Tuesday 24th of May 2022
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Press Conference on Bahrain’s Revolution in House of Lords

 In his opening remarks Lord Avebury said: We are concerned by events in Bahrain where the situation is worse than what we had in the nineties. At that time there were no soldiers shooting people, no show trials as there are now. Although the King is trying to show a different reality, the situation has gone beyond the point of no return. He added: “If you want conversation you don’t start by beating the people up. I don’t believe current initiatives to have talks as a starter. Before talks began there were protests against these talks”. Two days ago, I had letter from the Foreign ٍٍSecretary. It was disappointing to see ministers talking about reinvigorating dialogue after the regime had inflicted torture on people while depriving them of their lively needs, sacking professional doctors, engineers and nurses. A prominent human rights lawyer has been taken into custody and is being held behind bars for defending other prisoners. In these circumstances talking about the crown prince as intermediary is none sense.

Then Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights spoke, via Skype, about the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. He started saying: I hope to be able to speak without being disconnected by the government as they have always done. He said Bahrain witnessed crimes against humanity. These include systematic torture, people fired from work, students dismissed from universities, doctors, nurses, bloggers and athletes. The government practiced sectarian cleansing against Shia by targeting them in their work place and places of worship. Mosques were destroyed and houses raided. The government does not depend on its own people for security but on people from Syria, Yemen and Pakistan. In the past few weeks more mercenaries came from Pakistan. We have thousands of people who have been targeted either by sacking or arrest.

We understand that dialogue is an attempt to mislead international community. The ruling family is not represented in this dialogue. It is mostly by groups created by government to look like human rights or political groups. Opposition parties represent less than 15 percent. No positive outcome is expected from these meetings. A fact finding mission by the international committee is needed. The committee formed by the king to investigate torture and unlawful detention is going to Bahrain in July Its members include Nigel Rodley and Sharif Bassiouni as chair. I have been told that they would be given total access to victims, would have unmonitored access anywhere and would not be monitored by security forces. But also I believe that if they saw any attempt to interfere they would abdicate. This is high stakes game. The King plays for time. This is what he did before. Last year he promised to allow a delegation from UK to visit Bahrain to investigate human rights abuses but when the pressure went away he stopped the delegation. The team would have included Lord Ramsbottom, the Chief Inspector of prisons who was a distinguished military officer .

As you know, the committee formed by the King is an attempt to distance himself from responsibility. He is the one who had given orders. We do not know whether they would contact us but we will be happy to update the committee with all cases we have.

The government is not serious about dialogue or the committee. Until this moment abuses have not ceased. More people have been dismissed. There are no indications that the government is serious about violations. People are witnessing harshest ever crackdown on citizens. Tens of thousands of dinars, gold, watches and other valuable werestolen by security forces. Have these crimes been carried out on orders from offices or are they personal acts? Hundreds of have been houses looted and worshipping houses destroyed. There are no indications that they are serious in trying getting out of this crisis.

Lord Avebury: One of the members of committee says guarantees have been given by authorities what do you think? 
Nabeel Rajab: Firstly, Historically that did not happen and is unlikely to happen now.

Secondly these are attempts to mislead the public 
Before three days Bahrain TV changed its tactics and language. Prisoners were asked to wear new clothes and prisons are being painted in anticipation of the visit.

Every time a human rights committee comes such things happen. 
The Investigation committee is an obstacle to UN fact finding mission. Many human rights bodies have seen what had happened. I do not think that this committee can say everything is ok.

The dialogue is only 20 days this is shortest dialogue in the world. Let us wait for 20 days and see. More protests are taking place and the crisis is unlikely to disappear.

The third speaker was Finnian Cunningham, a freelance journalist from Ireland who was expelled by Al Khalifa regime in mid June. He participated through Skype:

I was working in Bahrain as a freelance journalist. When the uprising began on 14th February I saw how the state reacted killing seven in the first week. There was trauma everywhere. Medics did a fantastic job. They were treating everyone at the hospital. The Trial of the medics is travesty of legal process. It is preposterous. What the regime claims is completely opposite to what had happened. When the Saudis came to Bahrain on 14th March I saw Saudi military tanks commandeering the hospital, they forced members of staff out of hospital. Protesters were taken to military places.

