STATEMENTS

Bahrain’s political prisoners face more torture;

Calls to release Saudi women activists

On 16th May two prisoner of conscience brothers, Mohammad and Ali Fakhrawi were transferred to solitary confinement for observing religious rituals inside jail. Every few hours torturers would their cells and inflict various kinds of torture on them. They are facing daily bouts of slapping, kicking and beating. Khalifi torturers want to make them examples for anyone who ventures to exercise his/her religious rights in the torture cells.

Outside jail, the khalifi dictators issued orders to stop the use of loudspeakers for the recitation of the holy Quran during the fasting month of Ramadan. Heads of mosques and congregation halls were summoned by the khalifi-led interior ministry and warned of severe punishment if they used loudspeakers. Most have refused to abide by the orders; and loudspeakers were used in most areas. Without them the Ramadan atmosphere would have become extremely grim given the lockdown regime that banned religious meetings or congregations. These khalifi policies have been detailed by the latest US annual report on religious freedom in Bahrain, confirming the religious persecution of the Shia Muslim natives who make 70 percent of the population.

Brian Dooley, Senior Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has tweeted grim account of the overcrowding conditions in Bahrain prisons: Hearing horrific reports from inside #Bahrain’s packed Jau Prison; that Building 13 has capacity for 192 prisoners but is holding 292, & that over a dozen guards being tested for Covid-19 in the prison clinic. Let the elderly & frail prisoners out for everyone’s safety. His call has been echoed by many after scores of prisoners and guards showed symptoms of Covid-19.

The family of political prisoner, Mohammad Al Daqqaq has appealed for his release so that he gets adequate medical treatment. He is being held at Block 12 of the notorious Jau prison. Mohammad suffers from sickle cell and skin diseases and has only one functioning kidney. He has repeatedly suffered acute attacks linked to his blood irregularity and fears are growing for his life.

On 13th May, French MP Jean-Luc Lagleize questioned the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs about human rights and fundamental freedoms in Bahrain. He said that a great number of NGOs had published worrying information regarding the violations of such rights and freedoms. These violations include breaches of civil and political rights, cases of torture, sexual assaults and state coercion tactics. The targets of such practices include government critics, women human rights defenders, political activists inside and outside Bahrain. In addition, the government of Bahrain has been guilty of sustaining inhumane prison conditions by refusing necessary medical care, restricting family visits, implementing isolation policies against political prisoners and allowing unsanitary conditions to fester and discriminating against detainees on the basis of their religion.

Reprieve, which campaigns for abolishing capital punishment has belittled the significance of Saudi claim to have suspended executions of minors. In a statement this week it said: When headlines like this one were published on April 27 after the announcement of a new royal decree, the team here at Reprieve were quick to investigate the story behind the headlines. Was it real change, or was it just another public relations exercise? So far, it looks like it’s a PR exercise aimed at Western journalists and decision-makers. The situation for Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, Abdullah al-Zaher and 10 others remains the same today as it was when the announcement was made three weeks ago. Ali, Dawood and Abdullah could still be executed without warning.

On 18th May Newsweek published an opinion column by Tahaj Al-Hajji, a Saudi lawyer, titled: “Saudi Arabia says it will stop  executing children, but read the small print” The article said: Ten days have passed since the announcement. The decree has not been published. No death sentences have been commuted. Four young men, including Ali, remain at imminent risk of execution, one death sentence is being appealed, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in eight more juvenile cases. Tell me, how is this “eliminating” capital punishment for children?

Amnesty International has called on King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to release several notable women’s rights defenders, two years after they were detained. On 15 May 2018, a number of prominent Saudi women’s human rights activists were arrested. They had been peacefully advocating for years for the right of women in the kingdom to drive, as well as broader reforms related to the repressive male guardianship system.  In the days and weeks that followed, more of their fellow peaceful activists were detained as part of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown and smear campaign. “It is heartbreaking that two years have now passed with these brave women still behind bars, especially as during this time Saudi women have been enjoying some of the newfound rights they had fought so hard for,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director. “In prison, many suffered mental and physical anguish – including torture, sexual abuse and solitary confinement. Scores of others, though released, still face trial based on charges relating to their peaceful activism. “It is time the Saudi Arabian leadership stopped using the judiciary as a Damocles sword hanging above activists’ heads. Saudi Arabia’s ‘reform drive’ cannot be considered credible as long as these women and other peaceful activists are still being targeted for their work.”

Bahrain Freedom Movement

20th May 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

 

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