STATEMENTS

US Senate calls to stop arming Saudis as Khalifis jail hundreds of Bahrainis

On 13th March the US Senate voted 54-45 to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen. It is another strong rebuke of President Donald Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia, which has been a point of tension with Congress since the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. Lawmakers from both parties have called for a reappraisal of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and accused Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of being involved in Khashoggi’s murder, even as Trump has stood by the the Saudi leader.

As the war on Yemen approaches its fourth anniversary more than quarter of a million people around the world have signed a petition asking their governments to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Amnesty International took the initiative of handing the petition to the UK Government. Meanwhile Germany has extended the moratorium on arms exports to Saudi Arabia to the end of March.

The number of native Bahrainis arrested by the middle of March is more than 20. They include: Abdulla Ibrahim AlJareesh, Ali Jaffar Al Taitoon, Bowling athlete Mohammad Khalil, Hussain Ali Ahmad, Sayed Murtadha Khalil, Mohammad Sadiq Mirza, Taher Hani AlBanna, Tariq Abdul Nabi, Ayyoub AlKhabbaz, Shakier AlMuwali, Ali Habib AlShahrakkani, Jalal Abdulla AlEthnaAshar, Hussain Ali Zain AlDin, Hani AlShuwaikh, Adel Mohammad Ali, Hassan Abd Ali, Sayed Nasser, Sayed Mohammad Sayed Aqeel and Ali Hussain Saeed. Most of them were accused of taking part in the peaceful sit-in outside Sheikh Isa Qassim’s house in Duraz. A young native Bahraini youth is fighting for his life after one week of hunger strike. Osama AlSaghir decided to go on strike after his demands for proper medical treatment were denied. He had been shot at close range with a shotgun during Alkhalifa aggression on Sheikh Qassim’s House in May 2017. He was seriously injured, arrested and denied the necessary treatment for his wounds. His family has expressed serious concern for his life.

On 13th March Bahrain’s dictator ordered one of his “courts” to jail a senior opposition figure for calling on Sudan’s military dictator to leave after 30 years in office. Responding to news that a Bahraini court has sentenced the opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif to six months in prison for a tweet criticizing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf, said: “Ebrahim Sharif’s trial and sentencing is simply the latest development in the Bahraini authorities’ sustained and systematic repression against their own citizens. Bahrainis are being made to pay a hefty price for simply expressing their views. “It is flabbergasting that someone can be made to appear before a court and stand trial, let alone serve a sentence, for simply having expressed their opinion on Twitter.

In one of the largest mass trials in the history of Bahrain, 167 native Bahrainis were given sentences ranging between one and ten years for congregating outside the house of Ayatullah Sheikh Isa Qassim three years ago. Only a handful of them were acquitted. Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of all those convicted. Given that the result of this trial is a concrete and discouraging sign that Bahrain has made no movement towards loosening its clampdown on civil and political rights, Amnesty International also calls on the Human Rights Council to prioritize critical scrutiny of Bahrain’s record and on Council members to speak out against the ongoing repression there.

As international criticism against them mounts, Formula One bosses said on 13th March that they were committed to investigating the circumstances around the imprisonment of Mrs Najah Yusuf, who is serving a three-year sentence for protesting against the Bahrain Grand Prix. Yusuf was sentenced after establishing several social media pages which denounced the political and social systems in Bahrain. During her trial in June 2018, Facebook posts from Yusuf criticising the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix were featured prominently, although the Bahrain government has denied her comments about the race led to her conviction. Liberal Democrat, Lord Scriven said: “Anything less than a call for Najah’s immediate and unconditional release will be a stain on the reputation of F1 and the Bahrain Grand Prix. It is time to act.”

On 19th March six UN experts expressed “serious concerns” for three Bahraini human rights defenders who have been routinely targeted by the Bahraini Government for their human rights activism, including their engagement with UN mechanisms. The experts reiterated their concerns for the criminalisation of freedom of expression in Bahrain and urged the authorities to investigate the allegations of abuse against the women. Hajer Mansoor Hassan, Ebtisam AlSaegh and Zainab AlKhamis have been imposed “travel restrictions, politically motivated charges, threats, including death threats and threats of sexual violence, and physical violence” as part of a broader campaign aimed to “prevent human rights defenders from carrying out their peaceful and legitimate work”, the experts said.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

20th March 2019 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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