STATEMENTS

Bahrainis challenge khalifi sectarianism and persecution of lawyers

As the Ashura commemorations continue, the khalifi regime has escalated its harassment of natives after it had failed to stop them launching their centuries-old commemoration programmes. Almost all heads of the mosques at Hamad town and other places were recalled and warned against participating in those commemorations. They were forced to sign pledges not to engage in their religious duties or face revenge by the regime. Many Ashura banners and flags were attacked and removed by regime’s forces.

On 14th August Fitch Ratings has downgraded Bahrain’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘B+’ from ‘BB-‘. The Outlook is Stable. The downgrade reflects the combined impact of lower oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic on Bahrain, which is causing marked increases in the budget deficit and government debt, pressure on already low FX reserves and sharp GDP contraction.

There has been an uproar against the khalifi regime when it decided to target lawyers and criminalise their peaceful expression of opinion. Yesterday their kangaroo court adjourned the trial of prominent human rights lawyer, Abdulla Al Shamlawi until 14th September. He had appealed an earlier sentence of eight months jail issued on 30th June for presenting counter argument on a religious matter to that promoted by the khalifi machine. He rejected the idea that fasting on 10th Muharram is a recommended religious act. He also criticized regime’s policy of giving priority in housing to foreign workers while natives have to wait more than 15 years to get a house. The regime kangaroo court also adjourned the trial of another lawyer, Abdulla Hashim until 29th September. He faces two years imprisonment for tweets against corruption and impunity.

On 19th August 26 UK’s Bar Human Rights Committee wrote to Bahrain’s dictator to raise concerns regarding the prosecution and judicial harassment of a number of lawyers and human rights defenders in the country. This is an encouraging development from the BHRC which had played a positive role in the nineties and challenged the khalifi regime on its human rights dismal record. In its letter the BHRC urged the regime to stop prosecuting the two lawyers and “turn away from what appears to be a policy of criminalizing and harassing lawyers with respect to freedom of expression. In the absence of such reviews, BHRC urges the king to pardon Mr Al Shamlawi to ensure that constitutional rights are upheld and Bahrain respects its international obligations”

Three political prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement for objecting against filming some religious activities by the prisoners. Laith Khalil from Sitra, Ali Ashoor from Karzakkan and Faisal Atiya from Duraz were severely punished for exposing the real aim of the filming. A group of journalists, dressed as policemen had started filming some detainees who were congregating to mark Ashura in one of the cells. The three realized that this would be used as propaganda by the regime and they wanted to deny the khalifis an opportunity to deceive the world.

The khalifi foreign ministry said it was launching a “consultation process” for a “National human rights plan”. The filming of some prisoners exercising limited religious rituals while being denied basic religious books, including the holy quan is seen as an exploitation of the political prisoners. The transfer of the three to solitary confinement is testimony to the real face of the khalifi dictatorship. This is yet another cunning move to blunt the calls to stop human rights violations, end culture of impunity and bring torturers to justice. Until now the regime has refused to allow any of the UN experts on human rights to visit the country despite abundance of demands and calls. The regime refuses to stop torture as a means of subduing the natives who are calling for regime change.

The confirmation of the arrival of Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos in the United Arab Emirates has enraged human rights activists. On 22nd August Human Rights Watch issued a statement highlighting the bleak human rights situation in that country. It said: “Emirati authorities have been engaged in a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association in the country since 2011, detaining and forcibly disappearing individuals who criticize them. Among those is Ahmed Mansoor, leading human rights advocate in the UAE, who has been confined to an isolation cell since his March 2017 arrest, and deprived of access to fresh air, leaving him in precarious health.” It added: “The UAE’s repressive system doesn’t only affect critics and those the authorities perceive to have harmed the country’s carefully-tailored image. Investigations have revealed how the government’s use of sophisticated spyware has allowed it to target and surveil foreign journalists and even world leaders.” It ended with the assertion that: “The UAE may have thrown its doors open to the Spanish former king, but it still closes them to international human rights organizations and independent monitors, leaving it relatively free to falsely present itself as a tolerant, open, and progressive country.”

Bahrain Freedom Movement

26th August 2020 (info@vob.org)

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