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Bahrain's Cat and Mouse Games

By       Message WILLIAM FISHER     Permalink
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Yet another major idea put for by Bahrain was its proposal that the Arab League establish a Human Rights Tribunal. The League also announced two high level appointments it said would represent a greater involvement of Bahraini women in decision-making positions, as well as providing regional support and recognition for working women.


Arab League Secretary General Dr. Nabeel Al-Arabi reinforced the proposal by declaring that the Tribunal will contribute to the regional efforts of the Arab states in supporting respect for Human Rights.


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In her oral intervention at the UN, Maryam Al-Khawaja, of the Bahrain Council of Human Rights, noted, "The situation of targeting human rights defenders and the use of reprisals has dramatically escalated. Human rights defenders are constantly arrested, mistreated and the government continues to use the judiciary system as a tool to lock them up. Most, if not all of their charges are based on freedom of expression."


Among those detained are her father Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a founder of BCHR, who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in peaceful protests last year, and BCHR's President Nabeel Rajab, sentenced in August to three years in prison for calling for "illegal gatherings." During its intervention at the UN, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also noted that blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace had been sentenced to life and blogger Ali Abdulemam had been sentenced to 15 years in absentia - in violation of their right to free expression.

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Maryam Al-Khawaja noted that there are approximately 1,400 political prisoners in Bahrain, 50 of whom are under 18.


As well, she reports, "The security forces are still using excessive force to repress all daily protests. Security forces continue the unprecedented use of tear gas during protests and inside residential areas. Also, arbitrary arrests using excessive force on the streets and during home raids by beating and insulting detainees are still ongoing and are not excluding minors. Many detainees are held in very bad conditions in the prisons and systematic torture is still ongoing in official and unofficial torture centers."


Dr. Nada Dhaif, of the Bahrain Rehabilitation & Anti Violence Organization (BRAVO), made an oral intervention highlighting the impact on families of having their loved ones detained, and mentioning that protesters are hurt by police, such as Zainab Al-Khawaja, currently detained with a broken leg. She also mentioned the reprisals against human rights defenders who travel to Geneva and forcefully called on the Foreign Minister to immediately release all political prisoners. "Activists are not criminals," she said.

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Among Bahraini human rights defenders lobbying in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) who have been threatened or harassed was Mohammed Al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, who received death threats over the past week. Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan published photos of the civil society activists who were in Geneva, and the threats continue.


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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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