STATEMENTS

NGOs boycott Saudi G20, BBC documentary confirms khalifi abuses

More than 220 civil society organizations from around the world have voiced their concerns over the G20 civil society engagement process hosted by and in Saudi Arabia in 2020. The organizations have pledged not to participate in this year’s process, known as the Civil 20 or ‘C20’, the dedicated stream of meetings for civil society within the G20. The organisations endorsed a statement, originally published in January 2020, that reads in part: “Instead of real reform, the Saudi government has been trying to whitewash its dire human rights record by holding major international events in the country. This includes the G20 and – through a government-authorized NGO – the C20. As leading civil society organisations present in most countries around the world (but not Saudi Arabia), we cannot participate in a process that seeks to give international legitimacy to a state that provides virtually no space for civil society, and where independent civil society voices are not tolerated.”

On 18th March Saudi regime’s court adjourned the trial session of four women human activists; Loujain al-Hathloul, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Samar Badawi, Naseema al-Sadah and Nouf Abdulaziz until 27th June as the country faces coronavirus crisis. Their hearings had been repeatedly delayed prior to the outbreak. No foreign observers were allowed into the court. Samar Badawi will appear before the court with them for the first time.

Anger is rising among native Bahrainis against the khalifi dictator  for refusing to bring back more than 1300 citizens stranded in Iran for five weeks. They are said to be in a desperate situation as the coronavirus epidemic continues to claim more victims worldwide. They found themselves in this situation after the airlines stopped flights to Iran last month. The governments of Oman and Kuwait are ready to help but the regime has refused to give the green light to transfer the Bahrainis back. At least five of them died of coronavirus and many of them are catching the disease.

Anger is also rising against the regime for refusing to release the political prisoners who are at great risk of the coronavirus disease. Only 250 out of 1500 released two weeks ago were political prisoners who had served most of their unjust prison sentences. On 23rd March Human Rights Watch said: Bahrain’s prisons are plagued by hygiene problems. There was a scabies outbreak at the Dry Dock Detention Center in January 2020, infecting more than half the prison’s population. In 2016, a government watchdog found that some buildings in the Jaw Prison suffered from “bad hygiene,” “insect infestation,” and “broken toilets.” Yet prisoners, including high-profile ones, were routinely denied adequate medical care. Bahraini authorities should respond to this global pandemic by releasing those wrongfully held behind bars. They should provide appropriate information on hygiene and supplies and ensure all areas accessible to prisoners, prison staff, and visitors are disinfected regularly. They should develop plans for housing people exposed to or infected with the virus in isolation and ensure that appropriate medical care is available.

Sherif Azer, Project Leader at Reprieve said that the cancellation of The Grand Prix in Bahrain “is not bad news. That was sensible.” He added: “The bad news is that people continue to be tortured in the name of justice in Bahrain, forced to sign so-called ‘confessions’ to escape unimaginable pain. Those ‘confessions’ are then used to sentence people to death. And right now, without the spotlight on Bahrain, torture is likely to remain the status quo. The victims of this broken system are people like Maher Abbas al-Khabbaz who was beaten, whipped and deprived of food and water after he was arrested in 2013. He was told that he would be subjected to further torture if he refused to ‘confess’ to the murder of a policeman. The Grand Prix may have been cancelled and the world’s focus is, understandably, on coronavirus. However, if anything, that only means we need to fight harder than ever to protect the values and human rights that underpin our society. We cannot lose sight of the people who are at risk of being forgotten during this crisis.”

Former political prisoner, Sayed Mahdi Al Mousawi tweeted an alarming fact: “I spent five years at Jaw prison, I saw thousands of policemen. I swear by God that I had not seen a single Bahraini policeman. All are of foreign descent. The media reports talk of the disastrous situation among the Asians in Manama (policemen are among them). They represent a threat to the prisoners.” Rejected by natives, the regime now depends on foreigners.

Yesterday, one of the most serious damning documentary programmes was broadcast by the BBC Arabic TV. Titled “Breaking the Silence” the documentary presented testimonies of Bahraini women political prisoners who confirmed that they had been tortured, abused and sexually assaulted by their torturers. It was an explosive programme that could bring governments down for the details it presented on how those jailers, including members of Alkhalifa tribe took pleasure in abusing native Bahraini women. One of them is the brother of a senior ambassador from the ruling family. See the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMuhSszAUJg

Bahrain Freedom Movement

25th March 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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