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Deaths continue as Riyadh, Manama fail to release inmates, repatriate citizens

Winners of the Martin Ennal Award for Human Rights Defenders have called for the release of fellow winners who remain in detention: Academic Ilham Tohti in China, Rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in the UAE, Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh in Iran and Activists Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in Bahrain. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, sometimes called “the Nobel Prize for human rights”, was created in 1993 to honour and protect individuals who demonstrate exceptional courage in defending and promoting human rights.

As the repatriation of native Bahrainis stranded in Iran lingers on with limited efforts to speed up their return, other stranded citizens have been totally ignored by the regime.  More than 40 Bahrainis stranded in Iraq have been calling on the khalifi dictators to arrange for their return but this week they were told they are not among those scheduled for repatriation. No reason was given. The 9th victim of Covid-19 died in Iran this week, Abdul Aziz Mohammad Sahwan.

Calls for the release of native Bahraini political prisoners have been made from 22 international cities, according to American for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). The calls were made from self-isolation by activists in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Luxemburg, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Azerbaijan. Bahraini citizens have been calling for the release of prisoners on social media and from the roofs of their homes. The health conditions inside jails are worsening. In mid-April inmate Nasser Alsabaa broke his hand at the notorious Jau Prison.  The prison officials have refused to transfer him to a specialised unit outside jail, offering him, instead painkillers and ice cream sticks held with tape as a splint.

On 25th April, The Observer published an article by Jamie Doward  titled:  Britain boosts arms sales to repressive regimes by £1bn. It said:  UK arms sales to repressive regimes increased by £1bn last year compared with 2018. The increase, of more than 300%, has been condemned by arms control campaigners, who accuse the government of putting profits before human rights. An analysis of figures for arms sales, just released by the government, reveals that in 2019 the UK sold £1.3bn worth of weapons to 26 of the 48 countries that are classed as “not free” by Freedom House, the US government-funded pro-democracy institution. This was compared with just £310m in 2018. Business is brisk among those countries which the Foreign Office itself identifies as having poor human rights records. Most of the growth came from the Middle East: 2019 was a lucrative year in terms of licences to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and UAE.

The death on Friday 24th April of a senior Saudi activist Dr Abdulla Al Hamid,, 70 in Riyadh jail has been received with shock, defiance and anger at the way the regime treats political and human rights activists. Last week he slipped into coma due to lack of medical care. Calls were made for his transfer to a proper hospital for treatment, but the regime refused.  In 2009 Hamid defied the ban on civil societies, and together with other colleagues and activists announced the establishment of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, known in Arabic as HASM and English as ACPRA. But Hamid’s activism ended in March 2013 when he was arrested together with more than a dozen colleagues. HASM was officially dissolved by a court ruling, and its founders lingered in prison. In 1993, he was one of the six founding members of the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), and was arrested. He was subsequently released and arrested three more times between 1993-1996.

Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said in a tweet:  Very sad news on this 1st day of #Ramadan2020: Prisoner of conscience, Poet, #humanrights activist Dr Abdullah al-Hamid dies in custody in #SaudiArabia. RIP . UNHumanRights and UN SPExperts have called for prisoners of conscience to be released from custody in the wake of #Covid19.

Following the announcement this week by Saudi Arabia that it plans to end the use of the death penalty against people below the age of 18 at the time of the crime, Amnesty international has called on Saudi to totally abolish the death penalty. According to information obtained by Amnesty International, the Saudi Royal Decree excludes crimes under the counter-terror law. It is unclear what juvenile offenders would instead be sentenced to if tried under this law. In the past five years since Salman bin Abdul Aziz became king at least 11 children (under 18) were executed, ten of whom were beheaded for their political anti-regime activism. The eleventh (Abdul Muhsin Al Ghamdi) was executed for murder. There are now 13 children condemned to death, 12 of whom for anti-regime political activities. Four are awaiting imminent execution having exhausted all legal processes. Eight face beheading and crucifixion. The 13th was accused of armed robbery although CCTV show him at a place far from the crime scene.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

29th April 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

 

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