Rights Groups Urge Releasing Bahrain’s Imprisoned Defenders, Opposition Activists

Rights Groups Urge Releasing Bahrain’s Imprisoned Defenders, Opposition Activists

By Staff, HRW

Amid the global threat posed by COVID-19, Bahraini authorities should release human rights defenders, opposition activists, journalists, and all others imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, a coalition of 19 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch [HRW], said on Monday.

On March 17, 2020, Bahrain completed the release of 1,486 prisoners, 901 of whom received royal pardons on “humanitarian grounds.”

The remaining 585 were given non-custodial sentences. While this is a positive step, the releases so far have excluded opposition leaders, activists, journalists, and human rights defenders – many of whom are older and/or suffer from underlying medical conditions. Such prisoners are at high risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19, and thus ought to be prioritized for release.

“Bahrain’s significant release of prisoners is certainly a welcome relief as concerns around the spread of COVID-19 continue to rise. Authorities must now speedily release those who never should have been in jail in the first place, namely all prisoners of conscience who remain detained solely for exercising their right to peaceful expression”, said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of research. “We also urge the authorities to step up measures to ensure full respect for the human rights of all those deprived of their liberty.”

Opposition leaders imprisoned for their roles in the 2011 protest movement remain behind bars. These include Hassan Mushaima, the head of the unlicensed opposition group Al-Haq; Abdulwahab Hussain, an opposition leader; Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, a prominent human rights defender; and Dr. Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, the spokesman for Al-Haq.

Other prominent opposition figures, including Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of the dissolved Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society [Al-Wefaq], also remain imprisoned. Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, who was deemed arbitrarily detained by the United Nations in “reprisal” for the activism of his brother-in-law, the exiled activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, and human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Naji Fateel have not been released either. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights [BCHR] has documented that a total of 394 detainees of the 1,486 released were imprisoned on political charges. According to Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, another Bahraini nongovernmental group, 57 of the 901 prisoners who received a royal pardon were imprisoned for their political activities, while the rest were given non-custodial sentences. Since the Bahraini government has not made available any information on the charges for which those ordered released had been convicted, the exact figures cannot be verified. However, it is clear that people imprisoned for nonviolent political activity are in the minority of those released.

Scores of prisoners convicted following unfair trials under Bahrain’s overly broad counterterrorism law have been overlooked and denied early release or alternative penalties, even though other inmates serving considerably longer sentences were freed. This includes Zakiya Al Barboori and Ali Al Hajee, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy [BIRD).

Conditions in Bahrain’s overcrowded prisons compound the risk of COVID-19 spreading. The lack of adequate sanitation led to a scabies outbreak in Jaw Prison – Bahrain’s largest prison – and the Dry Dock Detention Center in December 2019 and January 2020. Almost half of the Dry Dock Detention Center’s prison population was infected. In 2016, a governmental Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission found buildings at Jaw Prison to suffer from “bad hygiene,” “insect infestation,” and “broken toilets.”

Furthermore, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN have expressed their concern over the authorities’ persistent failure to provide adequate medical care in Bahrain’s prisons. This has endangered the health of some unjustly imprisoned persons with chronic medical conditions, such as Hassan Mushaima and Dr. Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, who may now be at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19.

States have an obligation to ensure medical care for all those in their custody at least equivalent to that available to the general population and must not deny or limit detainees’ equal access to preventive, curative, or palliative health care. Given that conditions in detention centers pose a heightened public health risk to the spread of COVID-19, and the persistent failure to provide an adequate level of care to those in their custody, there are grave concerns about whether prison authorities could effectively control the spread of COVID-19 and care for prisoners if there is an outbreak inside Bahrain’s prisons.

Condemnations pour in as court exonerates Saudi officials in Khashoggi murder case

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

A protester wears a mask depicting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with red painted hands next to people holding posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during the demonstration outside the Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, October 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

SourceTuesday, 24 December 2019 8:01 AM  [ Last Update: Wednesday, 25 December 2019 6:53 AM ]

A Saudi court ruling over the state-sponsored killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has drawn outrage across the political spectrum, including from a number of states, the United Nations, several rights groups and even some American lawmakers. They have unanimouslydenounced the ruling that dismissed charges against top Saudi officials, saying it failed to deliver justice.

