UN accuses Saudis of Yemen war crimes, hunger strikes hit Bahrain’s prison

Yesterday the UN Human Rights Council issued a statement on “possible war crimes” committed in Yemen. This forms a basis for two actions: the first is to start proceedings against all those who have allowed, planned or carried out these war crimes especially amongst the Saudi-led coalition forces. The second is to establish a special war tribunal for Yemen similar to those that dealt with genocide in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. The Group of Experts’ report, which covers the period from September 2014 to June 2018, analyses the main patterns of violations and abuses of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law committed by parties to the conflict. The report also identifies significant areas where violations and abuses may have been committed but further investigation is required. Among their conclusions, the experts say individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and in the de facto authorities have committed acts that may, subject to determination by an independent and competent court, amount to international crimes. The report notes that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties. The airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities. Based on the incidents they examined, the Group of Experts have reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes.

There has been an international outcry after the Saudi prosecutors demanded the death penalty for a female activist, Israa Al Ghomgham who had taken part in peaceful anti-regime protests. Four others are also threatened with beheading and possible crucifixion. Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said: “Israa al-Ghomgam and four other individuals are now facing the most appalling possible punishment simply for their involvement in anti-government protests. We are urging the Saudi Arabian authorities to drop these plans immediately.” The Saudi regime has detained two brothers and several friends of activist Umar ibn Abdul Aziz in revenge for his activities. He is a refugee in Canada which is locked in political battles with the Saudi regime after it criticised its dismal human rights records.

As Bahraini activist, Ali Mushaima completes one month of his hunger strike, pressures are mounting on both the UK government and Alkhalifa tribal dictatorship to change their policies on dealing with the peaceful opposition by native Bahrainis. Since he began his strike last month the flow of well-wishers and supporters from various colours of the political spectrum have either visited him or issued statements of support. The UK government is under intense pressure to change its policy on Bahrain. Of particular significance is the role of the UK’s Prison Inspection Directorate which has trained Alkhalifa security officials. Mr Mushaima is now showing signs of physical fatigue despite his high morale and insistence to continue his hunger strike to death unless his father and hundreds of other prisoners are granted adequate medical care, family visits and books. All these rights have been confiscated by Alkhalifa torturers.

This form of civil resistance is resonating even inside the torture dungeons of Bahrain where more than 4000 political prisoners are seeking justice. A jiu-jitsu medalist and prominent Bahraini detainee has declared a hunger strike in solidarity with fellow prisoner Hassan Mushaima. Mohamed Mirza, who achieved a medal for Bahrain at the 2008 Asian Open Championships in Thailand, launched his hunger strike to protest the treatment of Mushaima, a Bahraini opposition leader serving a life sentence for his role in Bahrain’s pro-democracy protests and uprising. According to Mirza, Mushaima is being denied access to proper medical treatment, which has caused his health to deteriorate. Mirza is also protesting his own poor treatment at Jaw prison, which includes lack of access to proper health care and restrictions on family visitations such as glass barriers. He chose to begin his hunger strike after filing five separate complaints with the prison to no avail.

Other prisoners have also joined the hunger strike. On 25th August they issued a statement to explain the horrific situation inside the regime’s torture cells. They said that they had begun their strike due to the “deteriorating prison conditions” in the prison and called for real pressure on Alkhalifa regime to stop further deterioration and possibly death. They called for special medical attention and care for several seriously sick inmates; Ilias Nasser who suffers Bowel Cancer, Fadhel Abbas who has a disease called “red wolf”, Ahmad Saeed whose health has recently deteriorated rapidly and Aqeel Hassan Jassim who has developed psychological disorder. Another victim of Alkhalifa denial of medical care is Dr Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim who has been denied medical care after his family complained about the conditions of his incarceration. He suffers high temperature and severe pains. He has also been denied contact with his family.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

29th August 2018 (,

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