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Khalifis defeated at HRC as Saudis adjust policies to appease Biden

Last week the khalifis were dealt a massive blow on the international scene when they were comprehensively defeated in their efforts to lead the UN Human Rights Council. Despite the efforts by the Saudis to buy off the votes of other member states at the Council, the world decided that it would be a huge embarrassment and hypocrisy to allow Bahrain’s dictators to lead the Council. That would have seriously undermined the essence of human right, transforms it into a joke and send the wrong message to human rights abusers.

The issue of “Forced Disappearance” that plagued the khalifi’s campaign to win the UN Human Rights Council presidency has continued, even after allowing Sheikh Zuhair Ashoor to contact his family. First, he revealed details of his horrific torture at the hands of the khalifi torturers. This testimony is enough to indict them in a court of law. Second, other cases of forced disappearance have surfaced. The family of young native Bahraini, Sadiq Al Ghasra have appealed to know the plight of their son who has not been heard of for nine months. Others like Mohammad Fakhrawi and Kumail Juma’ are also subjected to forced disappearance.

Aya Majzoub, of Human Rights Watch tweeted: There was no improvement in Bahrain’s rights record in 2020,  Human Rights Watch found.  Authorities escalated repression against online activity, prosecuted critics for peaceful speech and courts upheld death sentences against opposition activists after unfair trials.

On 15th January Bahrainis marked the fourth anniversary of the execution of three innocent natives, Sami Mushaima, Ali Al Singace and Abbas Al Sami’. Reprieve also marked the occasion tweeting:  Three victims of torture were executed in Bahrain on this day in 2017. It was an injustice. And one that should never be repeated. That is why we’re fighting for Husain Moosa and Mohammed Ramadhan – two more torture victims in Bahrain – who could meet the same fate any day now.

Native Bahrainis started to close their accounts with the National Bank of Bahrain after it had signed an agreement with Israel’s two largest banks. Bank Hapoalim Ltd. and Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd., said on Sunday they had signed memorandum of understanding agreements with the National Bank of Bahrain for cooperation between the lenders. People have rejected the khalifi’s normalization with Israel and considered it a treachery and betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Scholars At Risk (SAR) has caled for letters, emails, and faxes respectfully urging the appropriate authorities to ensure Dr. Abdul Jalil Al-Singace’s well-being while in custody. This includes proper access to medical care and visits with his family, that any charges or convictions related to Dr. Al-Singace’s peaceful exercise of protected human rights are lifted, and that in the interim, his case is addressed in a manner consistent with internationally recognized standards of due process, fair trial, and detention, in accordance with Bahrain’s obligations under international law. Scholars at Risk is a U.S.-based international network of academic institutions organized to support and defend the principles of academic freedom and to defend the human rights of scholars around the world.

Organisations including anti-death penalty group Reprieve, HRW and the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) as well as a group of U.S. lawmakers have raised concerns that loopholes in Saudi law could still allow judges to impose the death sentence on juvenile offenders. Five minors have yet to have their death sentences revoked nine months after the kingdom’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) had announced an end to capital punishment for juvenile offenders. The state-backed HRC in April cited a March royal decree by King Salman stipulating that individuals sentenced to death for crimes committed while minors will no longer face execution and would instead serve prison terms of up to 10 years in juvenile detention centers. The decree was never carried on state media nor published in the official gazette as would-be normal practice. In December, state news agency SPA published a list of prominent “events” of 2020 featuring several royal decrees, but the death penalty order was not included. One of the five has appealed and eight face charges that could result in execution, said the groups, who follow the cases closely.

Mohammad bin Salam (MbS) is trying his luck again and moving to present an image as a reliable statesman, setting a pragmatic tone with a less accommodating Biden administration, especially on Iran. His initial image as a bold reformer was battered by the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents close to MbS and moves to crush dissent and sideline royal rivals.  The kingdom’s de facto ruler knows “a new era has started” without the buffer granted by President Donald Trump and that Riyadh needs to make some concessions on contentious issues like human rights in order to push for regional priorities like the Iran nuclear accord. Recent sentences handed by Saudi courts for prominent women’s rights activists and a U.S.-Saudi physician, with the convictions signaling Riyadh would brook no dissent while reduced jail terms served as a nod to Washington.

An anti-arms trade organisation has called for an investigation into the use of UK military training by other countries to determine whether it has been used to perpetrate human rights abuses. The call from Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) came after revelation that the government provided training on UK soil to around two-thirds of the world’s countries – 130 countries in 2018/19 and 120 in 2019/20 – including some with appalling human rights records. According to the Guardian, the countries with concerning human rights records that received military training from the UK include Bahrain, China, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

20th January 2021 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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