Newsletter #24

The New York Times: Human rights activist: Bahrain, backed by US, is targeting my family


By Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei

LONDON — In early March, a group of masked men accompanied by police officers arrested my brother-in-law in Bahrain. Three days later, my mother-in-law was arrested as well. Both were charged with planting “fake bombs” and prosecutors ordered 30 days detention for them. My brother-in-law, Nazar, said the police tortured him and forced him to implicate other family members in wrongdoing. They told him they were out for revenge for actions I had taken as a human rights activist.

Months earlier, authorities at Bahrain’s airport detained and forcibly separated my wife from our infant son, dragged her by the wrists and interrogated her for seven hours. They threatened to arrest our family members, asking: “Where shall I go first, shall I go to his family or your family?”

In 2011, I participated in the largest protest movement ever witnessed in Bahrain, calling for human rights and democratic reforms. In an attempt to crush our call, King Hamad of Bahrain instituted martial law and invited the Saudi Arabian army into the country to quell us. I was arrested, severely tortured and tried by a military court. After spending six months in prison, I fled Bahrain and claimed asylum in the United Kingdom.

Now that the Bahraini authorities can’t go after me, they’re going after my family.

The move to target my relatives and the family of my wife is a heinous new low in a series of accelerated acts of repression carried out by the Bahraini government since the election of Donald Trump. On January 5, the Bahraini government restored the National Security Agency with the powers to detain and arrest people suspected of “terrorist” offenses — the same agency that was stripped of these powers in 2011 after its systematic use of torture throughout the uprising.


Washington Post: Bahrain political activist faces new incitement charges 

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A human rights group says a prominent Bahraini political activist is facing new charges of “inciting hatred” against the government.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said Monday that activist Ebrahim Sharif told the Britain-based group that he was charged following interrogation over Twitter posts covering several topics. He was released after questioning.

Authorities had no immediate comment.

Sharif is the former head of Waad, a secular, leftist political party. It is fighting a government lawsuit to dissolve it as part of a wider crackdown on dissent in the island kingdom.

Sharif was imprisoned for more than four years for his role in widespread 2011 protests demanding government reforms. He was arrested weeks after his 2015 release and locked up for a year.


The Hill: Amnesty to Trump: Don’t approve arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain


A leading human rights group is urging President Trump not to approve pending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

In a letter to Trump released publicly Tuesday, Amnesty International urged Trump not to sign off on the sales because of the Saudi-led coalition’s conduct in Yemen’s civil war.

“There is substantial risk that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other coalition members could use new U.S. arms to further devastate civilian lives in Yemen,” the organization wrote in the letter. “This could implicate your administration in war crimes or violations of international humanitarian law. Amnesty International researchers have already found both unexploded U.S. bombs and identifiable fragments of exploded U.S. bombs among the ruins of Yemeni homes and other civilian objects.”

Late in President Obama’s tenure, the Obama administration halted a planned sale of $300 million in precision guided munitions to Riyadh over concerns about the mounting civilian death toll in Yemen.

As of February, 4,667 civilians have been killed and 8,180 injured in the conflict so far, according to the United Nations.


WHIO: Bahrain parliament approves military trials for civilians


DUBAI — Bahrain’s parliament on Sunday approved a constitutional change allowing military courts to try civilians, the kingdom’s latest rollback on reforms made after its 2011 Arab Spring protests that likely will stoke an ongoing government crackdown on dissent.

Activists warn the amendment will allow an undeclared state of martial law on the island near Saudi Arabia that’s home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Loyalists of Bahrain’s rulers call the change necessary to fight terrorism as the persistent low-level unrest that followed the 2011 demonstrations has escalated recently in tandem with the crackdown.

The island’s 40-member Consultative Council, the upper house of the Bahraini parliament appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, voted for the measure Sunday. Their approval came less than two weeks after the 40-seat Council of Representatives, the parliament’s elected lower house, passed it with little opposition.

The bill revises a portion of Bahrain’s constitution by removing limitations on who military courts can try.

Bahrain is a predominantly Shiite island ruled by a Sunni monarchy. Government forces, with help from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, crushed the 2011 uprising by Shiites and others who sought more political power.

In the wake of the protests, military courts tried hundreds of defendants. A government-appointed investigation after the protests criticized the use of the courts, saying they were employed “to punish those in the opposition” and raised “a number of concerns about their conformity with international human rights law.”

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