|code: 244334||Date: 2011/05/30||source: Frontlinedefenders.org|
Brussels: Front Line raises the case of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja at European Parliament hearing on the Arab Peninsula
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - While presenting how human rights defenders are under attack in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Yemen, Vincent Forest talked about Bahrain: "Abdulhadi Alkhawaja's ordeal is emblematic of the gravity of human rights violations in Bahrain: brutal arrest and incommunicado detention for 20 days; charges that include managing a terrorist organisation; ill-treatment, torture and sexual assault in detention; trial proceedings before a military court that fall grossly short of international fair trial standards; intimidation and threats against his family."
The case of Ali Abdulemam, a famous blogger in Bahrain, who is currently at risk of imminent arrest, and that of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights were also raised. "The Bahraini authorities are campaigning with the aim of praising themselves while trying to discredit human rights defenders," Vincent Forest added.
Finally, Front Line called on the EU to be more vocal in defending human rights in the region: "The EU response to human rights violations in the GCC countries, in particular in Bahrain, has not reached the level it should have. Implementing the EU Guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders does not require a huge amount of resources. It is more a question of political will and consistency."
See the exchange of views on the situation of human rights in the Arab Peninsula on the European Parliament website - go to 10.48.00.
Thank you Madam Chair for inviting Front Line to present the situation of human rights defenders in the GCC countries, which is indeed a good indicator of the level of respect for human rights in the region. I will also say a few words about Yemen.
Due to time constraints please refer to our briefing paper in the meeting dossier for further details.
As you know, the GCC countries are bound by many military and security agreements, and we fear that these measures may be used to target human rights defenders. We have already seen the negative impact of the GCC military intervention in Bahrain, which has had devastating effects on freedom of assembly and freedom of association.
In the GCC countries, the legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights is systematically denigrated. Human rights defenders face threats and intimidation, judicial harassment, travel restrictions, arbitrary arrest and detention, denial of legal registration, loss of employment, torture and ill-treatment, unfair trials, as well as smear campaigns, sexual assaults and death threats.
Regarding Bahrain, let me raise the specific case of my former colleague and friend Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who used to be the Front Line Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. His ordeal is emblematic of the gravity of human rights violations in Bahrain:
− Brutal arrest and incommunicado detention for 20 days;
− Charges that include managing a terrorist organisation;
− Ill-treatment, torture and sexual assault in detention;
− Trial proceedings before a military court that fall grossly short of international fair trial standards;
− Intimidation and threats against his family
Ali Abdulemam, a famous blogger in Bahrain, is currently at risk of imminent arrest, facing similar charges. Members of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights continue to be under attack, and banned from travelling.
The Bahraini authorities are campaigning with the aim of praising themselves while trying to discredit human rights defenders.
In Saudi Arabia the ongoing crackdown appears to focus on human rights defenders in the Eastern region, following a petition calling for political reform and the ending of discrimination against the Shi'a community living there.
As an example, a young Human rights defender, Fadel Mekki Al-Manasef, was arrested on the 1st of May, and may now be held incommunicado without access to his lawyer and his family.
In the United Arab Emirates the authorities are targeting professional associations, with the elected board of directors of the Teachers' Association dissolved, and replaced by a pro-government board. The Jurists Association was dissolved as an organisation, and others face the same risk. This crackdown apparently comes in reaction to the signing by these associations of a petition calling for the establishment of a democratic electoral system.
Bloggers have been arrested. For instance, a famous blogger, Ahmad Mansour, was victim of a smear campaign, was arrested early April and remains held incommunicado.
In Qatar human rights associations are not allowed to operate. Criticism of the authorities is severely punished and journalists are forced to practice self-censorship as a result.
Human rights defender Sultan Al-Khalaifi remains in incommunicado detention following his arrest on the 2nd of March. He is a blogger and former Secretary-General of the Al-Karama foundation.
In Yemen human rights defenders are facing unprecedented threats. The authorities also use terrorism law to crackdown on human rights defenders and journalists who are currently reporting on human rights violations emanating from the brutal repression of ongoing mass demonstrations. As an example, human rights journalist Ms Samia Alagbry was recently subjected to an abduction attempt and physical assault while monitoring a demonstration in Sana'a.
To conclude, I would like to make a few comments that I heard from human rights defenders regarding the EU response to HR violations in the GCC countries, in particular in Bahrain.
We know that the resources are limited with just one Delegation based in Riyadh to cover the whole GCC region, and that there are other interests at stake, but the EU response has not reached the level it should have.
Implementing the EU Guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders does not require a huge amount of resources. It is more a question of political will and consistency.
Also, at a time when the EU is opening an office in Benghazi, human rights defenders are calling on the EU to expand its presence in GCC countries, and first and foremost to be more vocal in defending human rights.
I thank you for your attention.