Bahrain: injustice and violence continue while West keeps quiet

bahrain2 300x193 Bahrain: injustice and violence continue while West keeps quiet

A Bahraini Shiite Muslim woman shouts anti-government slogans during a labour day protest on May 1, 2012. Photo Credit (AFP/GettyImages)

The uprisings in Bahrain have seen little media coverage and a continuation of western political allegiances with the current regime, despite widespread acknowledgement of the use of torture against detainees, violence against demonstrators and inequitable arrests and trials.

According to media reports on Monday, police had once again been firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors. The same day the High Court of Appeal in Bahrain postponed the final verdict on the appeal of thirteen opposition activists relating to their participation in pro-reform demonstrations last year.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members have aided Bahrain’s ‘constitutional’ monarchy in suppressing voices of internal opposition and crushing dissent, while bolstering Bahraini security forces. Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the behest of Bahrain have provided around 2,000 troops. The West, meanwhile, has quietly averted its eyes.

Since the uprisings began in February 2011, small rumblings of disapproval have been heard from various Western powers: President Obama has called for the ‘universal rights’ of Bahraini citizens to be upheld, whilst the EU’s Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton has called on the Bahraini regime to ‘fully respect and protect the fundamental rights of their citizens’ – a sentiment David Cameron has reiterated.

Bahrain’s King, Hammad bin-Issa al-Khalifa, have provided the West with the requisite assurances of change. He launched the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) investigating human rights violations during demonstrations in February and March 2011. It is said that his deeply held concern over the actions of his security forces against his people prompted the enquiry, but observers have been quick to point out that a desire to prevent further international condemnation is an explanation equally likely.

BICI reported that a myriad of human rights abuses had been observed including excessive use of force and torture against some detainees, as well as violence against protestors by Bahraini security forces. The National Commission was subsequently set up to ensure that such injustices were never repeated. But little has been done in practice to administer these changes.

Two weeks ago, Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights, testified to the US Congress that Bahraini security forces had continued to act with “impunity” . In particular, he found that 48 medical specialists had been “targeted, detained, tortured, and forced to sign false confessions.” Many were tried in military courts and found guilty of various charges including attempting to overthrow the government, inciting hatred towards the regime as well as occupying the Salamiya Hospital. BICI later found the charges to be fabricated. However, Western voices have been reluctant to speak out against these abuses.

In fact, Britain and the US have been positively smooching with the regime. Cameron has said that Britain is “a friend of Bahrain’s” and showcased our commitment by inviting the King to Number 10 in May this year. The US Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough visited Bahrain in June consulting on issues of ‘mutual concern’, with McDonough stressing the importance of the US-Bahraini partnership. Bahrain has also been honoured with visits from the then Defense Secretary Robert Gates as well as Mike Mullens, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It is the strategic interest of Bahrain that has ensured such tolerance from the West. The country’s close relationship with neighbouring OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the US, has ensured tacit Western support.

What small, reluctant murmurings our governments have made, through their quietly publicised statements of “concern”, have in fact allowed the Bahraini regime to continue with its current crackdowns. The West’s collective commitment to promoting democracy , which include principles of good governance and freedom of speech, have been wholly selective in their implementation.  Blatant contradictions can therefore be seen in the West’s rhetoric of supporting ‘fundamental rights’.
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  • Lela2

    Bahraini teenager killed in clashes with riot police

    ­A 16-year-old boy has died of his injuries after being beaten by security
    forces during a protest on Friday night, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
    reports. According to the report, Hussam al-Haddad was shot with shotgun pellets
    and then kicked by security forces after he fell to the ground. Bahrain’s
    Interior Ministry confirmed the death, but said that police were defending
    themselves as the boy attacked them with Molotov cocktails. Over 50 people have
    been killed during pro-democracy rallies and protests in Bahrain, where police
    often use excessive force to disperse protesters. Dozens of activists have been
    detained by the government on various charges. On Thursday, Bahraini human
    rights activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to three years in jail for “participation in an illegal assembly” and “calling for a march without prior notification.”

    Bahraini teenager beaten to death during clashes with police

    Bahrain jails prominent activist Rajab for 3 years

    (Paste the links and remove one more dot after rt)

  • sara jassim

    More of the same: Attempting to make the West feel guilty for not supporting an increasingly meaningless “revolution” and staying out of the internal issues of a sovereign country. Did it ever occur to anybody that the majority of us in Bahrain don’t want our government overthrown by a failing movement with links to extremist clerics, terror organizations and hostile governments with hegemonic interests in the Gulf? That would not serve the best interests of Bahrain, the region or the West – something many in the West and most of us here in Bahrain have already figured out.

  • sara jassim

    When doctors break the law and turn the hospital into the launchpad for a political revolution they cease to be operating in the capacity of their oaths. Plus, a few of them did discriminate wrt treatment.

  • Stephen Porter

    the bombings were terrible.
    i was not defending the use of violence on ether side.
    many irish men and women were arrested and beaten, many were innocent, as they are in bahrain.

  • William Wallace BH

    This whole premise that the west is turning a blind eye to Bahrain is both facile and lazy. The media scruitiy that Bahrain has been under has never ceased. Most recent events would be the attention Bahrain has received in the past months with the Grand Prix and the UPR review and most recently a statement by Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner regarding the implementation of the BICI report earlier this month, statement that commended the government for the boldness of establishing the report and noted that much has been done in terms of implementation.

    The government has been very transparent with what has been done in implementation and other political reforms. However, reform cannot be achieved without active and positive political engagement from the opposition, many of whom have reject all reforms initiatives introduced.

    The argument that the west is turning a blind eye because of political and other interests is one that will only work if one is completely disregarding the many developments and reforms that have occurred over the past 18 months.

  • Adam J

    I don’t know where you guys are from, but I live in Bahrain, and I know that there are genuine efforts from the Government to compromise and engage with the opposition. Instead, the opposition responds with violence and terror tactics as a means of communicating their message. Because of Bahrain being under the spotlight for human rights violations, security forces are forced to practice restraint. However, these adolescent vigilantes are dangerous criminals, making it difficult for people to go about their everyday lives without fearing their car being attacked with metal rods or a petrol bomb.

    Stop condemning the Government for preserving the lives of other Bahrainis. They have provided the platform for dialogue, and the oppoiiton’s unwillingness to engage with them is not something they should be held accountable for. Stop labeling these terrorists as “pro democracy protestors” because they are nothing more than juvenile delinquents. Your encouragement of their pledge is causing harm to our society, and preventing Bahrain from progressing on their path to reform.

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