In a televised press conference in Riyadh on Monday, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shaalan al-Shaalan announced the conclusion of the so-called trial in the Khashoggi case that had been closed to the public.

He said that out of the 31 suspects investigated in connection with the killing, 21 had been arrested and 11 put on trial.

Death sentences were eventually issued for five people and jail terms totaling 24 years were handed down to three others, he added, without naming any of those sentenced.

The remaining three, however, were found not guilty, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former top adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Ahmed al-Assiri, an ex-deputy intelligence chief, and Mohamed al-Otaibi, who was consul general in the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul when the murder happened.

Both Qahtani and Assiri were relieved of their duties in the immediate aftermath of Khashoggi’s assassination last year. Qahtani and Otaibi were also sanctioned a year ago by the US Treasury for their involvement in the murder.

RSF: Justice trampled on with Saudi court verdict in Khashoggi case

RSF: Justice trampled on with Saudi court verdict in Khashoggi case

RSF says Riyadh wants to “permanently silence the suspects” behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi — an outspoken critic of the heir to the Saudi throne — went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017. The Washington Post columnist entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, to obtain paperwork he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée.

Inside Riyadh’s mission, he was confronted by a Saudi hit team, who killed him and brutally dismembered his body.

The CIA has concluded that bin Salman had ordered the murder. The journalist’s remains have yet to be found.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Shaalan claimed that Khashoggi’s killers had decided to murder him after their arrival in Istanbul.

“Our investigations show that there was no premeditation to kill at the beginning of the mission,” he claimed.

Shaalan’s claims sparked a wave of condemnations from the world body, human rights organizations and US legislators.

HRW: Trial ‘all but satisfactory’

Ahmed Benchemsi, spokesman for Human Rights Watch, told the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster that the trial was “all but satisfactory.”

The case was “shrouded in secrecy since the beginning, and it’s still … until now … We do not know the identities of those masked perpetrators, we don’t know the specific charge leveled against who exactly,” he said.

“Saudi prosecutors did not even attempt to investigate the upper levels of this crime, and whether they played a role in ordering the killing, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he added.

Adam Coogle, who researches Saudi Arabia for the HRW, underlined the need for an independent probe.

“Saudi Arabia’s absolution of its senior leadership of any culpability in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises serious concerns over the fairness of the criminal proceedings,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia’s handling of the murder, from complete denial to hanging the murder on lower-level operatives in a trial that lacked transparency, demonstrates the need for an independent criminal inquiry.”

Amnesty: Verdict ‘a whitewash’

In turn, Amnesty International has blasted the verdict as “a whitewash” and said Saudi officials have failed the slain journalist and his family.

“This verdict … brings neither justice nor the truth for Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones. The trial has been closed to the public and to independent monitors, with no information available as to how the investigation was carried out,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said in a statement.

“The verdict fails to address the Saudi authorities’ involvement in this devastating crime or clarify the location of Jamal Khashoggi’s remains,” she added.

UN rapporteur: Masterminds walking free

In a series of tweets, Agnes Callamard, the UN rapporteur investigating Khashoggi’s killing, condemned the ruling as a “travesty,” noting that the trial had failed to consider the involvement of the state.

Agnes Callamard  

@AgnesCallamard · Dec 23, 2019Replying to @AgnesCallamard

j) Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery.

Agnes Callamard  

@AgnesCallamard

k) Impunity for the killing of a journalist commonly reveals political repression, corruption, abuse of power, propaganda, and even international complicity. All are present in #SaudiArabia killing of #JamalKhashoggi. (PM me for more comments.)

4763:22 PM – Dec 23, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy   290 people are talking about this   “The execution of Jamal Khashoggi demanded an investigation into the chain of command to identify the masterminds, as well as those who incited, allowed or turned a blind eye to the murder, such as the Crown Prince,” she wrote.

