Karen Dabrowska

Tripoli Post Article

Originally published: 30th November 2013

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One Year After Revoking Citizenship of 31 Bahrainis

In November 2012 the ruling family of Bahrain revoked the citizenship of 31 Bahrainis as a punishment for their support of the people’s revolution. Despite condemnation from human rights bodies and the UN Human Rights Commissioner, the decision has not been overturned.

The Parliamentary Human Rights Group in Britain held a press conference a year after this scandalous violation of human rights to draw attention the plight of the 31 victims and to highlight the continuing repression in the country.

Lord Avebury, Vice Chairman of the Parliamentary HR Group emphasised that the ruling family in Bahrain falsely pretends their state is a democracy, but it lacks the basic characteristic of a democracy, that the people should be able to change their government through the ballot box.

At the London press conference, Lord Avebury went on to say that the Bahraini state also violates the rule of law, followed ever since Magna Carta, that no person shall be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

The deprivation of these people of their citizenship without reference to specific laws they are supposed to have contravened, and without giving them the opportunity of challenging that decision, is plainly a violation of the rule of law.

“This should be a matter of particular concern to the UK, because 11 of the 31 stateless Bahrainis are now in the UK, without any assets or the means of livelihood. One is in the US, and the remaining nine are in Bahrain, sentenced without any kind of trial. A petition for the restoration of these people’s citizenships is on the website Avaaz.”

Lord Avebury also drew attention to the fact that Britain was entertaining the President of South Korea, whose arms manufacturers are in the process of selling 1.6 million tear gas canisters to Bahrain.

He wrote to President Park to underline that tear gas is the main weapon of oppression against the civilian population of Bahrain. The inhalation of this gas has caused severe health problems amongst vulnerable children and pregnant mothers, and direct hits by canisters fired deliberately at short range have resulted in serious injuries and 39 deaths.

A worldwide campaign labelled ‘Stop the Shipment’ has been launched against the South Korean sale. The UN Human Rights Council, the European Parliament, Amnesty International Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch are among the many organisations that have raised their voices in this regard.

Meanwhile, arbitrary arrests, detentions and tortures continue apace. Long term prisoners, the victims of unfair trials, such as Hassan Mushaima who suffers from cancer, and Abdulwahab Hussain who has paresthesia, are being denied medical treatment.

Amnesty International condemned the mass show trial of 50 activists as appalling and called for an investigation of reports that some of these detainees had been tortured.

The UN Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendes, himself a former political prisoner, is looking into these matters. One of the 50 activists, the human rights defender Naji Fattel, dramatically took off his shirt in the court to reveal the marks of torture.

Lord Avebury concluded that the only solution to the crisis of human rights in Bahrain is a change of government. He believes it would still be possible to negotiate a peaceful transition in Bahrain if the al-Khalifas would accept that its time for them to step down, and instead of the present futile dialogue, allow free and fair elections to a legislature with the power to form a democratic government.

Human Rights activists also addressed the press conference. Ahmed Ali a researcher at Bahrain Watch said that his organisation recently uncovered a document detailing a large shipment of tear gas – 1.6 million canisters. “This is almost twice the population of Bahrain. Part of the shipment also included stun grenades and flash grenades.

“They have all been used to suppress not only protesters but against civilians in their homes. We have recorded over 39 deaths of tear gas being shot at civilians in their homes. We have at least one death caused by South Korean tear gas which killed a young boy aged 15.

“We launched the Stop the Shipment Campaign which received large global support in order to ban the current shipment which we believe is being approved by South Korean authorities.”

“Nick Mcgeehan, a researcher at the Human Rights Watch, discussed three freedoms: freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression in relation to Bahrain. Earlier this year Bahrain altered article 214 of its penal code to increase the sentences for people who were found guilty of insulting the king.

“In the run up to Bahrain’s protests in August parliament proposed 22 recommendations to the king. One of these led to the indefinite suspension of the right to assemble in Manama.

“Persons who wish to organise any kind of protest or demo need to apply to the head of security who will dictate to them the number of protesters, the location and the time. This is in effect an indefinite ban on the right to assembly in the capital – a defacto state of emergency,” Mcgeehan said.

Not content with having passed these laws, Bahrain effectively physically ring fences villages where they expect the protests to come from with razor wire physically preventing people from going to the capital to protest. Entire towns have been put under town arrest.”

Qasim Al Hasemi who was deprived of his nationality said: “I just need to announce that we did not know the decision to revoke our nationality had been taken until it was published. I was shocked to hear about such a decision and to know that I have no nationality.

“Only Bahrain and Jordan are revoking nationalities. There are no other regimes who would take such an action without informing the victims about their faults are. I am here to appeal for pressure to be put on the Bahraini regime not only for us but for the people who will be victimised in future.”

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui the Middle East Deputy Director of Amnesty said that the biggest challenge Amnesty faces in it work is countering the narrative that the Bahraini authorities are putting forward with the help of their pr companies and their allies.

“When we try to do advocacy be it with the UN or with the British government we have found it extremely difficult. Even in the face of evidence the UK government in particular has been very reluctant to take any action. We have said that the Bahraini authorities are just putting in place institutional reform.

“They are trying to see what they can get away with, what they can implement without touching the core of the system and without having real accountability.

“They have every reason to continue to do so because the UK government praises them for the slightest development when in reality the situation of human rights on the ground is worsening.”