Further reports of police violence from Sanabis yesterday

Said Yousif Almuhafda, head of monitoring at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been to Sanabis, scene of violent scenes yesterday, to speak with the affected residents. This account is taken from his recent tweets:

Riot police raided a house yesterday in Sanabis, kidnapped a citizen and assaulted women. Women stated to me that riot police beat them with weapons, pepper-sprayed them and cursed them.

I met the kidnapped citizen who stated to me that he was severely beaten in the police jeep in Sanabis. He stated that he was beaten nearly 30 minutes, cursed and threatened by riot police inside the jeep.

Pictures of injuries:

Sanabis_Young_Man_attacked_20-4-2013I met another young man kidnapped yesterday, beaten severely with batons and weapons by riot police. He stated that he was sexually harrassed, burned with lighters and cigarettes and he was threatened to work as an informer.

Said Yousif also shared this video of an arrest of a young man in Sanabis yesterday. At around 0:30 in the video, one of the arresting officers can be seen to jab the young man sharply in the stomach with his baton:

Advertisements

NGOs release two new reports on torture in Bahrain

On Friday, REDRESS and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) issued a significant new report on torture in Bahrain. Entitled Bahrain: Fundamental Reform or torture without end? the report describes torture as “an integral part of the ongoing crisis in Bahrain. The press release reads in part:

In 2011 the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (BICI) found that torture and ill-treatment had been used systematically to respond to protests in Bahrain. While the Government of Bahrain has taken some steps to implement the recommendations of the BICI, torture and ill-treatment continue and obligations towards victims have not been met.

“Bahrain must address the legacy of torture and ill-treatment, as the practice continues to be documented in a number of different contexts, both in detention and by riot police who are ostensibly controlling protests,” said Lutz Oette, counsel at REDRESS. “Providing victims of torture and ill-treatment the reparation promised after the BICI report, and guaranteed to them under international law constitutes an overdue and important first step towards that end.”

Earlier today, the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organisation (BRAVO) issued its latest report: Resurgence of Sexual Violence as a Torture Technique in Bahrain. The report summary reads:

Sexual violence in its many forms has re-emerged as a torture technique in Bahrain. The Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry report contains a disturbing litany of testimonies from victims of sexual violence occurring since February 2011.

Human Rights Watch had noted ongoing violations before 2010 but there has been a dramatic upsurge in rape, sodomy, sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation of detainees in recent years.

Despite numerous testimonies and the findings of the BICI report the Bahraini government denies that sexual violence occurs in their prisons and detention centers.
Bahrain is a signatory of the Convention Against Torture and should repeal laws such as Law 56, 2002, which offers impunity for those responsible.

BRAVO calls for an independent review of all claims of sexual violence against detainees in Bahrain under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The reports come just days after the death of Colonel Ian Henderson, a British citizen who, for several decades, headed state security in Bahrain as an advisor to the government. Grave accusations of torture have been leveled against Henderson, earning him the nickname “The Butcher of Bahrain”. In 1984, he received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth, for his “services to British interests in Bahrain”. Middle East expert Emile Nakleh, who encountered Henderson in the 1970s, wrote about him yesterday in a piece entitled: Ian Henderson and Repression in Bahrain: A Forty-Year Legacy.

Jenson Button: “I am sure what we see and what Bahrainis see is two very different things”

Last week, a group of NGOs, led by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), launched a campaign to highlight human rights abuses ahead of the race.

The NGOs wrote to all the Formula One drivers asking them to “pledge their support for a free and just Bahrain by publicly condemning the ongoing human rights abuses”. Throughout the week, activists have been encouraged to contact the drivers on Twitter, using the hashtag #ReformsF1rst.

Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, Jenson Button, who races for McLaren, revealed that he had been following Twitter. He said:

I hear different things on Twitter and you cannot get away from it, but for us as a team and me as an individual, I have to believe the FIA are making the right call. We have 19 races around the world and I trust their decision not to put us in danger and it is the right thing to do.

I did not see anything last year. It is no different from 2004 in terms of what we see when we are here.

But I am sure that what we see and what the Bahrainis see is two very different things. We see the hotel, we drive to the circuit and we see the circuit. That’s it.

 

4 children arrested in Bani Jamrah reportedly beaten; another beaten in Karzakan

Maryam AlKhawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights at BCHR, reports that four children were arrested today in Bani Jamrah. They were released around 9pm local time “after reportedly getting beaten”.

One of the children arrested was Mahdi Salah AlKhawaja, aged 13. Mahdi is the nephew of Maryam’s father, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, an internationally renowned human rights defender and current prisoner of conscience. Mahdi’s father, Salah AlKhawaja, is also a prisoner of conscience. Both men were arrested, tortured and sentenced in 2011 at the height of the government crackdown against the pro-democracy movement. Mahdi was present when his father was arrested. Khadija Almousawi, who is Abdulhadi’s wife, tweeted the trauma that he went through at the time, aged just 11:

We have just heard about the arrest of Mahdi Sala Alkhawaja, 13 years. My husband’s nephew. A very quiet kid. His father is in jail.

