Western lawmakers call for ‘free elections’ in Bahrain

The file photo, taken on December 26, 2014, shows a Bahraini man holding up a placard reading in Arabic, "Your government and your parliament are without legitimacy," during an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama. (Photo by AFP)

The file photo, taken on December 26, 2014, shows a Bahraini man holding up a placard reading in Arabic, “Your government and your parliament are without legitimacy,” during an anti-government protest in the village of Jannusan, west of the capital Manama. (Photo by AFP)

Fri Nov 9, 2018 03:47PM

The government of Bahrain has come under fire by Western lawmakers against the backdrop of a ban on an opposition party from contesting the upcoming elections in the Arab country.

Bahrain is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on November 24.

A cross-party group of British lawmakers, including Conservative MP Peter Bottomley, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, said in a letter to the Foreign Office that Bahrain “effectively bans major opposition figures from holding political office.” They added that a countless number of Bahraini individuals have been “incarcerated on charges that criminalize free expression and assembly.”

“Free and fair elections can only take place if citizens are able to express their views.”

The British lawmakers also referred to the forcible closure of the only independent newspaper, Al-Wasat, back in 2017 and the detention of at least 15 journalists and Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab for comments deemed critical of the Bahraini state.

“Bahrain may be a key strategic ally to the UK but human rights and democratic values are fundamental pillars of our society and foreign policy”, the letter concluded.

In Ireland, a cross-party group of lawmakers involved in foreign affairs urged the release of all political detainees in Bahrain and permitting international bodies to observe the elections.

Members of the European Parliament also slammed the Bahraini regime for missing the opportunity of the elections “to ease tensions and allow space for open dialogue to take place.”

Some 40 members of the European Parliament composed a letter addressed to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah which is to be published next week.

The letter also points to “the enactment of increasingly repressive measures.”

“Under these conditions, Bahrain’s elections cannot be recognized by the international community as free, fair, or legitimate.”

Last week, US Congressmen James McGovern and Randy Hultgren, who are co-chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos human rights commission in the US House of Representatives, stressed that it would be difficult for the international community to recognize the upcoming elections as legitimate, noting that Manama “has dissolved two major opposition political societies, barred all members of the societies from running for office on an individual basis, and imprisoned a number of key figures, as well as writers and civil society leaders.”

“In addition, Bahrain’s electoral infrastructure inherently disadvantages the political opposition. There is no independent electoral commission and, to date, there has been no commitment by the government to permit either domestic or international observers,” the letter added.

In May, Bahrain’s parliament approved a bill barring members of the al-Wefaq from running in elections, the latest step in Manama’s political crackdown.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

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UK Is Sending Its Police to Train in israel (apartheid state) : Here’s Why It Should Bother You

UK Sending Its Police to Train in Israel: Here’s Why It Should Bother You

(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed)  According to the Independent, government sources say a British team is set to travel to Israel in the near future to learn Israeli counterterrorism enforcement strategies. The proposed move comes amid a spate of terrorist activity in the United Kingdom, as well as concerns about the British authorities’ response time and ability to counter terrorist attacks.

However, as the Independent notes:

“There are, of course, significant differences between political violence in the UK and Israel. The murders and maiming in the streets of Britain are in pursuit of a murderous Islamist jihad with a variety of justifications offered including retaliation for the war against Isis in Iraq and Syria. In Israel and the occupied territories it is justified as part of the struggle for Palestinian nationhood against Israel.”

The Jerusalem Post cites police involvement as being integral when it comes to “turning the tide” in Jerusalem’s battle against terrorist activity. More than 3,500 police officers are reportedly involved in multiple units, constantly patrolling and on guard with undercover officers on site at all times.

Considering this, it is curious that the United Kingdom would want to learn police tactics from an occupying force that suppresses its local population. Why would the United Kingdom want to create a similar environment and heavily arm its police force? And to what end?

Saudi Arabia Banned from Promoting Reform on UK TV

Local Editor

The UK media regulator Ofcom has banned Saudi Arabia from paying to promote its so-called reform agenda on British television.

The move was prompted after revelations that Saudi Arabia had breached British broadcasting law by buying television adverts that promoted the reform policies of the country’s crown prince, such as the lifting of long-standing bans on women drivers and cinemas.

This is while Saudi reforms have been accompanied by heavy-handed crackdown on dissent against the kingdom’s critics, ranging from clerics to some of the very female activists who campaigned for years to end the bans.

In one case cited by Ofcom in the Guardian, Riyadh had paid to air a minute-long advert which included images of old and contemporary Saudi Arabia, women driving, cinemas being reopened, entertainment, cultural events and members of the Saudi royal family.

The advertisement was aired 56 times on Britain’s Sky One channel back in March, around the time Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made an official visit to the UK.

Ofcom said the ruling was made after it found that Riyadh had been attempting to “influence public opinion in the UK on matters of public controversy,” and had broken Britain’s strict ban on paid political advertising on television and radio stations.

Ofcom stressed that it did not consider the ads were of “a public service nature.”

The media regulator said it had taken into account the controversy around “freedom of speech, human rights and women’s rights” in the Arab country when making the ruling, in addition to issues concerning “the sale of UK weapons to the kingdom and the kingdom’s involvement in the Yemeni civil war.”

The Saudi crown prince has reportedly threatened to target women and children in Yemen irrespective of international criticism of strikes against civilians.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

Don’t be Deluded – Our Saudi ‘Partners’ are Masters of Repression

Kenan Malik

Five Saudi activists face possible execution. Their crimes? “Participating in protests”, “chanting slogans hostile to the regime” and “filming protests and publishing on social media”.

The five, including women’s rights campaigner Israa al-Ghomgham, come from the Shia-majority Eastern Province. They have spent more than two years in prison. Now the prosecution has demanded their deaths.

