Bahrain Weekly Update:U.S. Embassy Releases Demonstration Notices, MOI Deports Shiite Cleric, "How Bahrain Makes Friends while Repressing its People," ADHRB Releases Report on Gov's Implementation of UPR Recommendations

Interior Ministry Deports Shiite Cleric

"How Bahrain Makes Friends while Repressing its People"

ADHRB Releases Report on Government's Implementation of UPR Recommendations


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Official News and Statements

U.S. Embassy Releases Demonstration Notices: The U.S. Embassy released two demonstration notices this week warning U.S. citizens about areas that would “likely experience violent protests.” The notices added: “IED usage throughout the country continues to take place primarily in the restricted areas and against police forces. Additional IED attacks remain likely.” Additionally, the notices recommended that U.S. citizens remain aware of the security situation, saying that “spontaneous and, at times, violent anti-government of Bahrain protests continue to occur... Protesters have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and used homemade weapons to include improvised explosive devices and shotgun like projectile launchers. To counter these acts the Ministry of Interior will utilize crowd control measures, such as tear gas, stun grenades, and birdshot. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters can make travel in and around Bahrain dangerous without advance warning.”


Updates from Bahrain

Protester Dies from Pellet Wounds: Abdul-Aziz al-Abbardied on Friday from shotgun pellet wounds sustained during clashes with police” during a funeral procession on February 23 of this year. Arabian Business reported that al-Abbar is “the first person to be killed in such circumstances since February last year.” Al-Abbar “was hit by a teargas canister and shotgun pellets fired by riot police,” and was in a coma until his death. Al-Abbar’s cousin, Sayed Hassan, said that Al-Abbar’s death certificate claims he “died from brain damage and blood flow problems, without specifying what caused this.” Hassan told Reuters that his family refused to sign the death certificate and will not do so until they “get an[official] report that Abdul-Aziz died from shotgun pellets.”

Interior Ministry Deports Shiite Cleric:The Interior Ministry said it decided to deport Hussain Najati, “the Bahraini representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite figure,” according to the Washington Post.  The Interior Ministry explained the decision by saying Najati “was not transparent and did not communicate with Bahraini officials as to his situation in the country,” saying that they learned from “top Iraqi government officials” and a Shiite leader in Lebanon about Najati’s relationship with al-Sistani. Najati allegedly “collects money and redistributes it in the name of al-Sistani.” The statement continued: “Working as an official agent to any organization requires an official letter that declares the responsibilities and activities of the individual and the approval of the appropriate government office is required. As none of the required procedures had been taken, it was decided to deport Najati in accordance with the laws and regulations in Bahrain.” Najati was stripped of his nationality in June 2012, but the Interior Ministry did not explain how he had continued to live in Bahrain since then. Reuters reported that al-Wefaq “posted pictures of Najati arriving in Lebanon on its Instagram account and tweeted that he was forced to leave after being harassed by the government for over a year.” Al-Wefaq said the ministry’s statement “is a frank declaration to target the Shiite sect and practice sectarian persecution” and said the deportation “crossed humanitarian and legal boundaries and illustrates the Authority’s persistence to act against the International Law for Human Rights. In fact, the measures even contradict local laws."

Court Imprisons 14 for Spying, Iran Connections: A court handed down life imprisonment sentences to 12 men for “spying, receiving training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and processing weapons and explosives.” Two others were given 15-year prison sentences. Al Jazeera reported that six of the 12 were “convicted in absentia.” In a separate incident, eight men were charged with being part of a terrorist group “that makes and uses explosives ‘targeting police members with the intention of killing them for the purpose of sowing chaos and sedition, and weakening state institutions to make them fail,’” according to public prosecutor Hussein Albouali.

Police Arrest Escaped Detainees: Two detainees, Redha Abdullah Al Ghasra and Hussain Al Bana, escaped from Jau prison on Monday and were arrested Wednesday after “an intensive manhunt” by the Interior Ministry and the National Security Agency. According to the Interior Ministry, the two detainees “were found hiding in a house in Saar along with seven other wanted individuals.”  Police additionally found "weapons, bullets, explosives, and remote-control detonators” in the house. Police also searched some ma’atams (community centers) after some of the people who were arrested told police they used them “in various villages to store homemade weapons and bomb-making material.” After the incident, the Interior Ministry dismissed the prison's chief and demoted him to the “general security department.”

Two Bahrainis Die in Car Explosion: Two people were killed Saturday in the village of al-Maqshaa from a car explosion. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry reported that “police responded to the scene where they found a gutted car containing two dead bodies.” A third person was injured during the incident. According to the BBC, “it is not clear whether the victims were deliberately targeted or whether they were planning to carry out an attack themselves.” The National Democratic Opposition Parties said they felt “the available information is still unclear and strange” and suggested “the incident requires an international investigation to reveal who stands behind such suspicious explosions.”


Analysis and Commentary
 

Dickinson Comments on "Disappearing Moderates": Elizabeth Dickinson wrote that "with each violent incident, the influence and political capital of the mainstream opposition is being whittled away. And their ability to negotiate with authorities - something that both sides agree is vital to settling three years of political turmoil - is slipping." She argued that "since anti-government protests first erupted in 2011, opposition communities have slowly drifted away from the moderate center that their original, Arab Spring-inspired protests espoused." She concluded that "perhaps the fading center is exactly the point...an attack last month happened just as progress was being made in reopening political talks -- now delayed again."

"How Bahrain Makes Friends while Repressing its People": John Horne referenced a quote from King Hamad al Khalifa where he “praised Gandhi as someone ‘who believed in his cause, which he pursued until it was realized’” as an example of “how the Bahraini regime has tried to convince the world through words, not actions, that it is committed to reform.” He explained that, since Bahrain gained independence in 1971, the government “has worked to shore up old allies and forge new ones, as a means of obtaining impunity for its repressive actions” and he details how the government has done this so successfully. A main tactic Horne highlighted is the government’s “emphasis on security,” saying that Bahrain is a “useful customer for Western states keen to boost exports in the wake of the global recession.” He also explained Bahrain’s utility for the U.S. as an ally against Iran and as a home for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Horne asserted that both the U.S. and the UK “are trying to shepherd Bahrain’s political system back to a largely pre-2011 status quo, albeit with power sharing concessions to the opposition.” He concluded that, “states continue to view Bahrain as a useful ally and, when pressed, express confidence in the ruling family’s ability and willingness to reform. In doing so, they only help to perpetuate gross human rights abuses, authoritarian rule, a culture of impunity, and instability. A different, democratic, Bahrain is possible. But it requires, in part, that nations stop propping up the corrupt system.”

Alwadi Praises Positive Impact of Social Media: Nada Alwadi wrote, "Since the uprisings in February 2011 the Bahraini female activists but also ordinary Bahraini women have emerged as new leaders in the society, and this is due to the increasing role of social media." She said that an achievement of the uprising in Bahrain so far has been "giving women a political outlet to prove themselves as real players to the general public to see." She commented that "the portrayal of women in Bahrain has dramatically shifted; women are now being portrayed as proactive leaders, vocal, and brave."

International & Bahraini Rights Organizations

ADHRB Assesses Implementation of UPR Recommendations: Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain released a report assessing both the technical aspects of the government’s implementation of 176 recommendations submitted during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, and the effects, or lack thereof, the implementation has had on “resolving the major political and human rights challenges that exist.” ADHRB found that not one of the 176 recommendations has been fully implemented and said that, “perhaps most astonishingly, we find that though technical measures have been taken to meet the requirements of a majority of the recommendations, there has been no perceived progress towards resolving the problems the recommendations were intended to address.” ADHRB urged the Bahraini government to “carry out its own frank and transparent assessment of their efforts thus far” and “recommit itself to fully implementing both the letter and the spirit of the UPR’s recommendations” and encouraged the international community to “push the Bahrain government to implement reforms” and “increase its efforts to shine a light on the human rights abuses that persist in Bahrain.”

Front Line Defenders Critiques bin Ashoor's Article: In response to Sarah bin Ashoor’s recent article, Front Line Defenders’ Deputy Director Andrew Anderson said bin Ashoor “severely distorted the facts of the situation.” Anderson wrote that bin Ashoor's argument is based on the false idea that “the crisis in Bahrain is the product of a conspiracy by Iran.” Anderson explained that the royally commissioned BICI report “found absolutely no evidence of Iranian involvement in the protests and demonstrations.” Anderson additionally pointed out other facts bin Ashoor ignored including “the violent clampdown on peaceful protests,” “the arrest and ill treatment of medical personnel who had treated injured protesters,” “the use of arbitrary detention for prolonged periods during which detainees were denied access to family or lawyers and routinely tortured, leading to deaths in custody,” and unfair trials. Andrew also addressed bin Ashoor's claims about imprisoned human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.
 
"Stories from Bahrain’s Crackdown: Dr. Fatima Haji": Writing for Human Rights First, Diana Sayed told the story of Dr. Fatima Haji. Haji was working at the Salmaniya Medical Complex when security forces “surrounded and then occupied” it during a “declared state of emergency.” Haji was interrogated about her participation in the protests at the Pearl Roundabout and arrested a month later. After searching her home and seizing some of her property, authorities detained Haji for 21 days, during which she “was subjected to different types of torture.” She filed a case against a member of Bahrain’s ruling family that was involved in her arrest and torture, “but the case was dismissed after one hearing.” Haji was one of 20 medics convicted in September of 2011 for “conspiring to overthrow the monarchy by supporting the pro-democracy protests.” Haji was released and now advocates for reform in Bahrain.
 
Bahrain Must Address Legacy of Military Courts: Marie Soueid of Human Rights First wrote that "with ongoing discussion of national reconciliation in Bahrain, coming to an agreement will be all but impossible without first addressing the legacy of the National Safety Courts and the fate of those still imprisoned under their rulings." She said that "activists convicted for exercising their freedom of expression remain in jail, having exhausted all of the available appeals." Soueid argued, "If the Bahraini government is going to release them, as it needs to for any real political settlement to emerge, it may have to concede the illegitimacy of both the tribunals and the appeals process."
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