carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Bahrain

BAHRAIN: Seven protesters sentenced; defendant details alleged rape threats in custody


Seven anti-government protesters on trial before a military court received sentences ranging from one to three years Monday in connection with their participation in anti-government protests in the Persian Gulf kingdom earlier this year, activists said.

Majad Ali Mohamed and Ibrahim Salman Abdullah each received one-year sentences. Mohammed Mullah Ahmed, Haitham Shobar Sharaf and Hassan Mansour Hussein were each sentenced to two years, and Hussein Ali Ahmed and Jafar Mohammed Ibrahim received three-year sentences, according to human-rights activists.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights released a statement saying the organization was “deeply concerned” about the sentencing by the National Safety Court set up under the country’s emergency law, due to be lifted June 1.

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

The defendants were charged with, among other things, participating in illegal demonstrations and rallies and inciting the public against the government.

They were among 21 opposition figures charged, seven in absentia.

At a Monday court hearing, one of the other defendants, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said that he had been threatened with rape in custody after he refused to apologize to the king on camera, according to activists. The Bahraini judge responded by having Alkhawaja removed from court, activists said. Other activists have said they were tortured while in custody.

Continue reading »

LIBYA: Human rights lawyer on Kadafi warrant impact on Arab Spring


After the International Criminal Court prosecutor's requested arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, son Seif Islam and brother-in-law Abdullah Sanussi for crimes against humanity, Babylon & Beyond spoke with Widney Brown, a human rights lawyer and senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International in London. She helped lobby for passage of the ICC's Rome Statute in 1988 that covers such warrants.

Q: How significant is the prosecutor's request for these ICC warrants?

A: It’s a good sign that being a head of state is not seen as a protection against having a warrant issued when there are signs you have broken the law.

Q: But how effective are these warrants, given that other embattled leaders -- for instance, President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir in Sudan -- have had warrants issued against them and remained in power, traveling the world without being arrested?

A: [Bashir's] world has definitely gotten smaller. But it is distressing to see the number of countries that seem very happy they don’t have to arrest him. He’s being very careful about where he’s going. It’s not a good sign that you can have an outstanding warrant for a year and nothing’s been done.

Q: The warrant for Kadafi would only cover crimes committed since the current conflict began Feb. 15. Could past crimes be included, too?

A: What you have also with Col. Kadafi is not only the crimes he is alleged to have committed in the conflict now, but the crimes he committed in the past, some of which are ongoing. The prosecutor might be able to look at ongoing crimes. It’s not as if there’s going to be a dearth of things to investigate.

Q: What would be considered "ongoing crimes?"

A: For instance, enforced disappearances.

Q: Would that be similar to those disappeared in South America's "dirty wars" in the 1970s?

A: Yes, like in South America's dirty wars. That was when the term was created, when governments found it very effective to disappear people. Quite frankly, that’s what’s happening in Syria now. Why they’re being rounded up is pretextual or illegal. They’re being held incommunicado, they don’t have lawyers and we think they’re being subjected to torture and disappeared into a black hole. Things are worse now in Syria than they were in Libya when they made the Kadafi referral.

Q: So you and Amnesty officials think the ICC should pursue warrants against Syrian officials as well?

A: For the ICC to maintain its legitimacy, it needs to maintain its consistency and not irreparably politicize justice. We have called on the ICC to make a referral on Syria, to refer the situation to the prosecutor.

Q: Why Syria and not other countries in the region, such as Bahrain, Yemen or Egypt?

A: When the military is really turning on civilians in a systematic way, that certainly is a trigger to say this could be crimes against humanity. It’s not to say we’re not looking at evidence we’re  gathering in places like Yemen, Bahrain and northern Iraq to see what evidence there is. All these countries didn’t ratify the Rome Statute. So you want to go to the U.N. with really good evidence. You don't want it to be a case where they cannot defend their own actions in terms of making the referral.

Q: How many countries in the region have not ratified the Rome Statute that allows for these warrants to be issued?

A: The only country that ratified it in the Middle East was Jordan. Egypt and Tunisia have said they will, but they have not deposited instruments of ratification with the U.N. yet.

The interim Egyptian authorities have also said they will investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes during the revolution.

Q: But how can you guarantee they will investigate fairly when a new president has not even been elected?

A: If it turns out that the investigation is a sham, then you revisit the case and try to get it before the International Criminal Court. People have a gut feeling that justice is a local concept. They want justice in their own countries and you want to support that. In Egypt, for instance, you want to build a credible justice system because then if they do it right, you’ve helped rebuild a critical institution.


-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: A man looks at portraits of people who killed or disappeared under Moammar Kadafi's regime in Benghazi, Libya, on Monday. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, announced Monday that he would seek arrest warrants against the Libyan leader, son Seif Islam and the country's intelligence chief on charges of crimes against humanity. Credit: Rodrigo Abd /Associated Press.


