2010 US State Department Human Rights Report on Bahrain – by Stephen Lendman
In April, 19 human rights organizations condemned Bahrain as one of the world’s leading terror states, the Al Khalifa monarchy having lost all legitimacy.
In a joint press release, they said:
The undersigned “severely condemn the authorities’ crackdown on prominent human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain. We are gravely concerned for the safety and well-being of both human rights defenders who are being targeted for their human rights work.”
Both were lawlessly arrested, beaten, detained, and brutally tortured as were hundreds of others for supporting democracy, human rights and equal justice.
On June 6, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) denounced Bahraini authorities for brutally repressing protesters, demanding an immediate end to violence. So far, they said, international community silence reflects complicity in horrendous crimes against humanity.
As a result, both organizations called on UN Human Rights Council members “to take immediate action by adopting a strong resolution condemning” government attacks on civil society.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called Bahraini violence “no accident,” saying:
Since mid-March (actually since mid-February and earlier), “state security forces (as well as Saudi ones) brutally quashed the largely peaceful protests for democratic reforms that began a month earlier, shooting to death a score of people. Since then, the government has conducted (a reign of terror) to punish all manner of pro-democracy activism, a situation (Washington) has yet to unequivocally condemn” publicly.
Amnesty International (AI) condemned Bahrain’s excessive force, killings, mass arrests, detentions, and torture, including beatings, electro-shocks, threatened rape, as well as other abuses to extract forced confessions despite no crimes committed.
Police state show trials are being held. Those affected are guilty by accusation. On June 12, student/poet Ayat al-Qarmezi was sentenced to one year in prison for publicly reading a poem criticizing the regime. In detention, she was brutally tortured, AI’s Malcolm Smart saying:
“By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain’s authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis.”
Her message included:
“We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery. Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?”
On March 30, she was forced to submit to arrest after masked police raided her parents home repeatedly, threatening to kill her brothers if she resisted. Brutalized ever since and now convicted, she, like other prisoners of conscience, face hard time confinement very likely including more torture and abuse.
On June 12, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said at least two former Shia MPs (who resigned in protest against police state lawlessness) went on trial Sunday. Matar Matar and Jawad Fairooz were charged with “spreading malicious lies in an attempt to overthrow the government” Information Affairs Authority official Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Murarak announced. Both men, of course, pleaded not guilty.
On June 12, the UK based Morning Star said:
“Bahrain received over $200 million in military equipment from US companies in the 12 months from October 2009….It was more than double the $89 million approved over the previous US financial year.”
Washington actively supports Bahrain’s repression. Weapons, munitions and other military equipment have been used to murder nonviolent Bahrainis protesting for their democratic rights. Information on this and much more is omitted in the report below.
So were recent comments by Rodney Shakespear, Chairman of the Committee against Torture in Bahrain, saying:
“I’m afraid that” Israel largely dictates US Middle East policy “which demands that the situation be as it is in respect of Bahrain….The facts on the ground are such that genocide is actually being committed.” It’s gotten so bad that security forces actually “beat up little girls.”
“Something has happened. They are out to destroy a culture and yet apart from the torture and the physical effects and the genocide, the world is not standing up against this. And this, of course, it’s because (Israel) controls all the media organizations,” especially in America and Britain.
State Department Report on Bahrain
Each year, the State Department publishes human rights reports for over 190 countries, omitting a critical self-assessment of the world’s leading human rights abuser.
Yet, in its recent “Report of the United States of America Submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights In Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review,” it shamelessly said:
“The story of the United States of America is one guided by universal values shared the world over – that all are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. (These) values have grounded our institutions and motivated the determination of our citizens to come ever closer to realizing these ideals.”
We remain committed “to help build a world in which universal rights give strength and direction to the nations, partnerships, and institutions that can usher us toward a more perfect world (based on) a just peace (and) inherent rights and dignity of every individual.”
In fact, America spurns human rights, civil liberties, peace, justice, and democratic values as the world’s leading rogue state, lawlessly terrorizing millions, making the world safe for capital. Shameless rhetoric changes nothing, including downplaying the worst of Bahrain’s human rights practices in its 2010 report.
Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
“There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings,” despite clear evidence they occurred last year before the current uprisings began.
