STATEMENTS

Saudi laws silence activists, Bahrain F1 race leads to HR abuses

Saudi Arabia is using its counter-terrorism laws to silence activists, including women, in violation of international law guaranteeing freedom of speech, United Nations human rights experts said on 4thMarch. The kingdom’s public prosecutor has begun preparing the trials of women’s rights activists, after completing its “investigations”, state news agency SPA said on 1st March.

A UN panel event entitled “Saudi Arabia – Time for Accountability” was held on 4th March on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council. The Saudi counter-terrorism law and other regulations are “unacceptably wide and unacceptably vague”, said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism. “These laws are used to directly attack and limit the rights of prominent human rights defenders, religious figures, writers, journalists, academics, civil activists and all of these groups have been targeted by this law,” Ni Aolain said. Michel Forst, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said he has been in touch with the Riyadh government for the past year since its “crackdown”. “Worrisome for me is the targeting of women human rights defenders,” he said.

Last week, the Social Democrats, junior partners in Germany’s ruling coalition, called for a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia beyond March 9, despite pressure by Britain and France not to do so and a risk of costly compensation claims. Rolf Muetzenich, SPD deputy leader in parliament, said his party would fight to maintain the halt in shipments of already approved weapons deals with Riyadh that Berlin imposed in November over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. “We will push to continue the halt in arms exports to Saudi Arabia beyond the March 9 deadline, since the reasons for the imposition of the moratorium have not changed,” Muetzenich wrote in an essay published on Monday in the SPD newspaper Vorwaerts.

The Dutch authorities have been criticised for handing over a Bahraini native to the Khalifi torturers. Ali Al Shuwaikh was detained in Holland where he had applied for political asylum. The authorities not only rejected his application but insisted on handing him over to the Bahraini regime despite warnings from human rights bodies that he would face torture and jail. On 20th October 2018 he arrived in Bahrain where he was immediately detained and taken to the torture dungeons. On 28thFebruary Ali Al Shuwaikh was sentenced to life imprisonment and has had his citizenship revoked. His body is full of marks of extensive torture. Human rights activists have accused the Dutch authorities of abandoning their human responsibilities and sharing in the Khalifi crimes of torture, unfair trial and persecution of AlShuwaikh.

On 27th March Khalifi courts issued oppressive verdicts on 170 native Bahrainis for staging a sit-in outside the house of Ayatullah Sheikh Isa Qassim. The sentences ranged between 10 years jail for eight of them, three years on two and one yearf for 35 of them. Those who attempted to flee have been held at ports.  Mohammad Baqir Al Aswad and Ibrahim Al Shakar were detained as they attempted to cross the Bahrain-Saudi causeway. Kadhem Ali Ibrahim and Saleh Ahmad Ibrahim were held at the airport. Sayed Taher Sayed |Jaffar AlMousawi (from Duraz), Saeed Shamloh (from Tubli) and Maitham Meftah were also seized.

On Monday 4th March a native Bahraini father died of shock and pain when his son was seized at a check point the night before.  Abdul Wahid Habib Jassim AlFardan was so devastated that he suffered a massive heart attack. His son, Ali was roughly handled at the check point before being taken away. The father could not tolerate the detention of Ali as he was still unable to get over the arrest of his other son, Habib, earlier.

Asian soccer chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa should be held accountable for his conduct during the detention in Thailand of Bahrain refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, said activist and ex-Socceroos captain Craig Foster. The public face behind the campaign to free Al-Araibi, Foster described Al-Khalifa’s perceived inaction to help a man who had publicly criticised him as “reprehensible”.  “The conduct of the AFC, in particular its president Sheikh Salman, was reprehensible and we made it clear during the time that the least he should have done was to step aside,” Foster told the South China Morning Post.

In another development, Formula One has been accused of “looking the other way” by human rights groups in the case of a Bahraini woman activist who was beaten, sexually abused and jailed for protesting against the Bahrain Grand Prix. Najah Yusuf, who was imprisoned after a series of Facebook posts in April 2017 that were critical of the race and the regime, has not been allowed to see her family for six months. Initially, as the Guardian revealed in November, Formula One admitted to having “concerns” about Yusuf’s case. However, in a letter to Human Rights Watch and the Bahraini Institute of Rights and Democracy (Bird) on Monday, it said it had been assured Ms Yusuf’s conviction “had nothing to do with peaceful protest around the Bahrain grand prix”.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

6th March 2019 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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