A seminar was held today, 15th December, at the House of Lords organized by Lord Avebury under the title: “Dead End for a regime guilty of systematic torture”. It was addressed by several speakers and victims of abuse.
Lord Avebury delivered the opening speech saying that the regime is indicted not only by the Bahrain Independent Commission for Investigation (BICI) report but by a number of independent human rights bodies which made same accusations and more.
It is an indicted regime because the alternative report by a number of human rights bodies in Bahrain have made similar accusations and more. I suppose the big question is whether Bissiouni’s report is good for Bahrain. For the regime it did one thing; it removed international pressure to stop torture, arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killing and dismissal of workers.
I wrote to the Foreign Secretary asking him to condemn the killings and torture and he said that we need to wait for the report. Thus Bissiouni gave regime a breathing space.
Dozens of civilians have been killed and hundreds dismissed. The King pretended not to have heard of these abuses.
Unlike Bahrain the European courts often give remedies to victims. When the King came to London, he complained to David Cameron of an Iranian intervention in Bahrain
The Bahrain TV is completely subservient to the regime. One newspaper (Al Wasat) was closed for months. The King came to London to say that the report provided good opportunity to sort out problems, ignoring the political problems. Bissiouni had exhonerated Al khalifa of what they had done.
The regime knew, or should have known that forces were about to carry out war crimes.
The King said he would implement the recommendations, but how is he going to rein in officers and officials?
But what about those in detention especially the senior figures? I would be surprised if any settlement can be implemented I it does not include those in jail.
The royal family should declare its willingness to transform into constitutional monarchy. Elected representatives should have the power to form government.
Then a prominent lawyer, Mohammad Al Tajir, was arrested:
I was released in August and heard that the King would pardon leaders and activists.
He also said he wanted to pardon detainees who had been charged falsely. BICI report said the articles used to charge leaders and others should be dismissed.
We also heard that the regime would drop charges against medics but the trials are still going on.
We should insist that the commission and its report and recommendation should be implemented. We are waiting for this implementation.
Since I was released I went to the court after they unfroze my work. I have more than 100 detainees who had been tortured as Bissiouni said. Most of them had been to hospital for treatment. Cases similar to my case and to those of others are still going on. There is no will to give people their rights. They want to fool people with simple acts like what they had done ten years. Democracy is only for media.
Real reform is not possible. Simple civil rights are not guaranteed. We cannot have access to detainees like Sheikh Mustarshid, Mohammad Sahwan and Imad and others. We do not know what had happened to them. They had been taken to hospital several times. Demonstrators continue to be hit with rubber bullets. Simple rights can be observed such as getting fast treatment for injured people or to allow them to speak out.
Mohammad Sadiq from (Justice For Bahrain):
There are cases for which we had campaigned for such as that of Fadeela Al Mubarak, 37, the mother of six years old boy, who had been arrested and tortured for listening to songs about the revolution. She thought she had been kidnapped when she was stopped by riot and security police. Since then she has been sentenced to four years which was reduced to one and half years. She has been in jail for eight months. BCHR talked about unfair trials like this one.
We have forgottem about the City Centre cases and those women who were stacked over each other. They have been sentenced to six months in jail for passing through the City Centre. The lack of access to lawyers and witnesses is a serious problem.
Ashwaq Al Maqabi, 17, needs medical attention but was dragged from her hospital bed. We need to push further to get medical treatment. BICI and BCHR said those people have not had fair trials. Neither the UK nor USA had asked the regime to make fair trials.
Other cases are those of those who had been sentenced to death. The regime is conducting trials of those people at the same time as the doctors so no one hears about them. Their trial has been adjourned until 28th January. The charges are trumpeted. We are calling for the sentences to be quashed because they are innocent. I hope that the name of Fadeela Mubarak who is forgotten as she languishes in jail, motivates people to act. Her son is calling you for help. He has been going to school without seeing his mum. I urge you again to remember her name. Remember also Ashwaq Al Maqabi as well. We are committed to campaigning for those people.
Lord Avebury: We can do little thing through the Foreign Office because their policy is to sweep everything under the carpet and start a dialogue. We need to bombard politicians to take up the issue.
What is our national interest in accepting the situation as it is? The UK supports the AlKhalifa in the name of national interest. Can we know what is national interest?
Faisal Jawad; father of the latest and youngest victim, Sajida, who was only six days when she died.
The security forces and riot police flooded the area for three days continuously with tear gas. Last Friday the attack was fierce. The child inhaled large quantities of those gases. On Saturday, she was tired and pale. In the evening her colour turned into blue so we took her to hospital. We were told that her heart had stopped. When people march to the streets demanding their legitimate rights why should the houses be attacked? We urge the people to stand up for these atrocities by this regime. The cause of death of my six days old baby was poisoning and blood contamination.
Maryam Al Khawaja
I have different lists of violations, not different from those before the report.
Something is significant; the King said two days ago that there has been no systematic torture and that people had been trained in Syria not Iran
At the beginning they accepted Bissioni’s report, now they say there was no systematic abuse. They effectively say that we do not accept the report.
In Jaw prison families have no access to prisoners who get no hot water in this cold weather. They get very limited exercise. This is why they went on hunger strike demanding their immediate and unconditional release. Yesterday two prisoners on trial fainted. Three other detainees were beaten outside the court in front of the lawyers. So violations have not stopped. I could also talk about the Government’s action since the report. To use the report to initiate political dialogue while not doing anything about human rights violations is problemlematic. The recommendations are not implemented, the government is not undertaking any changes. Focus should be on stopping human rights violations on daily basis.
Lord Avebury: What can Bahrain’s friends do? We should make an overall picture of the situation by all those who had spoken. It is ridiculous to think of the opposition setting down to discuss politics while they are under human rights violations.
Maryam: It was troubling to see the King welcomed by Western countries. There needs to be an
immediate message to Bahraini government that they are not welcome.
Lord Avebury: I will do what I can but this government’s policy isto sweep everything under the carpet.
Maryam: We mentioned in our report that five members of Al Khalifa, two sons of king, who had taken part in torture. We do not know if the situation still continues. It is not easy to get such information. There is a cycle of violations and promises. In 2007 systematic torture came back. The youth are not going to believe the King’s promises anymore. To bring people like John Timoney to train police is not a good example. If you want to improve situation do it through Bahrainis. The formation of commission is also flawed.
Lord Avebury : I am anxious about Dr Abdul Jalil Al Singace’s condition and Hassan Mushaima. They should be allowed to have access to independent doctors.
Hussain Abdulla: (Bahraini Americans for justice and democracy in Bahrain)
US made Bahrain a special ally. It is one of four countries with preferential treatment.
When the movement started Obama was in serious dilemma. He was silent, when he spoke he uttered more negative things than positive ones.
In late September when he requested the passage of $53 million military deal it was shocking to everyone especially that State Department had confirmed the bad situation.
Congressmen were outraged and wrote angry letters against the deal. Weapon sale was blessing in disguise. They eventually postponed the arms deal.
James McGovern and Senator Session are considered champions of human rights in Bahrain because they said they would not remove their objection until Bahrain does something positive. What we have is an interesting dilemma. White House most silent, but the Congress is raising voices against Bahrain. The issue of Bahrain has come inside Congress. There are other bodies in US supporting Bahraini people such as Bahraini American Physicians.
Ten months on, the people of Bahrain will not be silenced. They will continue their movement. This time the movement is led by youth who have no hope in the future. They feel they are foreigners in their own country. The government must take steps that are acceptable to the youth. USA has leverage on the regime. They have free trade agreement and fifth fleet in Bahrain. Stability in that country is of vital importance not only to Bahrain but to USA itself.
Rodney Shakespeare: What are the strategic interests of the West in Bahrain?
Maryam: They are afraid of who comes next!
Shakespeare: They fear democratic outcome.
Dr Rowla Al Saffar
Medics are delighted to have you with us. Mothers, doctors nurses men and women were tortured. Hassan Matooq was accused of having a camera. He was sentenced to three years with two other nurses. They were tried separately.
There is Fadeela Mubarak who is serving a sentence of one and a half years.
We have the City Centre ladies from four families who were sentenced to six months imprisonment.
As medics and nurses we did our job and witnessed atrocities committed in our country.
I know whole families sacked or suspended. Nurses were removed from their positions. Why are they attacking the elite of the country? Because they stood together against violations.
Geneva Conventions protect medics during wars. We urge you to ask UN to support us. We need medical neutrality. Bahrain is one of the Arab Spring countries and if this happens to it, it will happen elsewhere.
On 28th March my house was raided by armed men armed with weapons. They broke doors and windows. I was asleep. I was awoken in night dress. This was the first violation that happened to me. They scared my kids and was taken away in my night dress. The hall was full of armed men. More than 12 police cars were outside.
I was kidnapped on 21st September by the regime’s forces. I was taken to a dark room for interrogation, punched and tortured before they dumped me in an isolated area.
There is now lack of security at university. On 30th March pro government and security forces attacked university and arrested many students. They asked; Who are you? And then I was kicked out of university. I reported the crime to the authorities. They asked me to drop the case. Now we are criminalized because we reported the crime. I am awaiting my trial on 25th December.
In conclusion Lord Avebury said that I am ready always to deal with the government to achieve our goal; that a democratic government will always serve the interest and stability of the region. I shall work hard with Bahraini friends to achieve this.