Politically motivated disappearances were also ignored.
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment of Punishment
Prohibited by Bahrain’s constitution, “there were multiple allegations during the year (by human rights organizations and victims) that security forces employed them.”
Authorities “asserted in December that” torture claims were investigated. “At year’s end, neither the court nor the government had released the findings of any such investigation.”
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Authorities said “prison conditions met international standards.” A March UN report, however, described ‘suboptimal health conditions….’ ” Moreover, detainees “alleged” security personnel physically abused them, including withholding medical care.
“Authorities generally permitted inmates reasonable access to visitors and religious observance.” In fact, political prisoners have no rights and face brutal torture and other abuse.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Despite maintaining a hotline for citizens to report police abuses, Shia community members “believed the government condoned police misconduct and, therefore, did not report allegations of abuse. In practice, (temporary) investigation committees” responded to public complaints, but didn’t issue reports on their findings, suggesting serious abuses were whitewashed.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
From August through December, authorities arrested about 200 men, including children. Human rights groups accused them of abuse and torture in detention. Show trials followed. Attorneys prevented from meeting with detainees withdrew in protest in December. New lawyers were appointed. At year’s end, cases were unresolved.
“Human rights activists and attorneys alleged that the detainees’ right to a fair, public trial was undermined by (their clients’) limited access to legal counsel and the presiding judge’s failure to rule on the defense attorneys’ requests.”
Political Prisoners and Detainees
Human rights organizations “alleged that some of those arrested on security changes….were targeted (for) their political activism.”
Throughout the report, the State Department stressed that Bahrain’s constitution prohibits abusive practices authorities, in fact, commit. At the same time, it summarized harsh conditions Bahrainis face, including:
“Citizens did not have the right to change their government. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of foreign resident workers continued to be significant problems. There were numerous reports of abuse against foreign workers, particularly female domestic workers. There were many reports of domestic violence against women and children. Discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, nationality, and sect, especially against the Shia majority population, persisted.”
“There were multiple allegations of mistreatment and torture, especially of Shia activists associated with rejectionist and opposition groups. Authorities arbitrarily arrested activists, journalists, and other citizens and detained some individuals incommunicado. Some detainees did not always have adequate access to their attorneys. At least two of the detainees were dismissed from their public sector jobs prior to the commencement of judicial proceedings.”
“The government restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. There were instances of the government imposing and enforcing official and unofficial travel bans on political activists. The Shia are underrepresented in positions of leadership in the civil service, police, and security forces.”
Despite constitutionally affirming freedom of speech and the press, national security laws limit or suppress them. “Both censorship and self-censorship took place.”
The Information Authority reviews all books and publications prior to issuing printing licenses. While nominally respecting Internet freedom, draconian restrictions apply, including prohibiting information critical of the government as well as banning opposition web sites.
In addition, online activities are monitored and blocked in cases considered to be anti-government or anti-Islamic. Academic freedom, peaceful assembly and association are also compromised in violation of constitutional provisions. In fact, Bahraini freedom and basic rights are nonstarters except for the privileged few.
Those speaking out against repression face severe recrimination, arrest, detention, torture, and show trial justice automatically convicting those charged by accusation.
Anyone may be detained indefinitely, denied access to legal counsel and family members, and tortured to sign forced confessions used to convict.
Moreover, King Hamad appoints judges. Jury trials are denied. Authorities control the major media. Opposition publications and web sites are threatened. Print and online journalists face stiff fines and imprisonment for criticizing official policies. Public demonstrations are prohibited without official permission. Human rights organizations are harassed.
Workers have few rights. No minimum wage exists. Rights to form unions, collectively bargain, and strike are severely limited, majority foreign workers denied them entirely. Some, in fact, face forced labor, their passbooks and wages withheld, as well as their movements restricted. Instances of child trafficking for domestic service and sexual exploitation have also been reported.
Sunnis dominate Bahraini politics. Majority Shias face widespread discrimination. Women overall are marginalized in a male dominated culture. Spousal and child abuse are common.
While detailing widespread lawless abuses, especially against majority Shias, the State Department’s report stresses rights included in Bahrain’s constitution without condemning authorities for systematically denying them or explaining severe repression against anyone challenging monarchal rule.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.