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Archive for March, 2012

Despite assertions to the contrary, torture continues in Bahrain, and UN is denied access

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As reported by Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defender Program director Brian Dooley in his article for Foreign Policy on March 22, 2012, torture by security and police forces continues to take place in Bahrain, despite the government’s assertions that real progress has been made.

The (dozen teens) said they had been severely beaten by the police in the previous two days. “They beat us until they got tired, then other policemen would take over and beat us more,” said one boy….

…Several showed me severe bruises on their backs and arms, marks they said were from the beatings.”

Bahrain Denies UN Access to Investigate

Tellingly, Bahrain formally requested a delay of the official visit of Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, who was to visit Bahrain in early March 2012 to investigate.  Mr. Mendez has had an illustrious career in international law, including a current position teaching American University’s College of Law and 15 years of work with the humanitarian group, Human Rights Watch.  This action effectively prevented Mr. Mendez from entering the country and making his independent investigation on behalf of the United Nations.

According to a UN spokesperson, Bahrain’s excuse was that they were “still undergoing major reforms and wants some important steps, critical to the special rapporteur’s mandate, to be in place before he visits so he can assess the progress that Bahrain has made to date,” as reported by Andrew Hammond, senior correspondent for Reuters, on March 1, 2012.

Bahrain has rescheduled his visit for July 2012.

Bahrain Fails to Prosecute Those Guilty of Torture

Meanwhile, Alex Delmar-Morgan (a Wall Street Journal reporter who was infamously arrested by Bahraini security forces while he was covering the protests in Bahrain in March 2011), reported on March 11, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal that Cherif Bassiouni, former United Nations human rights lawyer and head of the royally-appointed Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, stated that the Bahrain regime had failed to act on his recommendations that members of the government involved in systematic torture and homicides be brought to justice and called for accountability.

Please, Take Action

The use of torture by police and security forces in Bahrain has been, and continues to be, extensive, egregious, and systematic, and apparently, sanctioned by the government.  If you are inclined, please write to Mr. Mendez at this address, or take other action as you see fit:

Mr. Juan Mendez
Special Rapporteur on Torture
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Email: sr-torture@ohchr.org

My letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton on behalf of Bahrain and human rights

Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillar...

Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

March 29, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Re:             Please focus human rights and diplomatic efforts on Bahrain

Dear Madam Secretary:

I am a great admirer of yours and want to thank you for your leadership.  I am writing to request that you exert your influence and allocate State Department resources to addressing human rights transgressions in Bahrain.  While I appreciate Bahrain’s strategic importance to the U.S., I feel we can do more to influence our ally.  Ultimately, this is in our nation’s best interests.

You may be aware of recent developments.  In the last few weeks, more than 30 civilians have died from being attacked indiscriminately with tear gas, including two deaths Saturday while the civilians were inside their own homes.  A week ago Tuesday, a young teen who is the nephew of a political prisoner was found unconscious in the street, having been brutally tortured.  Police continue to maim unarmed civilians with birdshot pellets and rubber bullets.  Political prisoners languish in prison without proper medical care for injuries sustained through torture.  The sham trial of 20 nurses and doctors is proceeding, despite your department’s rebuke last fall, and the call from UN Secretary-General.  And Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur for torture, was denied the opportunity to investigate as scheduled this month, because the Ministry says they need until July to show demonstrable changes to him.  The situation has become insupportable.

I do not want to presume to tell you how to handle sensitive diplomatic matters.  But it has been suggested by humanitarian organizations that the U.S. can more strongly and more frequently condemn the ongoing excessive force, imprisonment, and incidents of torture.  We should be actively involved in investigating and monitoring, including access to all trials and visits with political prisoners.  There are a number of sanctions that could be imposed, if needed.  I am aware that the sale of military items has already been put on hold, and I support that.  I also feel your Department’s appeals for the medics and teachers on trial should be reiterated.  Bahrain does not appear to be taking our country’s concerns seriously.

Please consider taking these steps and any other measures you feel would help innocent civilians from being oppressed, tortured, and imprisoned.  Bahrain must be a priority for the U.S., just as Syria is.  Thank you for considering my request.

Sincerely

Mary Fletcher Jones

Arrested for blogging: Ali Abdulemam (Daily Beast article)

The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Madison Shimoda reported in The Daily Beast on March 25, 2012 the story of Ali Abudulemam, a computer engineer, blogger, and activist in Bahrain known for setting up Bahrain Online, a web forum where people could express their opinions.