“This was not investigated. Bottom line: the hit men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free, they have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of justice. It is a mockery.”

In her 101-page report released in June, Callamard said that there is “sufficient credible evidence” indicating that the heir to the Saudi throne bears responsibility for the murder and thus should be investigated.

Erdogan spox: Those ordering murder given immunity

Fahrettin Altun, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that the Saudi officials who had ordered the operation were “granted immunity.”

“To claim that a handful of intelligence operatives committed this murder is to mock the world’s intelligence — to say the least,” he tweeted.

UK: Khashoggi’s family deserve to see justice

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described Khashoggi’s murder as “a terrible crime.”

“Mr. Khashoggi’s family deserve to see justice done for his brutal murder. Saudi Arabia must ensure all of those responsible are held to account and that such an atrocity can never happen again,” he said in a statement.

Washington Post: An ‘insult’ to Khashoggi’s family

The Washington Post editorial board called Monday’s sentences a “travesty of justice.”

“The result is an insult to Khashoggi’s family and to all those, including a bipartisan congressional majority, who have demanded genuine accountability in the case,” it wrote in an op-ed.

The editorial board also warned the international community against welcoming the result of the Saudi trial.

“International acceptance of the result would not only be morally wrong but dangerous, too: It would send the reckless Saudi ruler the message that his murderous adventurism will be tolerated,” it said.

‘Trial comedy’

The dissident Saudi Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience criticized the trial of Khashoggi’s killers as a “comedy,” saying that all those involved in the crime should be held accountable.

“Just a year ago, the US intelligence published a report revealing correspondences between Saud al-Qahtani and Bin Salman before, during and following Khashoggi’s assassination,” it pointed out.

“Today, the Saudi judiciary claims that the crime took place without prior planning and acquits Saud al-Qahtani! What kind of independent judiciary is this?!” it added.

American lawmakers fume at sentences

Several US legislators have censured not only Saudi Arabia for the verdict but also US President Donald Trump, who has shielded bin Salman from blame for Khashoggi’s assassination and emphasized Riyadh’s lucrative arms deals with Washington instead.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, highlighted the CIA’s conclusion and slammed the trial as “a cover-up” by the Saudi regime.

“This sham trial, carried out by a despotic and lawless regime, looks more like a cover-up,” he said. “Maybe Donald Trump might want to stop proclaiming his love and affection for the Saudi dictatorship.”

Bernie Sanders  

@SenSanders

The CIA concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This sham trial, carried out by a despotic and lawless regime, looks more like a cover-up.

Maybe Donald Trump might want to stop proclaiming his love and affection for the Saudi dictatorship. https://twitter.com/KarenAttiah/status/1209144376338911233 …Karen Attiah  

@KarenAttiah

Saudi Arabia’s “trial” and “investigation” of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has been a complete sham.

Executing five nameless, faceless men without transparency and an investigation into the regime’s responsibility is not justice. It’s just more bloodshed. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/saudi-arabia-says-five-sentenced-to-death-in-killing-of-jamal-khashoggi/2019/12/23/02fc0ea4-256a-11ea-9cc9-e19cfbc87e51_story.html …

11.7K1:30 AM – Dec 24, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy   3,409 people are talking about this   Similarly, Democrat Senator Tim Kaine cited the CIA’s assessment on the case, urging the US government to seek justice for Khashoggi.

“Senior Saudi officials continue to escape accountability for the state-sponsored murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Kaine, who represents Virginia, where Khashoggi lived.

“The Trump Administration should be demanding justice for the brutal killing of a journalist and VA resident instead of ignoring the CIA’s assessment of who killed him,” Kaine added.

Connecticut Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal blamed the US president for bin Salam’s evasion of responsibility.

“After a sham trial, the masterminds behind Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder walk away scot-free,” he said. “Trump is also culpable – having done next to nothing to hold the Crown Prince accountable for murdering a brave, truth-seeking journalist.”

Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the US House Intelligence Committee, rejected the Saudi prosecutor’s assertion that the Khashoggi’s killing had not been planned.

“This sentence is a continuation of the Kingdom’s effort to distance Saudi leadership, including the Crown Prince, from the brutal assassination of a journalist and US resident, Jamal Khashoggi,” he tweeted.

“This was a premeditated murder, not a ‘snap decision’ or rogue operation.”

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“The Victory of Syria over Global Terrorism Will Benefit Humanity”: Vanessa Beeley on Syria War

Global Research, December 10, 2019

Mark Taliano: Why is the truth about Syria important?

Vanessa Beeley: It is important because in Syria the “humanitarian” hybrid war strategy of the Globalist powers in the so-called civilised “global north” is being exposed real time as Syria sweeps to a military victory against the heavily financed proxy invasion of their country, orchestrated by the US alliance that includes aligned Gulf States, Turkey and Israel. By pushing back against the dominant establishment narrative on Syria, we, as journalists and activists, are effectively defending international law which is being violated by our own rogue states. We are standing in solidarity with an unprecedented resistance against global terrorism which has also enabled the  formation of an axis of resistance that has turned the tide of neoconservative hegemony in the region. We are defending the right of the Syrian people to decide their own future without foreign meddling. The precedents being set by this externally imposed conflict and its outcome will define the future of global security for all Humanity – what more important principle is there to defend?

MT: Why are people trying to “de-platform” you? Who is trying to de-platform you?

VB: People – all aligned media, think tanks, UN agencies – are trying to de-platform me because diverging views, including those of the “disappeared” Syrian people, challenge and confront their fabricated narrative that has “manufactured consent” for the US Coalition criminal aggression against Syria for nine years. The revelations provided by many independent voices exposes the corruption and corrosion of established institutions that should be ensuring world peace and who are, instead, promoting, sponsoring and enabling world instability in order to provide resource scavenging opportunities for the plutocrats who reign over us. Freedom of speech, thought and expression is being eroded and this is the principle we should all be defending or we are ALL Julian Assange – tortured, oppressed by the pseudo “free world”.

MT: Should Canadians believe the White Helmets? Amnesty International? Human Rights Watch?

VB: Canadians should use international law as their yardstick to determine truth, the violators of international law are their own government which is a vassal state of the US and UK. The White Helmets, AI and HRW are all compromised organisations which are sponsored and were established by the same governments as part of their smart power complex – an integral and now crucial part of their hybrid war strategy which are established to infiltrate prey nation society, always on the side of the US Coalition foreign policy agenda – predominantly to ensure the vilification of the target government or leader in order to provide justification for proxy or direct military intervention or economic terrorism under the guise of sanctions.

MT: When Syria wins this war, the world will be a safer place. Why?

VB: As I have explained above, the victory of Syria over global terrorism will benefit humanity. Syria has had a policy of containing these terrorist groups within Syrian borders in order to prevent the same fate befalling the EU, UK and US citizens with the inevitable return or flow of these radicalised extremist factions to those regions. Syria and her allies have adhered to international law both from a military and a diplomatic perspective, thus ensuring a stable future for mankind. Syria’s victory will ensure that history is written by the targeted nation – exposing the destructive hegemony of the US alliance in the region and globally.

MT: What should Canadians do to spread the truth about the war on Syria?

VB: Canadians must fight for freedom of speech and against the de-platforming of diverging views. They should join genuine anti-war movements and defend  the principles of international law which have been cynically abused and abandoned by the UK, US and France on the security council.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. Please support her work at her Patreon account. 

Mark Taliano is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and the author of Voices from Syria, Global Research Publishers, 2017. Visit the author’s website at https://www.marktaliano.net where this article was originally published.


Order Mark Taliano’s Book “Voices from Syria” directly from Global Research.

Mark Taliano combines years of research with on-the-ground observations to present an informed and well-documented analysis that refutes  the mainstream media narratives on Syria. 