Their plight reveals the vacuity of claims that Saudi Arabia is “liberalizing”. The death in 2015 of King Abdullah and his replacement by Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has led to much gushing in the west about the new reforming regime and, in particular, about the “vision” of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir apparent and driving force behind the “modernization” moves. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a fawning piece about the Saudi “Arab spring”. “It’s been a long, long time,” he wrote, “since any Arab leader wore me out with a fire hose of new ideas about transforming his country.” Even the fierce critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali has suggested that if the crown prince “succeeds in his modernisation efforts, Saudis will benefit from new opportunities and freedoms”.

Yes, Salman has allowed women to drive, to run their own businesses and to attend sports events. Cinemas have opened and rock concerts been staged. But the king remains the absolute ruler of a kingdom that practices torture, beheads dissidents and exports a barbarous foreign policy, including prosecuting one of the most brutal wars of modern times in Yemen.

Over the past year, dozens of activists, clerics, journalists and intellectuals have been detained in what the United Nations, an organization usually wary of criticizing the kingdom, has called a “worrying pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detention”. Few countries execute people at a higher rate. Under the current “reforming” regime, at least 154 people were executed in 2016 and 146 in 2017. Many were for political dissent, which the Saudi authorities rebrand as “terrorism”. A regime that permits women to drive but executes them for speaking out of turn is “reforming” only in a columnist’s fantasy.

For all the paeans, what really attracts western commentators and leaders to Saudi Arabia is that the regime’s refusal to countenance any dissent has until now created a relatively stable state that is also pro-western. Precisely because the Saudi royal family is deeply reactionary, it has long been seen as a bulwark against “radicalism”, whether that of the Soviet Union, Iran or local democratic movements.

Last week, in the wake of a Saudi bombing of a school bus in Yemen that left 33 children dead, Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, defended Britain’s relations with Riyadh on the grounds that the two countries were “partners in fighting Islamist extremism” and that the Saudis have helped to stop “bombs going off in the streets of Britain”. In fact, Saudi Arabia bears more responsibility for the rise of ‘Islamist’ terror than any other nation.

From the 1970s onwards, flush with oil money, the Saudis exported across the world Wahhabism, a vicious, austere form of Islam that the Saud clan has used to establish loyalty to its rule after creating Saudi Arabia in 1932. Riyadh has funded myriad madrasas and mosques. It has funded, too, ‘jihadist’ movements from Afghanistan to Syria. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. So were most of the 9/11 bombers. A 2009 internal US government memo described Saudi Arabia as “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. The Saudis have leveraged their knowledge of such groups to win influence with the west.

The viciousness of the Saudi regime is matched only by the cynicism of western leaders. The price is being paid by the children in that school bus and by the five activists facing possible beheading for peaceful protests; by the million of Yemenis on the verge of starvation and by thousands of Saudis imprisoned, flogged and executed for wanting basic rights. But what’s all that when set against the value of a “friendly” regime?

Who is Israa al-Ghomgham?

Who is Israa al-Ghomgham?

Canada Will Continue to Stand up Strongly for Human Rights: PM

August 24, 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern Thursday over reports that human rights activists in Saudi Arabia face the death penalty.

The two countries are locked in a diplomatic dispute over Canada’s criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record, but Trudeau said Canada continues to “engage diplomatically” with Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups say Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including, for the first time, a woman.

The five stand accused of inciting mass protests in mainly Shiite areas of the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Human rights groups say that the execution threat is a calculated bid to stifle dissent.

“I think it’s important to have positive relationships with countries around the world,” Trudeau told a press conference in British Columbia.

“At the same time, we have expressed our concern with the sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia, our concern for defending human rights and our shared values all around the world,” he added.

“Canada will continue to stand up strongly for human rights,” said Trudeau.

Two weeks ago Canada called for the immediate release of detained activists, including award-winning women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi.

Saudi Arabia froze all new trade and investments, moved to pull out thousands of Saudi students from Canadian universities and pledged to stop all medical treatment programs in Canada. State airline Saudia also suspended flights to Toronto.

In the end the Saudis gave its students an extension until September 22, according to several universities.

SourceAgencies

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Canada Condemns Saudi Arabia’s Planned Beheading of Female Activist

Local Editor

 

Human Rights advocates said Israa al-Ghomgham, along with five other activists, are being tried by the country’s terrorism tribunal on charges “solely related to their peaceful activism”.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland inflamed tensions with a single tweet last month, in which she expressed concern surrounding the imprisonment of activists in Saudi Arabia.

The dispute escalated and Saudi Arabia cancelled all flights to Canada on the state airline, recalled students studying in the North American nation, cut investment and issued threats.

Following the news of the planned beheading of Israa al-Ghomgham, a Foreign Affairs Department spokesman renewed Canada’s concerns in a statement.

They said: “As Minister Freeland has previously stated, Canada is extremely concerned by the arrests of women’s rights activists.

“These concerns have been raised with the Saudi government.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world.”

Ghomgham’s trial started earlier this month, almost three years after her arrest in late 2015.

The Shia female activist was part of a political movement which continued until 2014.

The European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights commented on Ghomgham’s activism, saying: “She called for fundamental and basic civil and political rights, such as peaceful assembly and expression, for the release of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, and expressed her peaceful opinions on social media platforms.”

State prosecutors are seeking to sentence Ghomgham with the death penalty, and if delivered, it will mark the first time a female activist is executed in Saudi Arabia for their political activities.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities have also been holding five other activists, who are facing the death penalty, in pre-trial detention without legal representation for over two years.

The next court date is scheduled for October 28, 2018.

146 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, according to Amnesty International.

Beheading is the most common method of execution in Saudi Arabia.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behaviour, is monstrous.

“Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business.”

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

 

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