Mr. Abdulemam, who had previously been arrested and beaten by security forces for his opposition activities, has disappeared. His whereabouts are unknown, and the government claims they do not know where he is.

Here is an excerpt, and a link…

“For the first time,” says Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrainis “could speak freely about politics without being arrested.”

But government agents hounded Abdulemam, the father of a six-year-old son and one-year-old twin daughters, even as he became known as the “The Blog Father of Bahrain.”   Read the rest of this article by Madison Shimoda, published in The Daily Beast on March 25, 2012…

A Conversation with Nada Dhaif, Medic on Trial in Bahrain

Video produced by Human Rights First, Front Line Defenders.  Dr. Nada Dhaif a Bahraini doctor and human rights defender reflects on her experience since February 14th. Interviewed by Front Line Defenders during a field visit to Bahrain in November 2011.

U.N. Ambassador Donahoe Needs to Make Bahrain a Priority

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe is the first United States Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council.  She represents the United States at the 47-member body of elected states, which is the lead UN entity for addressing human rights.

On February 22, 2012, Ambassador Donahoe answered questions from the media at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, during which she outlined the U.S. priorities for human rights action.  The question of how the U.S. will address human rights in Bahrain was posed by a journalist.

Ambassador Donahoe replied that the Human Rights Council assessed the government response as acceptable and that the Council will focus instead on priority countries, such as Syria, Iran, and Sri Lanka.

Transcript: http://www.humanrights.gov/2012/02/22/ambassador-donahoe-at-press-briefing-at-the-palais-des-nations/

Media: And the second question was specific iterations of [inaudible] which will also be addressed at the Council. The U.S. hasn’t been very forthright on this issue. Are you going to take up concerns in the Human Rights community about the conduct of the Bahraini government in dealing with their own protest movement?

Ambassador Donahoe: Let me start with Bahrain and then I’ll go to the bigger question. On Bahrain I think our comment is that in that case — Each of these cases of the Arab Awakening, so to speak, is different, and we have to look at the efforts made by each of these governments in their own context. We are aware that the Bahraini Independent Commission, the BICI, was relatively substantial and the government embraced it to a large extent and we feel fairly positively about that.

We’ve been in conversations with our Bahraini colleagues here and encouraged them to engage even more. But in the scheme of things, in terms of what we have felt able to put forward as concrete initiatives at the Council, we have chosen a few of these other priorities — Syria, Iran and Sri Lanka — as the ones we have to put our energy into.

In part, as I said, because we judge that the Bahraini efforts have been relatively good.

(END of reply to question on Bahrain)

The Disconnect between Ambassador Donahoe’s and the UN’s statements on Bahrain

I feel Ambassador Donahoe’s position on Bahrain is not defensible, and is in sharp contrast to statements by the UN.  By every independent report, the government of Bahrain is not making demonstrable progress, and is continuing human rights abuses, including the documented use of excessive force.

The UN’s position on Bahrain could not be more different than that of Ambassador Donahoe’s.  On September 29, 2011, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, made this statement in response to the sentencing of Bahraini doctors, nurses, and medical support staff, Bahraini teachers, and political dissidents:

The Secretary-General calls for the release of all political detainees and reiterates his appeal to the Bahraini authorities at the highest level to ensure the application of due process and respect for international human rights norms.  This will contribute to conditions for national dialogue, reconciliation and reform as sought by all the Bahraini people.

However, as of today, these Bahrainis either remain imprisoned (some with life sentences) or are on trial.

One week before Ambassador Donahoe stated that the Bahrain government’s response was “relatively good,” the UN  Secretary-General issued this statement (on February 15, 2011):

The Secretary-General is concerned about reports of clashes in Bahrain between security forces and demonstrators over the past few days.  He calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and expects the Bahraini authorities to act in accordance with their international human rights obligations.

The Secretary-General strongly believes that a genuine, all-inclusive and meaningful dialogue that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis is the way to promote peace and stability in the country.

The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Bahraini authorities to do everything possible to expedite the implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, especially its provisions aimed at effective confidence-building measures.

However, as of today, those crack-downs have not abated, and more than thirty people have died from tear gas inhalation, some in their homes.

Another UN official, Juan Mendez, the special rapporteur for torture, registered his regret with Bahrain representatives when Bahrain cancelled his scheduled March investigation at the last moment.