Voices from Syria 

ISBN: 978-0-9879389-1-6

Author: Mark Taliano

Year: 2017

Pages: 128 (Expanded edition: 1 new chapter)

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Israel’s Case Against Human Rights Watch Reveals How Its Normalizing West Bank Land Theft

Omar Shakir Feature photo

The argument made by an Israeli court has been defacto reality in Israel since 1967: there is no West Bank, instead, the region is called Judea and Samaria, legitimate parts of the State of Israel. 

The Occupied West Bank — In November 2019, following a long legal battle, Israel revoked the work visa and deported Human Rights Watch (HRW) director Omar Shakir.  According to HRW, Israel argued that the state, “revoked the work visa of Shakir, a United States citizen, in May 2018 on the assertion that his advocacy violated a 2017 law that bars entry to people who advocate a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

HRW claims that this is not true and that the organization does not call for the boycott of Israel. On their website, they do claim, however, that, “Human Rights Watch urges businesses to stop operating in illegal settlements as part of their global duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”

The case went all the way to Israel’s highest court which found that the position held by HRW regarding Israeli settlements constitutes grounds for deportation. The decision describes Human Rights Watch’s research on the activities of businesses, including the global tourism companies Airbnb and Booking.com, as “boycott-promoting activities.”

The truth is that HRW does recommend that businesses cease operations in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. According to Judge Tamar Bazak-Rapoport, Israel’s anti-boycott law does not distinguish between boycotts directed at Israel and those directed only at West Bank settlements.

At a recent event in Ramallah to commemorate International Palestine Solidarity Day, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Hirsh of Neturei Karta, weighed in on the ruling, saying to a group of Palestinians and liberal Israelis that:

The talk regarding the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank is irrelevant. This is because not only those settlements are a violation of international law, but the entire Zionist state is a violation of international law. Therefore the only thing that can stop the occupation is a global economic boycott of the Zionist state.”

 

A Weak Argument

The argument made by Judge Rapoport echoes what has been defacto reality in Israel since 1967: there is no West Bank, instead, the region is called Judea and Samaria, which are legitimate parts of the State of Israel.

Israel does not recognize that there are settlements that are “illegal” and ones that are legal because the official Israeli line is that Jews have a right to reside anywhere within the Land of Israel, and that includes Judea and Samaria.

Omar Shakir Israel

Omar Shakir Israel Omar Shakir poses with a copy of a report released following a two year investigation in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Oct. 23, 2018. Nasser Nasser | AP

The region that was once universally recognized as the West Bank is now officially the Judea and Samaria district, according to Israel. As an example, the Israeli police established the Shai District (Shai is the acronym in Hebrew for Shomron & Yehuda, or Samaria and Judea), in 1994. On their website, which is in Hebrew only, it says that the district is the second in size within the Israeli police force, but it is the first in “sensitivity.”  Sensitivity meaning security issues and clearly the reader will understand that they are speaking of the Arabs who reside within the district.

According to the site, the Shai district includes one hundred and twenty colonies, which are in fact cities and towns for Jews only. It contains three municipalities, twelve local councils, and six regional councils. It should come as no surprise that none of the countless cities and towns and villages that exist within that region and in which close to three million Palestinians reside are included on that list. In order to ensure the safety and security of the residents (Jewish residents), the website reads, the police district has to work alongside the army and the Shabak, or the secret police.

All this to say that the inclusion of Israeli settlements and colonies within Judea and Samaria into Israel, those same settlements that HRW refers to as “illegal,” is complete.

 

Israel vs. the “occupation”

The view taken by the Israeli courts regarding the deportation of Omar Shakir is, in fact, an honest assessment of the situation. Tel-Aviv is largely an illegal settlement sitting on the destroyed Palestinian city of Yafa. The same goes for many, if not most, of the Israeli neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The cities of Akka, Tabariya, Safad, Lydd, Ramle – to mention a few – all had a sizeable Palestinian population that was forcibly expelled and now Israeli Jews have taken their lands and their homes. Israeli colonies, stretching from Al-Jaleel in the north to the Naqab in the south, sit on lands taken by force from Palestinians. They are the same as the cities and towns built in what used to be the West Bank, a geopolitical entity that no longer exists.

