14 February 2019 – On 13 February 2019, People for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) held a panel for college kids at American College’s (AU) Faculty of Worldwide Service (SIS) on the human rights standing in Bahrain, entitled “Addressing Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain and the Arab Gulf.” Jeff Bachman, Genocide scholar at AU, offered opening remarks for the panel alongside Shadi Mokhtari, Professor at American College following human rights and politics within the Center East. They have been joined by panelists Justin Shilad, a Center East and North Africa Analysis Affiliate on the Committee to Shield Journalists (CPJ); Monica Zuraw, ADHRB’s Advocacy Affiliate; and Bridget Quitter, ADHRB’s Authorized Officer.
The occasion targeted on key human rights points in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the broader Gulf area. Panelists raised considerations about impunity, restrictions on free expression, the concentrating on of journalists, and the position of the US in supporting Gulf governments regardless of numerous human rights violations. Current occasions comparable to Bahrain’s parliamentary elections, the upholding of sentences of outstanding human defenders, and the brutal homicide of famend journalist Jamal Khashoggi have been highlighted within the dialogue.
Shadi Mokhtari opened with an summary of the methods during which Gulf leaders use propaganda and whitewashing of abuses on a world degree. She remarked that Gulf leaders are likely to care extra concerning the worldwide group’s view of them moderately than home opinions, with governments like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE utilizing public relations campaigns to promote themselves “benevolent monarchies and social reform.” Mokhtari highlighted that these governments use self-granted awards for ladies’s rights, worldwide sports activities and extra as a way of overwriting extra sinister human rights abuses. In the meantime, the USA has failed to deal with critical human rights violations and excessive profile abuse instances within the area – Jamal Khashoggi’s case has solely lately taken excessive sufficient precedent in worldwide dialog Along with the Arab Spring protests and human rights advocacy teams, the Jamal Khashoggi case has made room for discussions, criticisms, and diplomatic spats among the many worldwide group relating to these violations.
Monica Zuraw offered college students with a common overview of Bahrain, emphasizing that, regardless of its small measurement, it’s a horrendous rights abuser. The ruling AlKhalifa household maintains the longest serving unelected Prime Minister in world historical past – having held the place for almost 50 years – and has ruled a nation with the very best price of mass incarceration within the Center East. The dominion’s jail and political prisoner populations are astounding given the nation’s comparatively small measurement. The dominion witnessed a peaceable pro-democracy motion beginning on 14 February 2011, the place two-thirds of the native inhabitants took to the streets to protest for human rights and democratic reform. The AlKhalifa authorities violently suppressed this motion, arresting hundreds, injuring tons of, and killing dozens. Activists are nonetheless imprisoned to this present day for his or her involvement and are serving prolonged jail sentences, together with human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace. Each are serving life sentences, and have confronted critical abuse, torture, and denial of entry to medical care by authorities.
Zuraw highlighted that in an effort to additional silence protestors, the federal government tore down the Pearl Roundabout – Bahrain’s focus and image of the pro-democracy motion – after 2011 and eliminated its likeness from the general public eye. The federal government additional focused political and civil society areas and figures, with Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-Basic of Al-Wefaq, offering a major instance of the federal government’s makes an attempt to completely crackdown on Bahraini society. Earlier than his launch from jail, “espionage” fees have been introduced towards him for discussions with Qatar courting again to 2011 . He was sentenced to life in jail one week earlier than the elections after the courtroom overturned his preliminary acquittal throughout appeals. Whereas the US State Division publicly raised concern for his sentencing on twitter, they subsequently lauded the 2018 November elections, which have been held beneath circumstances that have been neither free, truthful, nor consultant of all Bahrainis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has additional did not critically interact Bahrain publicly on its rights abuses in current visits to the dominion, marking an final lack of US engagement on rights abuses.
Zuraw concluded by calling on the scholars to take motion. College students can marketing campaign or write to the college calling for the Crown Prince’s identify to be faraway from the SIS Atrium or elevating considerations over the college’s shut relationship with the royal household. AU college students’ prime location in DC additionally gives college students the chance to critically interact with their representatives and senators on human rights violations in Bahrain and encourage them undertake and advocate for Bahraini prisoners from the listing of vetted prisoners of conscience compiled by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Fee.
Bridget Quitter offered context on ADHRB’s work in documenting and reporting on abuses within the Gulf, and Bahrain extra particularly. She famous that ADHRB was based in 2002, and expanded to DC in 2012 following the Arab Spring in 2011. As a part of our advocacy, we’ve engaged with the United Nations (UN) Human Proper’s Council (HRC) since 2013; engagement based mostly on our UN Grievance Program during which prisoners or their households attain out to ADHRB and we ship their instances to the Particular Procedures workplaces of the UN. Since 2014, ADHRB has submitted info on almost 1,000 people, a few of whom have been focused a number of occasions. Quitter highlighted that the most typical violations are arbitrary detention, torture, and extra just lately, the denial of much-needed healthcare.
Quitter remarked on the federal government’s intense crackdown since 2015. In 2017, the Bahraini authorities amended the structure to permit army courts to attempt civilians. There has additionally been a rise within the variety of mass trials, particularly on accounts of terror-related instances. One particularly, the “Zulfiqar” case noticed 132 people tried en masse. Of the 132, 115 have been convicted, however resulting from Bahrain’s sample of making an attempt defendants in absentia, just one defendant was truly current within the courtroom for the trial. Moreover, she remarked on the rise in denaturalizations, noting that since 2012, the federal government has stripped 824 Bahrainis of their citizenship, a big determine contemplating Bahrain’s citizen inhabitants is roughly 500,000.