When Bader Ghaith came to arrest Mahdi’s father 2 years ago, he pointed his gun on Mahdi’s head and asked him: “Where is your father?” When they found the father in the next room they took him to the roof. The mercenary police asked Bader Ghaith: “should I bring him or throw him down?” Ghaith said: “Throw him.”

Mahdi was only 11 then. His father was thrown from the roof while Mahdi and his younger sisters were watching. Mahdi’s mother shouted at Ghaith. They went to her started beating and kicking her. And she was sexually harassed. All that and the four kids were watching and crying.

Now Mahdi’s mother has to suffer her little boys arrest when her husband is in jail. How will she spend the night only God knows?

In a separate incident, Said Yousif Almuhafda, head of monitoring and documentation at BCHR, reports that a “boy was beaten by riot police in Karzakan this afternoon”. He shared this picture:

Beating_Karzakan_18-4-2013

Human Rights First calls on F1 to speak out against raids and arrests

US-based NGO Human Rights First has issued a further statement concerning the Bahrain F1 today, calling on “organisers, participants and sponsors to speak out urgently and publicly against arbitrary arrests and other human rights violations taking place”. The statement reads in part:

“F1’s continued silence in the face of increased government repression ahead of this weekend’s race could easily be seen as the organization’s complicity with the crackdown,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Local human rights activists can’t understand why the F1 teams and sponsors are not speaking out against the raids, arrests, and detentions that seem to be linked to the race. Their silence is horribly damaging to the reputation of the sport and those associated with it.”

Dooley notes that the F1 organization decided to hold the race in Bahrain this year over the objections of leading human rights figures in the country. In the days leading up to its kickoff, arbitrary arrests in neighborhoods near the track have increased and many human rights defenders have faced added government scrutiny. Local human rights activists estimate that over 60 people have been arrested in the week leading up to the race, many from villages near the track. Several protests have taken place against the F1 and more are expected in the coming days.

The BBC reported that today:

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said 13 people had been arrested and that clashes were continuing in villages close to the Sakhir track, the site of the F1 race.

Human Rights Watch: F1 Ignores Rights Abuses Ahead of Race

In a statement issued earlier today, NGO Human Rights Watch called attention to the continued human rights abuses in Bahrain and the failure of the government to implement promised reforms. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said:

Bahrain is already tightening the lid on protest as the Formula 1 race grows near. The Formula 1 organizers apparently prefer to bury their heads in the sand, risking holding their race against repression it has provoked.

The inconvenient reality for Formula 1 organizers is that their event in Bahrain has become a focal point for popular discontent, with abuses against protesters ratcheting up in a country that has become notorious for them, and is unwilling or unable to implement meaningful reforms. And those who care about Formula 1 officials should care that human suffering and repression is tainting their sport.

 

Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt respond to letter from NGOs

Earlier this week, four NGOs wrote to FIA President Jean Todt and F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone, as well as all the teams, sponsors and broadcasters. The letter began:

We write in opposition to Formula One’s plans to hold a Grand Prix in Bahrain this year. If the race goes ahead,it will be taking place in a country whose government continues to commit gross human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests to torture. Bahrain’s jails contain hundreds of political prisoners, police use excessive force with impunity, and opposition members have been stripped of their citizenship. Formula One should rethink its decision to support these practices by choosing to hold their race in Bahrain.

As just reported by the Daily Mail, Guardian and MSN Sport, responses have been received from both Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone. The responses are copied in full below.

From FIA President Jean Todt:

Thank you for your recent email regarding the staging of the FIA Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain.I take note of your concerns, and those expressed by the organizations you are linked to.

The FIA is a sporting and mobility federation, in charge of regulating motor sport worldwide as well as representing more than 80 million motorists in matters of road safety, sustainability and integrated transport systems. It is our firm belief that sport, and the F1 Grand Prix, can have a positive and healing effect in situations where conflict, social unrest and tensions are causing distress.

We thank you once more for your note.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely,
Jean Todt

From Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone:

It is a great shame that this was not brought to me before September 2012 when the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar was formed and it is now too late to make any changes to the calendar.

I have not received any complaints from any journalists concerning their accreditation to this year’s event.

Best wishes,

Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone’s line about journalists accreditation refers to a section of the letter where it was noted that last year, the Bahrain government “[denied] entry for journalists who wanted to see the reality on the ground,” and that “Foreign journalists were attacked, arrested, and even deported“. The responses avoided the substance of the letter almost entirely, such as the section relating the sacked and abused Bahraini Formula One workers:

The race is scheduled to take place at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) on 21 April 2013. In 2011, at the height of the government crackdown, many permanent members of BIC staff were dismissed from their jobs, arrested and tortured. To date, there has been no justice for these Formula One workers. By continuing to race on this track, Formula One is facilitating the culture of impunity through which the authorities have operated.