The only remnant from the pre-1967 Israel is the quasi citizenship status held by the Palestinians who reside in the pre-1967 boundaries. While Israeli Jews are full-fledged citizens regardless of where they reside, the status of Palestinians is determined by their place of residence: 1948, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria or Gaza.

The concern within Israel is that, if HRW calls for a boycott of certain colonies, what will stop them from calling a boycott on the others? The argument made by HRW, and its denial of the claim that it calls for boycott, did not hold up in Israeli court and for good reason. It is an argument has no merit in the reality that exists in Palestine.

Trying to separate “Israel Proper” from the “occupation” is an exercise in futility. So the question is, why does HRW, and many other organizations for that matter, still treat some settlements as illegal and not others? Furthermore, Israel clearly states that a call for the boycott of any Israeli settlement is to call for a boycott of Israel, why call on business to cease working in Judea and Samaria but not in other parts of Palestine?

What is perhaps the most crucial question of them all, if indeed Human Rights Watch is serious about its claims of Israeli human rights violations, why does it not endorse the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions known as BDS?

The approach that maintains that there is a legitimate Israel, and an occupation that is a separate entity, is the line held by liberal Zionist groups that are sometimes called “Zionist Left.” It is, however, a false assertion. There is but one Israel, it is an apartheid regime that governs all of historic Palestine and anyone who opposes it must call for a boycott. Calling to boycott only some of it is tantamount to saying that racism and violence are acceptable within certain boundaries.

At the event in Ramallah where Rabbi Hirsh spoke, other Israelis were present. They disrupted and heckled the Rabbi to a point where the Palestinian host had to stop and reprimand the Israelis and ask them to demonstrate respect, as it was they who decided on the speakers. What troubled the members of the Zionist “Left” who were present was that Rabbi Hirsh stated that not only are Judea and Samaria settlements are a violation of international law, but that the entire Zionist project is.

The truth hurts.

Feature photo | Omar Shakir, center, a U.S. citizen and employee of Human Rights Watch, stands next to Kenneth Roth before being deported from Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, November 25, 2019. Ammar Awad | Reuters

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

By Staff, Agencies

The Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

Twitter

The complaint unsealed in US District Court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of Twitter accounts, including email addresses linked to the accounts and internet protocol addresses that can give up a user’s location.

The accounts included those of a popular critic of the government with more than one million followers and a news personality. Neither was named.

Two Saudi citizens and one US citizen worked together to unmask the ownership details behind dissident Twitter accounts on behalf of the government in Riyadh and the royal family, the US justice department said.

According to a court filing, they were guided by an unnamed Saudi official who worked for someone prosecutors designated “Royal Family Member-1,” which The Washington Post reported was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is commonly known.

Those charged were Twitter employees Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, along with Ahmed Almutairi, a marketing official with ties to the royal family.

“The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” said US lawyer David Anderson.

“US law protects US companies from such an unlawful foreign intrusion. We will not allow US companies or US technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of US law,” he said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes as US-Saudi relations continue to suffer strains over the brutal, Riyadh-sanctioned murder one year ago of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for, among others, The Washington Post newspaper

A critic of MBS, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

According to the Post, US intelligence has concluded that the prince himself was closely linked to the murder.

The criminal allegations reveal the extent the Saudi government went to control the flow of information on Twitter, said Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch.

Two Former Twitter Employees Accused of Spying for Saudi Arabia

HRW Highlights «Deepening Repression» Under Saudi’s MBS

HRW Highlights «Deepening Repression» Under Saudi’s MBS

By Staff, Agencies

Human Rights Watch says Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s [MBS] rise to power two years ago has been accompanied by “deepening repression and abusive practices” across the kingdom.

In a new report released on Monday, the New York-based group said activists, clerics and other perceived critics of the Saudi crown prince continue to be arbitrarily detained more than a year after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey.

