STATEMENTS

Bahrainis continue march to democracy, Saudis target al-Jazeera journalists

Bahrainis marked the Martyrs’ Day on 17th December in their own ways; street protests, public statements; religious services especially at graveyards, seminars and visits to their bereaved families. Several activities were held in London including a protest at Bahrain’s embassy, exhibition at Marble Arch and online seminar.

On 16 December 2020, 18 human rights groups including Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and Freedom House wrote to the president elect of the United States, Joseph Biden, congratulating him on his election and urging him to “ensure the return of democracy and human rights as the center of American foreign policy” amidst the deteriorating political situation in Bahrain. The letter presented the systemic attack on human rights defenders which has only worsened since Bahrain outlawed all political opposition parties in 2017. It highlighted the cases of unjustly imprisoned opposition leaders and HRDs who serve lengthy sentences in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons, suffer torture and ill-treatment, and are “punitively denied adequate medical care”. Signatories pointed to the heightened vulnerability of “aging political leaders who suffer underlying health conditions”, such as the leader of the political opposition Mr. Hasan Mushaima, amidst the outbreak of Coronavirus. The letter also referred to the increased use of the death penalty in Bahrain, where 27 individuals are currently on death row, 25 of them are “at imminent risk of execution”. Nearly half were convicted on the basis of false confessions extracted under torture, with the most recent cases being Mohamed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa.

On 16 December, the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) held a webinar to mark Martyrs’ Day in Bahrain. The event, entitled ‘Justice for Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings’, focused on commemorating those who have lost their lives at the hands of the Bahraini government and to condemn extrajudicial killings, as well as highlighting the ongoing deplorable human rights situation in the country. The event was addressed by four panelists: Jen Marlowe–a Seattle-based award-winning author/documentary filmmaker/playwright and human rights activist, Tara Reynor O’Grady–a human rights defender and consultant from Ireland, Stephen Bell – from Stop the War Coalistion and Said Haddadi–Head of Communications at Arab Reform, It was moderated by Irene Garí and Basma Abassi, both advocacy assistants at ECDHR.

Former UK ambassador to Bahrain has retired to a lucrative job working at the khalifi-controlled Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, headed by the Crown Prince. Often ex-UK officials end up working for Gulf dictators. The message is clear: keeping quiet about human rights abuses will be rewarded.

Calls have been made to stop the attack on individual liberties and privacy of people by Saudi, Emirati and khalifi regimes. This has followed the news that the Saudis had targeted journalists working for Al Jazeera TV network and native Bahraini political and human rights activists.  Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, tweeted: And more evidence, again, on the unlawful use of surveillance technology: “this time, dozens of Al Jazeera journalists were allegedly hacked likely by UAE and SaudiArabia using NSO spyware. Dozens of Aljazeera journalists were hacked using Israeli spyware.”  In 2018 the Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” by the Saudis.

On his 26th birthday, Reprieve, urged people to remember Ali al-Nimr in Saudi jails: It said:  It’s his sixth year on death row; his eighth locked up in prison. He is there because he was tortured and forced to sign a ‘confession’ to so-called ‘crimes’ committed when he was a child. His ‘crimes’ include administering first aid during a protest.  Ali’s story is one of injustice. The simple fact is that he should not be on Saudi Arabia’s death row… Ali has grown into adulthood on death row. He should have spent these years enjoying his twenties. Today, he should be celebrating his birthday with friends and family.

On 18th December US-based Saudi comedian, Abdulrahman Almutairi, was arrested by American law enforcement officers, according to a video circulating on social media. The social media influencer – who has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram – streamed his arrest by the police live via his Instagram account. Almutairi is an outspoken critic of the kingdom‘s rulers. The comedian has used his social media presence to condemn Saudi Crown Prince and de-facto leader Mohammad bin Salman, which he said has made him a target.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, has called on the US president-elect, Joe Biden, to release the CIA’s classified report into the Washington Post journalist’s murder once he enters the White House, a move she said would “greatly assist” in uncovering the truth. The classified intelligence assessment has never been released but media outlets have reported, without providing more details, that it concludes with “medium to high confidence” that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, had ordered the killing.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

23rd December 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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