BAHRAIN: Military court postpones trial of opposition leaders


Bahrain's special security court has postponed the trial of 21 opposition leaders set to start Monday until next Sunday, according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

The news agency also reported Monday that the military court had agreed to remove the opposition leaders from solitary confinement, where they have been held since they were detained since the government crackdown began in March.

The suspects, mostly Shiites including 14 in custody and the rest charged in absentia, are accused of attempting to overthrow the monarchy and of having links to foreign terrorist groups, a reference to Hezbollah. They have all pleaded not guilty, and human rights activists have demanded access to them, to their trial and to lawyers on their behalf.

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: Students required to sign pledge of allegiance to government

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights released a statement Sunday saying it was “deeply concerned” the country’s leading university had started requiring students to sign a pledge to support the embattled government of King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa.

The state-run University of Bahrain in Sakhir distributed the pledges when students returned to class Sunday, and they were soon posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Students who refuse to sign the pledge might have to withdraw, the group says.

The pledge specifies:" I acknowledge that not signing this document means I do not wish to continue my education in the University of Bahrain."

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: Activist describes electroshock, torture by government forces


After reports this week of security forces in Bahrain torturing detainees, particularly medical personnel, Babylon & Beyond spoke with Mohammed Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights who has been working to document human rights abuses in the capital, Manama, and throughout the Gulf nation with international partners such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Q: What is your focus now?

50356_10604207164_4576_n A: On Thursday the first nurse got sentenced in Bahrain, his name is Hassan Matooq. He is also a photographer, he took photos of all the injured people who came to the hospital. They charged him with four charges: torturing the injured, illegal gathering, participating in a rally and also broadcasting false news. He was sentenced to three years.

If he has only four charges and he is sentenced to four years, we are very afraid for the 47 medical staff (in custody), many of them have more than 10 charges against them.

Q: Why are medical personnel being detained?

A: They helped the injured and they are witnesses. If the government wants to destroy all the evidence, it’s one answer -- you accuse medical staff because the main witness of what happened in Salmaniya Hospital, the number of figures of the injured and what kind of weapons were used at that time, was the medical staff. The medical staff know everything.

Q: Have you spoken with any of the medical personnel?

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: Human rights official details abuses, fear and anger


Reports of human rights abuses following antigovernment protests in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain have increased in recent days, as 21 opposition leaders stand trial in a military court accused of, among other things, attempting to overthrown the monarchy. Brian Dooley of New York-based Human Rights First was denied entry to the trial in the capital of Manama on Thursday, and spoke afterward about conditions there and his interviews with victims of recent violence.

Q: Why did you want to be at the trial today?

A: The outcome of that trial is enormous -- the whole mood of the country hinges on that. It won't all just go away because the emergency laws are lifted.

Q: What is it like in Bahrain now?

A: We're in a strange, very tense lull at the moment where people are waiting very carefully to see what people's mood will be.

Q: The king has announced that the state of emergency will end two weeks early, on June 1, but it was announced today that Gulf Cooperation Council troops will remain in Bahrain afterward. What does that mean?

A: It's not going to be business as usual or a return to normal. And remember, people being detained now won't finish June 1. The military courts will continue.

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: GCC troops to remain, face increasingly radicalized youth


Sunni monarchs determined to maintain control after crushing opposition protests in the kingdom of Bahrain may soon face a new threat from increasingly alienated youths in the majority Shiite nation.

On Thursday, Bahrain’s state news agency reported that troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council are expected to stay on even after the country’s state of emergency is lifted June 1.

Sheikh Khalifa Al Khalifa, head of the Bahrain Defense Force, told the state news agency that the forces, known as the Peninsula Shield, were sent to Bahrain after protests erupted in February to defend against foreign threats, including Iran. He said Iranian, Iraqi and western agents helped orchestrate the anti-government protests.

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

Earlier this week, the GCC, a group of six Persian Gulf nations formed in 1981, invited Jordan and Morocco to join in what some analysts have called a consolidation of power by the “Sunni Kings’ Club” in the face of popular Shiite uprisings in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.

Salman Shaikh Picture Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Centre, said gulf leaders, led by Saudi Arabia, have become a “club of counterrevolutionaries” trying to reestablish an old order, with some resistance from Qatar and Kuwait, which is home to a sizable Shiite minority.

So far, gulf leaders have achieved an “uneasy calm” in Bahrain, he said, but have been unable to broker a political agreement there or in Yemen that would transform the states into constitutional monarchies.

“If you don’t come to some sort of political agreement, you’re going to have a young generation of Shiite youth who will not forget this and will be radicalized,” Shaikh said. “The danger is that they won’t be listening to anybody except maybe Iran.”