The report noted the detention of dissidents and harassment of their families was not a new phenomenon in the kingdom history, but the wave of repression since late 2017 had been distinguished by new repressive measures.

“Detaining citizens for peaceful criticism of the government’s policies or human rights advocacy is not a new phenomenon in Saudi Arabia,” it said.

“But what has made the post-2017 arrest waves notable and different, however, is the sheer number and range of individuals targeted over a short period of time as well as the introduction of new repressive practices.”

The crackdown under MBS began in September 2017 with the arrest of dozens of critics and rights activists in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to crush dissent.

The crown prince has also been on a modernization drive with reforms including allowing women over 21 to obtain passports and travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian.

But these reforms have belied a “darker reality,” according to the report, including the mass arrests of women’s rights activists, a number of whom have allegedly been sexually assaulted and suffered torture including whipping and electric shocks.

The report also said those reforms were a smokescreen for the ongoing detention of dozens of dissidents, some allegedly tortured in custody.

“Important social reforms enacted under Prince Mohammed have been accompanied by deepening repression and abusive practices meant to silence dissidents and critics.”

According to the report, the new repressive measure by MBS included extorting financial assets in exchange for a detainee’s freedom, a tool used against dozens of business people and royal family members arbitrarily held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh in November 2017.

Hundreds of elite princes and businessmen were then detained in what was billed as a move against corruption that was draining state coffers.

HRW cited reports that Saudi Arabia has used surveillance technologies to hack into the online accounts of the regime critics and infected their mobile phones with spyware.

The report also highlighted a lack of accountability for those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, a crime MBS has sought to distance himself from.

A UN report released in June said there was “credible evidence” MBS and other senior Saudi officials were liable for Khashoggi’s killing, which the kingdom has characterized as a rogue operation by its agents.

But the international criticism has failed to halt a campaign against perceived dissidents inside the kingdom, according to the HRW report, with waves of arrests carried out against women’s rights activists and their allies this year, including the writer Khadijah al-Harbi, who was pregnant at the time of her detention.

Kashmir, genocide and the spirit of resistance

 

Kashmir, genocide and the spirit of resistance

Farhan Mujahid Chak

Kashmir, genocide and the spirit of resistance

NGO Genocide Watch has issued a genocide alert on Kashmir [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2019

Genocide Watch lists Ten Stages of the genocidal process. Now, Kashmir exhibits all those stages, especially when considering India’s current horrendous onslaught on Kashmiri civil liberties, writes Farhan Mujahid Chak.
What is so revolting about tyranny that it stirs the human spirit in such a way, compelling us to resist? Instinctively, the thought of oppression pierces at the very essence of our human condition.

Film, music, art and literature all celebrate those who, with an unconquerable will, struggle against all odds and defy persecution.

Yet, victory is no easy feat.

Throughout history one will find countless substantiations that victory comes from the esprit de résistance. And, prominent English author George Orwell’s evocative short story Animal Farm applauds just that, while reprimanding despotism.

Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own… What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion!”For Orwell, subjugation must be resisted, since acquiescence only prolongs suffering; there can be no two-minds about it.

With that thought, consider India’s settler-colonial project and unilateral, illegal and undemocratic revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy by abrogating article 370.

Condemned worldwide, reputable NGO’s such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all strongly chastised India.

Recently, the United Nations convened an emergency Security Council meeting, the first in over 50 years, on the deteriorating situation in Kashmir calling for respect of relevant UN resolutions.

More pecifically, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern at the ongoing human rights situation and David Haye, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression described the situation in Kashmir as ‘draconian’.

Yet, most terrifyingly, the renowned NGO Genocide Watch has issued a genocide alert on Kashmir – the first ever. This, in the backdrop of Modi, and other BJP leaders, monstrously using the grotesque term ‘Final Solution’ for Kashmir

Strictly, Genocide Watch lists Ten Stages of the genocidal process. Now, Kashmir exhibits all those stages, especially when considering India’s current horrendous onslaught on Kashmiri civil liberties, terrorising the entire population, cutting off all of their communication, flouting international law and norms, and conducting a litany of human rights abuses.First, an unforgiving binary of ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ labelled ‘classification,’ is disseminated.