Quitter additionally commented on the obscure Bahraini legal guidelines that prohibit free speech and empower officers to condemn activists to jail. For instance, she drew consideration to the sentencing of outstanding human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. Rajab was sentenced to 2 years in jail for collaborating in information interviews, and the 5 years in jail for tweeting about Yemen and torture in Bahraini prisons. His conviction was on the idea of “spreading false information overseas which damages the nationwide curiosity” and “spreading false rumors in wartime, insulting governing authorities, and insulting a overseas nation.” Regardless of his name for launch by the UN, the Courtroom of Cassation confirmed his conviction on 31 December.
Quitter additionally remarked on Bahrain’s current parliamentary elections in November 2018, noting that the federal government dissolved opposition political events comparable to Amal in 2012, Wa’advert in 2016, and AlWefaq in 2017. Officers additionally handed laws prohibiting people from operating for workplace if that they had been beforehand convicted to a jail sentence of six months or extra, have been leaders or members of dissolved political organizations, or in the event that they “disrupted” parliamentary life.
Quitter concluded her remarks by talking about impunity and lack of accountability. The shortage of investigation into torture, and Bahrain’s refusal to reform permits for human rights violations to fly underneath the radar. She mentioned the 2016 International Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which holds human rights abusers accountable for his or her atrocities by way of sanctions. Till sanctions have been positioned for the human rights injustices surrounding the case of Jamal Khashoggi, no Arab State was held chargeable for violations by way of using sanctions.
Justin Shilad launched the Committee to Shield Journalists (CPJ), noting that since 1981, CPJ has been advocating for press freedom, together with conducting analysis and knowledge concerning the killings, incarcerations, and assaults on journalists. He delivered to consideration that since 2011, CPJ has observed a dramatic deterioration of free speech within the Gulf. CPJ gathered that Egypt was third on the earth for jailing probably the most quantity of journalists of their work, adopted by Saudi Arabia. The dominion held 16 journalists in jail final yr for exercising their proper of free press, and the brutal killing of Khashoggi additional demonstrated the area’s grim crackdown on press freedom. Shilad claimed that since Mohammad Bin Salman’s rise as Crown Prince, he has positioned extra intense restrictions on civil society, displaying that regardless of who you’re on the ideological spectrum, you aren’t protected. Beneath Salman, a number of journalists have been detained comparable to Iman al-Nafjan, who was a outstanding blogger and was related to the marketing campaign to finish the ban on ladies driving; Nouf Abdulaziz, who blogged about ladies rights points and Saudi detainees; and a non-political journalist, Marwan al-Mureisi, who’s being held in an unknown location.
Shilad continued the dialog by noting that because the Saudi-led army intervention in Yemen in 2015, at the very least seven journalists have been killed. At the start of this battle, Ahmed Al-Assiri, the spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition, was on the report saying that the media was a goal. This assertion performed itself out, with the killing of journalist Almigdad Mojalli on January 17, 2016 throughout a Saudi-led airstrike— which was most definitely armed, backed, and given logistical help from the U.S. army. In 2018, CPJ documented 11 journalists being held in Houthi detention in deplorable circumstances, enduring horrific torture. Along with the Houthi and Saudi coalition, there are journalists in southern nations being focused by militias armed by the United Arab Emirates. He asserted that infringing on press freedom isn’t restricted to borders—it goes past the area.
Specializing in Bahrain’s remedy of journalists, Shilad talked about that Bahrain is an ideal instance of a “profitable accomplished crackdown on press freedom.” CPJ counted a minimum of six journalists behind bars in Bahrain, and three journalists killed since 2011. Amongst these three was Karim Fakhrawi, the founding father of Bahrain’s solely unbiased newspaper, Al-Wasat. He by no means got here out of a Bahraini police station after complaining that his home was going to be demolished by the federal government, and was discovered lifeless a number of days later. Al-Wasat was then closed down years later.
Shilad expressed that the Khashoggi killing could also be a turning level for impunity within the Gulf area. He famous that the present U.S. administration introduced sanctions towards 17 people who have been concerned in Khashoggi’s dying. Nevertheless, the Trump administration introduced that it was not going to reply with additional sanctions and it was not going to challenge a proper report. The Khashoggi case produced a response that we’ve got not seen earlier than in U.S. Congress, which is the willingness to query the U.S.-Saudi relationship. This case brings to mild the chance to mandate the Magnitsky sanctions which were disregarded prior to now, and pushing different nations to pursue their very own variations of the Magnitsky Act.
Jeff Bachman concluded the panel’s dialogue by reaffirming the factors made by the panelists, emphasizing that “when there isn’t any value for non-compliance, there isn’t any incentive for governments to vary.” Whereas obscure language and definitions of counter-terrorism make room for arbitrary detention on the idea of free speech and political criticism. He talked about that nations comparable to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia all the time make justifications for human rights injustices, citing that they don’t seem to be human rights violations, however coverage violations. These nations declare that they don’t possess human rights points, and help their claims due to the shortage of accountability.