We are supposed to be at the end of emergency and dialogue starting. But I receive reports that repression is continuing. About 1000 university students have been dismissed, 170 arrested. A family from Budayya told me that their son had been detained for 70 days. There are dozens like this guy. His family said the boy was totally innocent. His guilt was being part of the democracy movement.

Nabeel Rajab told me that these students have to leave Bahrain to continue their studies. This is de facto exile. This is social engineering. Regime is attempting to change the demography by bringing people from Syria and Yemen. This is shift in demographic balance.

I was expelled on 18th June. Two days earlier the ministry of information summoned me after I gave an interview with an American radio station about state of emergency and dialogue. I argued that this is only public relations exercise. The US has supported this charade. I do believe that the interview was unsettling to the regime.

I was working for the Irish Time and Global Research website. I was writing critical news reports. I wrote about Ahmad Farhan who was shot by Saudi forces while he was on the ground. On 15th March I gave details of the Saudi involvement. At that point I felt there was no inhibition on me but later I was expelled.

I have seen Dum Dum bullets which had been used on demonstrators. It was claimed that nurses had opened the wounds up to exaggerate them. That is ridiculous claim. Ahmad Farhan’s wounds indicate that serous wounds were result of large bullets.

Nerve gas was used also on several occasions. There was toxicology more than tear gas.

Press TV’s coverage was excellent. Ralph Shauman’s work was very good. Al Jazeera did not apparently take interest in Bahrain because of Qatar’s policy. Another important media development was that of Physicians for Human Rights. They gave testimony at Congress. I have to thank my colleague Ralph Shauman for what he did. After Saudi intervention the wounded had to beg for medication. They put the people on wheelchairs and put them out. In March you could see there were two sides. Doctors who were forced to leave the hospital and nurses who were crying all the time. Where did the orders come from?

Then a Swedish eyewitness gave her personal account. Hjordis elisabeath, whose name is now Noor was working at the Salmaniya Hospital when the attack by the Saudi and Al Khalifa forces occupied it. This is a brief of what she said:

I was married to Dr Khalil Al Halwaji who is being tried today. They took him to jail where he badly tortured, the house became messy. From 14th February Bahrain wanted freedom. I want to know where the freedom is. From western perspective, freedom is to have pubs, prostitution, suffering of families. Bahraini people are clever and their ambitions exceed those marginal demands.

We treated everyone at the hospital, Shia and Sunni. We discharged some whose families did not want to stay at Salmaniya and were taken to the military hospital.

I spent most of the time at hospital. I did not see any sign of sectarian tension at hospital.

Then Hussain Abdulla who had come from USA gave few remarks:
We promote human rights in Bahrain. The US policy towards Bahrain’s revolution is negative. Only in the first week we saw some positive comments by President Obama. His administration is clearly supporting the regime. In March Clinton said that she cannot imagine a future for Bahrain without the presence of the Al Khalifa. At the beginning of the revolution Senator Leahy initiated an investigation to see whether American money or arms were used against Bahrainis. Until today nothing has come out of those investigations.

We were able to convince Congress to hold hearing in April. Two Sate Department officials were invited to testify but they refused.

Arab Spring revolutions were portrayed in negative ways. When dealing with Bahrain the word democracy is never mentioned, only reform and dialogue. The whole foundation of dialogue is a sham.

There is a feeling at the White House that they want the issue of Bahrain to disappear. Last week Obama administration announced they would send a new ambassador to Bahrain.

In Summary, Bahrain is important to US. It is the base of the 5th fleet and a close ally. Bahrain allows USA to do whatever it wants. Trade off was achieved between the Al Khalifa and US administration: We use the facilities and in return we will turn blind eye to human rights violations.

We need to work harder to convince Washington to change its track on Bahrain.

Lord Avebury said this is an echo of what we hear form our own government. The bottom line is that you do not criticize friends in public. This attitude does not help to solve the problem. I do not anticipate a future for Bahrain under the present regime.

Lord Avebury: We have to make sure that the investigation committee shall get evidence from all of us. We should discuss whatever can be provided to this committee. Navi Pillay has not cancelled or abandoned going herself to Bahrain but only postponed her trip until the committee has ended its work.

I think it will take the UN great effort to convince other member states to agree to a mission to Bahrain.

Nabeel Rajab deserves respect, and I suggest nominating him to a prestigous prize, such as Nobel.

source : http://abna.ir
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