charges against him and stop their systematic harassment of human rights defenders,” she added.
Mohammad al-Otaibi fled to Qatar after the travel ban imposed on him from his previous conviction was lifted in February 2017. His current trial started on 30 October 2016 and he is being prosecuted on a long list of charges that include posting tweets deemed “offensive to the Kingdom, the ruler and Arab countries”, setting up an independent organization without authorization, giving interviews to the media and “inciting international organizations against the Kingdom”.
The Australian government should immediately halt military sales to Saudi Arabia following numerous unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday (April 18, 2017) in a letter to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
According to international human rights organization, Australia should also release details about military weapons and material it has sold to other members of the Saudi-led coalition carrying out the Yemen campaign and whether any Australian-made arms have been used in unlawful coalition attacks.
“Prime Minister Turnbull has approved military sales to Saudi Arabia when he should be using Australia’s leverage to press Riyadh to end unlawful airstrikes in Yemen,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “Until the Saudi-led coalition credibly investigates and curtails its unlawful attacks, Australia should stop selling them arms and equipment,” she added.
“Halting defense sales to Saudi Arabia would send a strong signal to Riyadh that the Australian government is committed to ensuring respect for the laws of war, and to the Australian people that the lives of Yemeni civilians are of genuine concern,” Pearson pointed out.
A fleeing Saudi woman faces grave risks after being returned to Saudi Arabia against her will while in transit in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said in a report it released on Thursday (April 13, 2017). Saudi authorities should ensure that Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, is not subjected to violence from her family or prosecution by Saudi authorities for trying to flee, the international organization pointed out.
According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, “Saudi women fleeing their family or the country can face so-called ‘honor’ violence or other serious harm if returned against their will.” Whitson highlighted that “Saudi authorities should immediately protect this woman from her family to ensure she’s not subjected to violence and should not punish her for fleeing.”
“The Philippine government should fully investigate this incident and hold any of their officials who failed to protect Dina Ali Lasloom accountable, as required by international law,” Whitson stressed.
The Saudi authorities should disclose whether Lasloom is with her family or held by the state, Human Rights Watch said. If held by the state, the authorities should disclose under what conditions she is being held, including whether she is at a shelter at her request and whether she has freedom of movement and ability to contact the outside world. State shelter facilities in Saudi Arabia are used both to detain women and to provide protection for those fleeing abuse, and may require a male relative to agree to their release.
The international watchdog warned Lasloom is at serious risk of harm if returned to her family. She also faces possible criminal charges, in violation of her basic rights, for “parental disobedience,” which can result in punishments ranging from being returned to a guardian’s home to imprisonment, and for “harming the reputation of the kingdom” for her public cries for help.
“Saudi women face systematic discrimination every day, and Lasloom’s case shows that fleeing abroad may not protect them from abuses,” Whitson concluded.
The Bahrain Forum for Human Rights (BFHR) its annual report, entitled “Bahrain… The Map of Persecution: Undermining Civil Society,” in which it observes the most important 2016 human rights events, which indicate the continuation of human rights violations in Bahrain.
The report also reviews the most important violations faced by Bahrainis, including the violation of religious freedoms, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance, deprivation of nationality, banning gatherings, targeting civil society organizations, and unfair prosecutions.
According to the report, the fundamental rights and freedoms are seriously deteriorating in Bahrain, especially after restricting freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, religion and belief, and association, prosecuting dissidents, activists and human rights defenders through unfair trials, knowing that the right to peaceful assembly is banned in Bahrain since 2014.
The report also points out that the Bahraini authorities imposed arbitrary restrictions on the establishment of non-governmental organizations, through Civil Associations Law and Political Associations Law. Furthermore, the Bahraini authorities provided themselves with a legal pretext for arbitrary deprivation of citizenships, the report said.
The report highlights that the Ombudsman, the Special Investigation Unit, and the National Institution for Human Rights failed to fulfill their human rights roles.
In regards to recommendations, the report urges the Bahraini authorities to immediately and seriously implement the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations, and those of the UPR. They should also remove the ban imposed on the right to peaceful assembly, and stop adopting local laws in order to restrict the right to freedom of expression.
The report called on the Bahraini authorities to stop practicing forced disappearance, halt extra-judicial killings, guarantee fair trials for citizens, and allow observers to attend those trial.
The report emphasizes Bahrain’s need for international monitoring over the performance of the agencies created by the Bahraini authorities after the BICI report to reveal the truth. It stresses that there is also an urgent need for international monitoring of the implementation of the BICI recommendations and those of the UPR on Bahrain.
In a related context, the report called to appoint a UN special rapporteur on Bahrain, form an international investigations committee on all violations in Bahrain, establish a regional office for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with full powers.
The report urges Bahrain to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and urges Bahraini authorities to urgently lift the siege imposed on Diraz, as well as to cancel all citizenship revocation verdicts and bring back the deportees, and to begin national reconciliation.
Last but not least, the report urges the European Union states and other HRC member states to call on the Bahraini authorities to end death row sentences, halt their implementation against all prisoners of conscience, and consider this punishment to be a deprivation of the right to life. It calls on the USA to freeze the arms deals with the government of Bahrain, and the British government to prevent the government of Bahrain from using the UK’s support to cover up its human rights violations.
Saudi Arabia should investigate the death of a Pakistani transgender woman at a Riyadh police station following a raid on an event space in late February 2017, Human Rights Watch said in a report it released on Thursday (April 13, 2017).
According to the international human rights organization, Saudi authorities should also immediately release five Pakistanis who remain in detention if they are held only on suspicion of committing morality related “offenses.”
“Saudi Arabia’s aggressive policing of the private consensual activities of Saudis and foreigners diverts resources from actual problems such as preventing and solving crimes,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi Arabia should immediately end this nightmare for Pakistani families by credibly investigating why this woman died in police custody and releasing the other Pakistanis still in jail,” she added.
“Saudi authorities should set the tone for society by respecting peoples’ privacy rather than targeting LGBT people for arrest,” Whitson concluded.
The United Arab Emirates should clarify its role in the apparent Saudi-led coalition attack on a boat carrying Somali civilians off the western coast of Yemen, Human Rights Watch said Thursday (April 13, 2017) in a letter to the prime minister and defense minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
The international human rights organization stressed that the UAE should also provide information on the role of its forces in other unlawful coalition attacks, and endorse an impartial, international inquiry into laws-of-war violations by all parties to the conflict in Yemen.
“Desperate Somalis fleeing Yemen’s conflict became the targets of the very violence they were trying to escape,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE has been a major player in the Saudi-led coalition yet appears to have done nothing to address the role its forces played in scores of unlawful airstrikes carried out over the past two years.”
“The concerns expressed by the UAE armed forces for the attack on the refugee boat should be promptly translated into action,” Whitson said. “The UAE should be pressing other coalition members to accept an impartial, international investigation into this and other allegedly unlawful attacks by all sides in the Yemeni conflict.”
Amnesty International urged in a call of action report on Thursday (April 13, 2017) the Bahraini authorities to quash Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction and to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
On 3 April, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain reduced the nine year prison sentence against opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of Bahrain’s main opposition party al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, to four years. Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience and remains held in Jaw Prison, south of the capital Manama.
The international human rights organization called on Bahraini authorities to implement the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which called for the immediate release of Sheikh Ali Salman and for him to receive adequate compensation.
It also called to uphold the right to freedom of expression and repeal or amend all laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
Bahrain Forum for Human Rights (BFHR) issued a report on “Arbitrary Detention and the Deterioration of Prison Conditions,” prepared for the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in Bahrain, which is to be held in 2017, in which it assessed the implementation of the recommendations made in the previous Periodic Review, and the causes of concern that have developed on the ground, in topics related to arbitrary arrests, torture, and ill-treatment, during the period between the end of May 2012 until early March 2016.
The report noted that the Bahraini authorities did not implement the recommendations that urge them to drop the charges against the persons convicted of exercising the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and to release them immediately. In addition, the Bahraini authorities did not implement the recommendations that urge them to repeal or amend the national legislations, which restrict the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
The report also pointed out that the Bahraini authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest political activists, human rights defenders, persons active in the media field, and others who are affiliated with the opposition for exercising freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It revealed, in the same regard, the Bahraini authorities’ failure to ensure fair trials for individuals.
The report concluded with a series of recommendations, including urging the Bahraini authorities to admit that there are prisoners who were convicted only for exercising freedom of expression or peaceful assembly and release them immediately; to respond to the visit request of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and adopt its opinions issued since 2012 regarding releasing some of the victims or compensate them; in addition to other recommendations.
Responding to news that UK Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Saudi Arabia in the coming days, Allan Hogarth, head of policy and government affairs for Amnesty International UK, said that, during her trip to Saudi Arabia, May should be telling her hosts that their country's human rights record is totally unacceptable.
"Torture, grossly unfair trials and the use of the death penalty are rampant in Saudi Arabia, while reckless Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen are causing endless death and destruction," Hogarth said. "The security of those Yemeni civilians, who are being killed and injured by these reckless air strikes, must be on the agenda."
"Whatever deals Mrs May secures during her time in Riyadh, there should be one business arrangement that is immediately suspended – the sale of all UK arms to Saudi Arabia that could be used to carry out yet more atrocities in Yemen. With civilian deaths in Yemen mounting ever higher, ministers should long ago have halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia – instead they’ve buried their heads in the sand."
Amnesty International said, in a statement released on Monday (April 3, 2017), that King of Bahrain ratified a constitutional amendment that paves the way for military trials of civilians, in yet another example of Bahrain’s efforts to dismantle access to justice and fair trial.
“This constitutional amendment is a disaster for the future of fair trials and justice in Bahrain. It is part of a broader pattern where the government uses the courts to crackdown on all forms of opposition at the expense of human rights,” said Lynn Maalouf, head of research at Amnesty International’s regional office in Beirut.
“Instead of moving to correct its shameful history of unfair trials and impunity for violations, authorities in Bahrain have decided to further undermine faith in the independence and fairness of the courts and of the justice system as a whole.”
“Trials before military courts violate fundamental requirements of international law and standards for fair trial, as recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a State Party,” said Lynn Maalouf.
“To avoid a lurch backwards to the dark days of martial law, the amendment should be repealed. And the Bahraini authorities must undertake a serious reform of their laws and of the justice system, in line with their obligations under international law.”
Sunjeev Bery, an advocacy director with Amnesty International USA, said that suspending US arms sale to Bahrain sends a dangerous signal to Bahrain and all other countries that engage in serious human rights violations.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will reportedly lift human rights conditions on an arms sale to Bahrain, despite that country’s record of oppression against dissidents and participation in a Saudi-led coalition that has bombed thousands of civilians in Yemen.
In a statement released on Thursday (March 30, 2017), Bery noted that “while getting weapons from the U.S., Bahrain’s government is silencing critics at home and participating in a military coalition that is bombing civilians in Yemen”.
“These deals place the U.S. at risk of being complicit in war crimes, and discourage other countries, like Saudi Arabia, from addressing their own human rights records,” Bery pointed out.
Amnesty International said on Wednesday (March 29, 2017) that Bahraini student Ali Mohamed Hakeem al-Arab, who was arrested on 9 February and taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate, alleged he was tortured and forced to “confess.”
According to Amnesty International’s information, when Ali al-Arab arrived at Dry Dock prison on 7 March he was taken to the prison’s administration office and told to kiss the boot of an officer. When he refused, he was repeatedly beaten on both legs. Due to the pain in his legs, he had difficulty standing and was only able to pray while sitting down. Later that day, he was seen being taken in a wheelchair to the prison clinic. Witnesses have also reported seeing Ali al-Arab’s toenails growing back from the nail root.
Amnesty International called for a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation into Ali al-Arab’s torture allegations – including an examination by a medical expert acting in accordance with professional independence – and bring anyone suspected of responsibility to justice in proceedings that respect international fair trial standards.