Already, he said gulf leaders may have missed their chance in Bahrain, where the government’s violent suppression of protests and alleged torture of political dissidents and medical staff, reported this week by Al Jazeera, has weakened their ability to negotiate with the opposition.

“A lot of young Bahrianis I talk to now dismiss those people, especially young Shiite Bahrainis, and seem to be moving on,” Shaikh said of the government.

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: Activists tortured before trial, rights group alleges

Lkvkuhnc A pro-democracy activist in Bahrain appeared to have been beaten and possibly tortured before he appeared in court this week, according to the New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch.

Abdulhadi Khawaja was one of 14 defendants, mostly opposition leaders in the Persian Gulf state, who were charged with seeking to “topple the regime forcibly in collaboration with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country,“ Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday. Seven others were charged in absentia.

When Khawaja's wife and daughter spoke with him briefly after he appeared  in court Sunday, the first time they had seen him since his arrest April 9, he told them he had suffered four fractures to his face, including one to his jaw that required four hours of surgery.

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

Khawaja's daughter Maryam told Human Rights Watch that her mother and sister met with him for 10 minutes after the initial hearing.

“She said her father had gone on a hunger strike to protest his ill treatment and his lack of access to a lawyer," according to a statement released by Human Rights Watch. “She also said that he told his wife and daughter that he had been tortured, but could not describe details because the family meetings took place in the presence of security guards."

Continue reading »

MIDDLE EAST: 'Arab Spring' has yet to alter region's strategic balance


Editor’s note: This post is by Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. Neither the Los Angeles Times nor Babylon & Beyond endorses the positions of Carnegie's analysts, nor does Carnegie endorse the positions of The Times or its blog.

Salem_color_medium3 (1) Despite their sweeping repercussions for both domestic and international players, the Arab uprisings have not led to a dramatically new regional order or a new balance of power. This could change, particularly if developments in Syria continue to escalate.

While Iran has welcomed uprisings against Western-backed regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, it dealt harshly with its own protesters and has been worried about recent events in Syria. Moreover, countries that threw out pro-Western dictators are not moving closer to Iran.

Egypt's and Tunisia’s future foreign policies are more likely to resemble Turkey's in becoming more independent while remaining allied with the West. And Iran's soft power has decreased as its regime looks increasingly repressive and new models of revolutionary success have emerged in Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of the Arab world.   

Carnegie logo Turkey, for its part, bungled the opportunity to take advantage of this historic shift to bolster its influence in the Arab world. The Arab uprisings are effectively calling for the Arab world to be more like Turkey: democratic, with a vibrant civil society, political pluralism, secularism alongside Islam, and a productive and fairly balanced economy. However, after expressing clear support for Egyptian protesters, Turkey has hedged its bets in Libya and Syria.

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: King announces early end to emergency rule as opposition stands trial


Bahrain's king announced plans Sunday to lift the Persian Gulf state's emergency rule on June 1, two weeks earlier than the official end of the three-month rule, imposed March 15 in an attempt to halt anti-government unrest.

The announcement by King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa appeared timed to distract a world audience from the trial of activists accused of attempting to overthrow the monarchy amid protests by the country's majority Shiite population.

At least 30 people have been killed since protests began in February in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

In a speech last month, the country's crown prince defended the government crackdown.

"We were immensely concerned that some of our youth were pushed toward a destructive path and that the nation was drawn along with them," Prince Salman ibn Hamed Khalifa said, according to an official transcript.

"We took necessary action to preserve lives and the livelihood and interests of all the people, based on our commitment to Islamic and Arab values," he said.

King Hamed's declaration that he would suspend martial law early gave no details of what would take its place, including whether the nighttime curfew would end or the numerous checkpoints be dismantled, according to the Associated Press.

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: Medical staff face prosecution, alleged torture after aiding anti-government protesters

Nearly 50 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have been detained in Bahrain in connection with treating anti-government protesters, human-rights officials said Wednesday.

Those detained included 24 doctors and 23 nurses and paramedics, according to Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

“All of them were held somewhere nobody knows — we think they are in a military base,” Rajab said. "Reports we are receiving say that almost all of them were tortured.”

Fareeda Dallal, a medical professional married to a doctor who also was detained, appeared on Al Jazeera satellite network Tuesday with a black eye to say she had been harassed by her captors and forced to dance for them.

Continue reading »

BAHRAIN: Military court sentences protesters to death

In a sharp escalation of the repression of a smoldering opposition movement, a military court in Bahrain sentenced four Shiite Muslim activists to death for the alleged murder of two police officers during pro-democracy demonstrations in March, Bahrain's official news agency reported.

This is a kind of precedent-setting case in Bahrain. The suspects are the first civilians to ever be tried in a Bahraini military court, which is called the Lower Security Court.

Three other men were sentenced to life in jail by a Sunni-dominated monarchy that has received support from Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Peninsula states to quell a Shiite-led mass anti-government uprising. 

Continue reading »

Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors