Bahrain’s Day of Reckoning August 14, 2013

BCHRAugust 14 has been designated by the youth of Bahrain as Tamarrud Day, the day of rebellion. They see the 42 years that have elapsed since the country gained its independence as a history of violent repression, littered with false promises of reform, the latest example of which is the so-called national dialogue.

After several months that process has achieved zero results though from the regime’s point of view it distracts attention from the continued imprisonment of the ‘Bahrain 13’, political leaders and human rights activists imprisoned for thoughtcrime.

Those men were tried twice, using confessions to serious offences extracted from them by torture.

Yet their presence at any genuine dialogue would be necessary to make it properly representative.

So would the presence of Nabeel Rajab, the internationally renowned head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, wrongfully imprisoned for two years.

And that of Maryam al-Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who was stopped from boarding a BA flight to Bahrain last week on the orders of the regime. We will be hearing from her during this meeting.

What is the ruling family’s response to the action planned for tomorrow? During the run-up there has been an intensification of the crackdown, with round-the-clock house raids, more arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, political convictions and tough prison sentences.

A new law has been  passed by the stooge parliament imposing huge penalties for vaguely defined offences.

The UN says it is concerned about the arbitrary deprivation of citizenship provided by this law. They apparently were not aware that 31 people had already lost their citizenship without due process, including several people here at this meeting.

Citizen journalists are being arrested on trumped up charges, so that the outside world can only get a sanitised version of tomorrow’s events from the closely controlled domestic media.

Of course, no foreign journalists have been allowed in, and the UN Rapporteur on Torture’s previously scheduled visit has been postponed indefinitely. The al-Khalifas don’t want him asking awkward questions about victims such as the human rights defender Naji Fateel or blogger Mohamed Hassan.

The UK’s Foreign Office claims to ‘oppose tyranny and hold repressive regimes to account’. Respect for human rights is said to be ‘a consistent theme that runs through Britain’s foreign policy’. It is ‘something on which we will not compromise’.

Yet in the case of Bahrain, we are strangely silent on human rights. Ministers say they raise human rights, but their voices are never loud enough to be heard. Instead we see King Hamad being feted by the Queen, and received by the Prime Minister to discuss a £1 billion deal to sell him Typhoon fighters.

When the al-Khalifas fall, as happens to dictators everywhere in the end, the people of Bahrain may not be so friendly to the UK, remembering that we propped up their oppressors.

The UK supports the replacement of President Assad of Syria, but King Hamad is received by the Queen and recently by Prime Minister Cameron. Did they talk about human rights?

* Eric Lubbock, Lord Avebury, is a working peer, and Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group. He blogs here.

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  • Clear Thinker 13th Aug '13 - 9:46pm

    Mentioning human rights is unlikely to be anywhere near enough. Of course there are the immediate problems, but also, what the al-Khalifas probably need is a roadmap to democracy and a reason to travel the road. And the road will not be easy for anyone. Democracy requires the people’s active and constructive participation, for which they need education, experiences, folklore, a whole lot of things that need to be created along the way. What do you suggest?

  • Jonathan Brown 13th Aug '13 - 11:57pm

    Thanks for the good summary Eric.

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