In Kashmir, the Indian state translates “us” into supporters of their army/occupation forces, and ‘them’ to Kashmiri Muslims. Of course, preventative measures would include fostering universalistic institutions that transcend ethnic/racial divisions and actively promoting inclusion.

In Kashmir, the Indian state translates ‘us’ into supporters of their army/occupation forces, and ‘them’ to Kashmiri Muslims

Yet, this is precisely what the fascist Bhartiya Janata Party does not want. They need to spread the false threat of terror to rationalise their persecution.

Second, symbolisation’ is the process when, combined with visceral hate, symbols are forced upon unwilling members of the purported pariah group: such as the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge or Kashmiri Muslims with their distinctive language and apparel being issued ID cards designating them as Muslims.

Third, the genocidal project moves forward by clear ‘discrimination’ in which the dominant group uses law, custom, and political power to deny Kashmiri Muslims basic rights.

It is driven by an exclusionary ideology and legitimises the victimisation of Kashmiri Muslims by labels of such as ‘separatist’ ‘fanatic’ and ‘terrorist.’

Fourth, heightened levels of bias, prejudice and disempowerment lead to the ‘dehumanisation’ stage, which incapacitates the normal human revulsion against murder.

Heightened levels of bias, prejudice and disempowerment lead to the ‘dehumanisation’ stage, which incapacitates the normal human revulsion against murder

At this stage, hate propaganda in print, on hate radios, and in social media is used to vilify the victim group – Kashmiri Muslims. It is even incorporated into Hindutva school textbooks, preparing the way for incitement.

Fifth, the grotesque phenomenon of genocide is always well-planned and requires ‘organisation.’ This is done by the Indian state, that uses Hindutva militias to provide deniability of state responsibility – such as Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants, who may be disguised as the additional 38,000 India soldiers being sent to Kashmir.

Recall, that there are already nearly 700,000 heavily armed Indian Army troops and police that dominate Kashmir. Why send more?

Sixth, extremists need to enhance ‘polarisation’ – in order to drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarising propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction.

Hindutva extremists target moderates – from all religions/backgrounds, intimidating and silencing the centre. Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide. For this reason, all those who had previously been dealing with the Indian state are now under arrest, including Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

Seventh, at this ‘preparation’ stage, BJP leaders have, chillingly, spoken about the “Final Solution” which they use as euphemisms to cloak their intentions of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Eighth, as the stages of genocide advance, ‘persecution’ is heightened. The victim group’s most basic human rights are systematically violated through extrajudicial killings, rape torture and forced displacement.

Death lists are drawn up and property is expropriated. Currently, Kashmiri Muslims are locked down, subject to arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, and murder.

The victim group’s most basic human rights are systematically violated through extrajudicial killings, rape torture and forced displacement

Ninth, ‘extermination’ begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” At this terrifying moment, the armed forces often work with RSS militias to do the killing.

Tenth, the final stage ‘denial’ lasts throughout the entire genocidal process. It is among the surest indicators of the likelihood of genocidal massacres.

The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. All the while they claim all is normal in Kashmir. In Kashmir, the denial has gone to such laughable levels that Modi and the BJP say their goals are to “bring prosperity and development” and to “end terrorism.”

Most worrisome, India is declaring to the world that they have begun to gradually ease the communications blockade. That is false.

This cowardly rhetoric of disingenuous ‘easing’ of the lockdown is used to deflect international attention. A total internet, land-line and communication ‘blackout’ is ongoing. And, ominously, foreshadows something more sinister forthcoming. That is, the real possibility of genocide in Kashmir.

Yet, amid these awful scenes of death, desolation and despair, Kashmiris have only become emboldened with the spirit of ‘rebellion’.

There is no other choice. Faced with an unruly, unforgiving adversary, all must unite.

Farhan Mujahid Chak is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University.

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