STATEMENTS

UK challenged on arming Saudis, MPs force a U-turn on FCO’s IAF

Campaigners have filed for a judicial review of the UK government’s decision to renew arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said the weapons would “fuel destruction and prolong the conflict” in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has employed widespread bombing in a war that has killed thousands of civilians. Last month, a United Nations report said countries arming parties involved in the conflict could be “aiding and assisting” war crimes, and said there had been “documented patterns” of serious international humanitarian law violations. In a June 2019 case, also brought by CAAT, the court of appeal ruled British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful and said ministers had illegally signed off on arms exports without properly assessing the risk to civilians.

At the home front disturbing events have caused serious concerns among human rights bodies. Sheikh Abdul Nasser Ahmad Mahmood Abu Taqiqa has been arrested by Saudi regime’s forces for opposing the destruction of his hometown. The regime decided to obliterate an area in Northwestern Arabia to make way for Mohammad Bin Salman’s project known as NEOM. His brother, Abdul Rahim was liquidated by the regime three months ago. His son, Ahmad is behind bars.

On Monday 26th October woman activist, Loujain Al Hathoul began hunger strike to protest denial of family contacts.  She told her parents that she was exhausted of being mistreated and deprived from hearing her family’s voices. She told them she would start a hunger strike until they allowed her regular calls again.

Representative Ilham Omar has called on Mike Pompeo to withdraw the US from the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia. She said: “The Saudi government stands in stark contrast with every ideal we claim to uphold as Americans. We must hold this oppressive government with a long record of human rights violations accountable.”

In a debate lasting 90 minutes on 22nd October several cross-party MPs severely criticised secret UK government funding to the Gulf. Foreign Office minister for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) James Cleverly made an unprecedented U-turn by promising to publish a summary of future activities funded by the controversial Integrated activity Fund (IAF), a £20m a year fund reserved exclusively for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The move comes after years of appeals by MPs, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Reprieve for openness and clarity. They had repeatedly condemned the fund’s lack of transparency amidst concerns that IAF recipients had been implicated in human rights violations especially Bahrain. As well as pledging to publish a summary of activities funded by the IAF in the 2020/21 financial year, Cleverly promised that the government would “hold ambassadors or heads of missions accountable for effective programme delivery and value for money” when allocating funds from the IAF in future. He stated that the government is taking steps to improve the governance of the IAF, which has been renamed the Gulf Strategy Fund. However, there was no indication that the government would release details of activities funded in previous years, a key demand of MPs.

In his new weekly newsletter “Axios”  investigative journalist Barak Ravid said Israel had been conducting undercover diplomacy in Bahrain for more than a decade through a front company listed as a commercial consulting firm. According to Bahraini public records, the company offered marketing, commercial promotion and investment services. One of the shareholders listed in public records is Brett Jonathan Miller — a South African national who was appointed in 2013 as Israel’s consul general in Mumbai. On the company’s board was Ilan Fluss, a British national and now the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for the economy. He said: “Israeli officials tell me the secret mission really did promote hundreds of business deals struck by Israeli companies in Bahrain. It also served as a secret communications channel for the Israeli government.”

Serious concerns are rising for the health and well-being of Mr Hassan Mushaima, 73 the most senior leader of the Bahraini revolution who has been behind bars for ten years. Last week he was transferred to hospital when his health deteriorated with high blood pressure, breathing difficulties and raised sugar level. He also had Cancer and needs regular scanning. He was kept under emergency treatment for six hours until his symptoms improved. He was then returned to his cell and no real treatment was planned. His case is viewed as “slow death plan”.

Native Bahrainis have been waging regular protests since 2011 but have escalated in recent weeks to protest the kahlifi betrayal of the Palestinian cause. While intermittent protests and demonstrations have erupted at several towns and villages, Friday protests against the regime have been more regular. Regime’s forces often attacked these protests using tear and chemical gases. Many youths have been detained and subjected to severe ill-treatment including torture. On Monday night several protests erupted in various locations.

The trial of popular Bahraini lamenter Abbas Al Ghasra has been postponed. He was detained for reciting religious chants at a religious Covid-19 compliant religious congregation.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

28th October 2020 (info@vob.orgwww.vob.org)

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