It also appealed the Bahraini authorities to ensure he has access to any medical care he requires and is not subjected to further torture or other ill-treatment, and to grant Ali al-Arab immediate access to his lawyer and adequate facilities to prepare a defense, including access to all evidence held by the prosecution
Human Rights Watch said, in a statement it released on Sunday (March 26, 2017), that an apparent Saudi-led coalition attack on a boat carrying Somali civilians off the coast of Yemen highlights the need for accountability on the second anniversary of the Yemeni armed conflict.
Several witnesses reported that on March 16, 2017, a helicopter fired on the boat, killing at least 32 of the 145 Somali migrants and refugees on board and one Yemeni civilian. Another 29, including six children, were wounded, and 10 more remain missing. Photos of the boat taken the next day show damage consistent with gunfire from an aerial attack.
Despite the fact that all the parties to the conflict denied responsibility for the attack, HRW noted that only the Saudi-led coalition has military aircraft. It also pointed out that Somalia, which supports the coalition, called on the coalition to investigate. But the coalition has repeatedly shown itself unable or unwilling to credibly investigate its own abuses.
“The coalition’s apparent firing on a boat filled with fleeing refugees is only the latest likely war crime in Yemen’s two-year-long war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. She also warned that “reckless disregard for the lives of civilians has reached a new level of depravity.”
“Despite the growing mountain of evidence of coalition abuses, the US, UK, and France seem more focused on selling arms to the Saudis than on their possible complicity in coalition war crimes,” Whitson said. “After two years of unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian structures, Saudi Arabia’s allies should reconsider their support and use their leverage with Riyadh to end the violations.”
Amnesty International said on Thursday (March 23, 2017) that the USA and UK are fueling serious violations that have caused devastating civilian suffering through multibillion-dollar arms transfers to Saudi Arabia that vastly overshadow their humanitarian efforts.
“Two years of conflict have forced three million people to flee their homes, shattered the lives of thousands of civilians and left Yemen facing a humanitarian disaster with more than 18 million in desperate need of assistance. Yet despite the millions of dollars’ worth of international assistance allocated to the country, many states have contributed to the suffering of the Yemeni people by continuing to supply billions of dollars’ worth of arms,” said Lynn Maalouf Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.
“Weapons supplied in the past by states such as the UK and USA have been used to commit gross violations and helped to precipitate a humanitarian catastrophe. These governments have continued to authorize such arms transfers at the same time as providing aid to alleviate the very crisis they have helped to create. Yemeni civilians continue to pay the price of these brazenly hypocritical arms supplies.”
“All states, including the USA and the UK, must immediately halt the flow of any arms that could be used commit war crimes or other serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen,” said Lynn Maalouf.
Amnesty International said Monday (March 20, 2017) that the Bahraini authorities have once again displayed their ruthless determination to silence activists and crush all signs of dissent by charging prominent political figure Ebrahim Sharif with “inciting hatred against the regime” in a series of tweets.
“Once again Ebrahim Sharif is being unjustly punished simply for exercizing his right to freedom of expression. The charge against him is ludicrous and must be dropped immediately,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s office in Beirut.
“The Bahraini authorities have repeatedly sought to harass and intimidate anyone who dares to speak out about human rights violations in Bahrain. Instead of wasting their time attempting to silence peaceful activists and critics, the authorities’ should be protecting and upholding human rights in the country.”
The Saudi-led coalition launched Brazilian-made cluster munition rockets that struck a farm in northern Yemen in late February 2017, wounding two boys, Human Rights Watch said in a statement it released on Friday, March 17, 2017.
“The Saudi-led coalition’s continued use of widely banned cluster munitions in Yemen shows callous disregard for civilian lives,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition, the international coalition of groups working to eradicate cluster munitions.
He pointed out that “Saudi Arabia, its coalition partners, and Brazil, as a producer, should immediately join the widely endorsed international treaty that bans cluster munitions.”
Amnesty International said, in a report it released Thursday (March 9, 2017) it has corroborated new evidence the Saudi Arabia-led coalition recently fired Brazilian-manufactured rockets containing banned cluster munitions striking three residential areas and surrounding farmland in the middle of Sa’da city, injuring two civilians and causing material damage.
“Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate weapons that inflict unimaginable harm on civilian lives,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research at the Beirut regional office. She pointed out that the use of such weapons is prohibited by customary international humanitarian law under all circumstances.
“How many more civilians need to be killed, injured, or see their property destroyed through use of these internationally banned weapons, before the international community condemns the use of cluster munitions by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and pressures coalition members to immediately become parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions?” said Lynn Maalouf.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Raad Al-Husayn said Wednesday (March 8, 2017) that the Government of Bahrain has imposed increasing restrictions on civil society and political groups since June 2016, including intimidation, arrests and interrogations, travel bans and closure orders.
While reiterating that this repression will not eliminate people’s grievances, but it will increase them, he said he was deeply concerned over the increasing levels of human rights violations in the Kingdom.
He called on the Government of Bahrain to undertake concrete confidence building measures, including allowing his Office and Special Procedures mandate holders to swiftly conduct visits.
Bahraini authorities are apparently targeting the family members of a prominent Bahraini activist in retribution for his human rights work, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued on Monday (March 6, 2017).
Since March 2, 2017, authorities have detained the brother-in-law and mother-in-law of Sayed al-Wadaei, a United Kingdom-based Bahraini human rights activist who has accused the Bahraini authorities of serious human rights abuses.
"This looks like a cowardly attempt to break the resolve of an activist by attacking his family," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
He pointed out that "Bahrain should tackle the serious human rights abuses identified by Sayed al-Wadaei instead of punishing the messenger and his extended family".
US Department of State said that Bahrain experienced during 2016 a sustained period of unrest, including mass protests calling for political reform, noting that the most serious human rights problems included limitations on citizens’ ability to choose their government peacefully.
In its report on human rights practices for 2016, US Department of State noted that problems also included restrictions on free expression, assembly, and association; and lack of due process in the legal system, including arrests without warrants or charges and lengthy pretrial detentions used especially in cases against opposition members and political or human rights activists.
According to the report, other significant human rights problems included lack of judicial accountability, defendants’ lack of access to attorneys and ability to challenge evidence, prison overcrowding, violations of privacy, and other restrictions on civil liberties.
Meanwhile, the US report highlighted that societal discrimination continued against the Shia population in Bahrain, as did other forms of discrimination based on gender, religion, and nationality.
The Bahrain Center of Human Rights (BCHR) published its 2016 annual report on the status of human rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The report reviews the Bahraini government’s continual violations of its citizens’ rights and freedoms, and examines reprisals against human rights defenders.
According to the report’s findings, Bahraini authorities have during 2016 arbitrarily arrested 1,312 people, including 187 children. Harsh sentences have thereafter been issued by the Bahraini courts in politically motivated cases, of which 40 cases are related to freedom of expression and 19 cases related to freedom of assembly. 91 Life sentences were passed as well as 4 death sentences upheld. 204 citizenship revocation orders were recorded. Furthermore, BCHR has documented 1,523 protests during 2016, of which 155 were attacked by the riot police.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of peaceful dissident writers and human rights advocates in 2017, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued on Monday (February 6, 2017). In January, a Saudi court sentenced two prominent activists to long jail terms, accusing them of being in contact with international media and human rights organizations. The authorities jailed two others, one of whom remains in detention while under investigation.
Saudi courts have convicted at least 20 prominent activists and dissidents since 2011. Many faced sentences as long as 10 or 15 years on broad, catch-all charges such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” or “participating in protests” that do not constitute recognizable crimes.
Bahrain Forum for Human Rights said that it recorded 216 detentions within a month, indicating that detainees are subjected to torture. Meanwhile, the Bahraini authorities continue to refuse the visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Bahrain stepped up its repression of activists and government critics during 2016, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2017. The government dissolved the main political opposition group and prosecuted leading human rights activists and Shia clerics.
In the 687-page World Report, its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights as an impediment to the majority will. For those who feel left behind by the global economy and increasingly fear violent crime, civil society groups, the media, and the public have key roles to play in reaffirming the values on which rights-respecting democracy has been built.
To read the report press here