STATEMENTS

As coronavirus spreads, Saudis must stop war, khalifis must free prisoners

On 26th March the Saudi-led war on Yemen completed five agonizing years with no sign of an end. Instead of winding down the criminal attacks on this war-torn country, the Saudis have escalated their attacks and killed many civilians in the past few days. They have not heeded the worldwide calls to stop this criminal aggression. The Saudis find it difficult to concede defeat after killing more than 50,000 Yemenis, mostly civilians and children and causing the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. Both USA and UK have been urged by human rights bodies and anti-war activists to stop their participation in this aggression, but to no avail.

On Monday 24th March the German government approved an extension of the arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, which will now last until December 31, 2020. Berlin has pointed to the situation in Yemen, in justifying its arms embargo. The Saudi military, particularly the Air Force, has made extensive use of Western-supplied systems in carrying out its campaign in Yemen, leading to backlash from governments and activists in the West who have recoiled against the war’s human toll. This decision marks the third extension to the arms embargo, which was initially enacted in late 2018 after the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018.

On 28th March The Guardian published an article by Jamie Doward titled: “£1bn of taxpayers’ cash to help foreign countries buy British arms”. The writer quoted Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade: “Even in times of crisis, the (UK) government is showing that it will go to any length to sell as many weapons as possible,” Some £5.3bn of arms have been licensed to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began”. There are concerns that the Saudi-led coalition, which is fighting to re-install a puppet government, may have committed human rights violations by targeting civilian infrastructure. “Over the last five years we have seen the devastating impact of UK-made fighter jets, bombs and missiles on Yemen. The war has killed tens of thousands of people and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Those arms sales need to end now, but so do the policies that allowed them to happen in the first place.”

The khalifi regime of Bahrain has been severely criticized by human rights activists for failing its duties during this critical period of the coronavirus pandemic. At least seven native Bahrainis have died as they waited for the government to repatriate them to Bahrain after all flights to Iran had been stopped. Up to 2000 Shia Muslim pilgrims are in Iran which is fighting the spread of the disease. When Oman and Qatar took the initiative, out of humanitarian concerns, to fly 200 Bahrainis back from Iran, the khalifi regime reacted angrily and reluctantly agreed to repatriate them from Muscat and Doha airports. Now the waiting game has started as the regime, for political and sectarian considerations, has continued its irresponsible and inhumane policy. Yesterday Abdul Nabi Abdulla, a native elderly Bahraini citizen stranded in Iran, died of the virus. His flight was cancelled three times by the khalifis.

The khalifi regime has refused to release thousands of native Bahraini political prisoners despite repeated pleas from human rights bodies. On 25th March, UN Human Rights Chief MichellePachelet  urged governments to act now to prevent #COVID19 devastating the health of people in detention and other closed facilities, as part of global efforts to contain the pandemic. “In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so,” Ms. Bachelet said, making physical distancing and self-isolation practically impossible. People are often held in unhygienic conditions. Health services are inadequate – or non-existent – and the virus “risks rampaging” through these vulnerable populations.“The consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic,” the High Commissioner said.

Despite the regime’s refusal to reveal the extent of the coronavirus spread among inmates, there are worrying signs that the spread may have begun. At Block 14 of the notorious Jaw Prison, there are many cases of high temperature, coughing and other symptoms. Yesterday a letter leaked out from prison, Mohsin Baddaou appealed to the World Health Organisation to help prevent widespread of the disease in the prison: He said: “Save us before the catastrophe. In this prison we have no means to stop this pandemic”. In his letter, revealed by human rights activist, Mrs Ibtisam Al Sayegh he said: We have no masks or sanitizers, no social-distancing, one toilet for 17 inmates and 380 of them share one telephone set”. He said that their jailers do not follow protection procedures, wear masks or gloves or heed calls to attend those with severe cough and temperature.”.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

1st April 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

 

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