US silence and a harassment campaign of "political decisions" by Bahrain's judiciary system are responsible for the three-year jail sentence handed down to the country's leading human rights defender today for participating in an "illegal gathering and calling for a march without prior notification."
In a statement, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Center for Human Rights, said "When Nabeel Rajab was attacked and beaten by security forces during a protest in January 2012, there was an instant reaction from the US State Department and he was immediately released. He then received representatives of the US embassy in Manama in a visit to his home. When Nabeel Rajab was arrested and imprisoned in May 2012, there was no response from the US administration. As the attacks against Nabeel Rajab escalated, the silent reaction from the US administration continued."
The King of Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, a Sunni Muslim who rules over a tiny country whose majority is Shia, has been playing a conventional but well implemented PR game with the international community. And it seems it's being successful, especially with the US.
Step One : The King's strategy launched with his appointing a commission of outsiders -- led by a renowned Egyptian judge -- to investigate the human rights situation and call attention to abuses. It was to be no holds barred and the King promised to correct injustices in the system.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), paid for by the government itself and led by Professor Emeritus at De Paul University M. Cherif Bassiouni, found wide-ranging and grave violations of prisoners' human rights committed by government personnel. These include, but are not limited to, civilian deaths
attributed to security forces, arbitrary detention, destruction and theft of property on arrest, prisoner injuries consistent with torture, and a deliberate practice of mistreatment by state agents. What is also notable about the BICI is that it does not call for the release of political prisoners. The King accepted the reports, warts and all.
Step Two : The second step was hiring a bunch of New York- and London-based PR high profile firms to communicate all the wonderful things King Hamad was doing. They had taken on a similar job for the King of Saudi Arabia, that neighboring bastion of freedom.
There were reports of dialogue between the protestors and all the king's men. There were promises of more transparency, more representation, more liberty.
Step Three: So almost every day, I find in my email inbox a highly professional-looking press release reporting on the King's latest beneficent act or agreement with his opposition. Even reports from the opposition says the King has remained calm and reasoned during these discussions.
Then there are what I recognize as special distraction press releases, like the one that arrived today. It was headed, " King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain ratified the kingdom's first child protection law Tuesday (August 7th)," Bahrain's Al-Watan reported.
According to a statement issued by Bahrain's Royal Court, the law has 69 articles that aim to protect children and their mothers.
It addresses children's health care, health records, nutrition, foster homes, safety, education, rehabilitation for handicapped children, protection against abuse and penalties for any violation of the law.
And sidebars -- we must have sidebars to look professional.
Bahrain to investigate cases of torture
Bahrain king denounces 'foreign plot'
Five Bahrain police officers accused of torture
The law was approved by the legislature.