What Can Ambassador Donahoe Possibly Find “Positive” in All This?

To infer that the U.S. and the UN, with all their great resources and diplomatic experts, does not have the capacity to address egregious human rights issues in Bahrain because we must focus instead on Syria, Iran, and Sri Lanka, is not credible.  The U.S. leadership and the UN have the ability to intervene and effect change in all these countries.  A greater degree of involvement can help restore stability to the nation in a way that is both humane and sustainable.

The U.S. Must Take Action on Bahrain

Bahrain is not moving forward so rapidly it does not bear examination by the UN Human Rights Council.  But the 5th Fleet of the U.S. Navy is headquartered at the Gulf nation.   The U.S. can and must use its influence to effect positive change in Bahrain.  While Bahrain is an ally, it needs the defensive power of the U.S. just as much, if not more, as the U.S. needs Bahrain as a geographic base.  It is time for us to wield our substantial influence to effect positive change.

Tell Ambassador Donahoe that Bahrain IS a human rights priority!

Ambassador Donahoe represents our country and its commitment to human rights.  It is up to the American people to demand that the State Department and Ambassador Donahoe make Bahrain a human rights priority.

Please use your influence as an American citizen to tell Ambassador Donahoe that you want the the U.S. and the UN Human Rights Council to fully investigate, monitor and address the ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the use of excessive force against its civilians and the unlawful detention, imprisonment, and torture of political prisoners, teachers, journalists, and medical personnel.

Write to the Ambassador Donahoe  First class mail postage: $1.05

Honorable Amanda Donahoe
American Ambassador to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of the United States of America
11 Route de Pregny
1292 Geneva
Switzerland

Tweet the Ambassador about #Bahrain
Ambassador Donahoe is also on Twitter @AmbDonahoe. In her tweets she has not mentioned Bahrain ONCE.  Don’t you think it’s time she did?  Tweet her about your concern for human rights in #Bahrain today.

Two teachers remain on trial in Bahrain; focus of Amnesty Intl. campaign

Reuters correspondent Isabel Coles reported Monday (3/26) that while five teachers were acquitted in Bahraini courts on Monday on charges related to the pro-democracy protest movement in Bahrain, two teachers remain on trial, and face possible imprisonment.

Mahdi Abu Deeb and Jalila al-Salman are accused of disrupting schooling, broadcasting false news and threatening national security by encouraging protest marches and sit-ins.  Abu Deeb is also chairman of the teacher’s union, the Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA), and Jalila al-Salman is deputy chair.

Amnesty International calls for support of teachers

Human Rights First, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and other organizations have called for justice in the case.   The teachers are a focus of an Amnesty International campaign calling for their release.  An Amnesty International spokesperson stated  “they are likely to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leading members of the BTA.”

Amnesty International (@Amnesty on Twitter) is encouraging supporters to tweet messages of support, such as

  • We demand justice for leaders of the #Bahrain Teachers Association @Khaled_Bin_Ali @MOSDsocial @MoeBahrain http://bit.ly/yHqxxl
  • @Khaled_Bin_Ali @MOSDsocial @MoeBahrain demand justice for Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb leaders of the BTA
  • We stand behind #Bahrain Teachers Association! @Khaled_Bin_Ali @MOSDsocial @MoeBahrain
  • Teachers Belong in School, Not Prison! Justice for #Bahrain’s Teachers now! http://bit.ly/yHqxxl @Khaled_Bin_Ali @MOSDsocial @MoeBahrain

Twitter contacts for Bahraini authorities 

Dan Rather Reports: Excessive Tear Gas in Bahrain (video)

New video shot by CBS photojournalist Mark Laganga (on assignment for Dan Rather Reports) documents allegations of excessive force and tear gas being used indiscriminately by Bahraini police and security forces.

Compelling video footage and commentary by Mark Laganga and Dan Rather about the real and current situation in Bahrain.

More than 30 fatalities (including an infant) are associated with the use of tear gas.  As stated in the video, people who cannot leave their homes (e.g., the elderly and young children) are especially vulnerable to the government’s daily tear gas attacks.

YouTube description:

Behind the scenes at Dan Rather Reports as we explore the “Arab Spring” uprising in Bahrain. The ongoing uprising pits the United States’ democratic ideals against the cold, hard reality of oil-driven politics. Dan Rather Reports airs Tuesdays at 8pm ET on HDNet.

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