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'We Have Lost Hope': Bahrain's Dark Night Descends, Bill Law

2017-03-17 - 11:51 p

Bahrain Mirror: Addressing the situation in Bahrain, Gulf affairs expert, Bill Law, quoted "an old Bahraini friend" of his, stating that "it is bad, very bad. Everyone has lost hope. No one sees any way out. I have lost hope."

In an article published on the Middle East Eye website, Law stressed that "it is hard not to share the pessimism," highlighting that the Bahraini Shura Council (upper house) appointed by the King have waved through a bill that will allow civilians to be tried before military tribunals.

The Middle East analyst further mentioned that the government also made a move against Waad, a secular liberal political society, on 6 March, announcing it was taking legal action to shut Waad down.

Law further underlined that the section on Bahrain, in the annual US State Department human rights report, makes for sobering reading and puts the lie to the Bahraini government claim that it has moved forward and made dramatic strides in reforming the police and the judiciary.

The political analyst stressed that "there is no question that the ruling Al-Khalifa family - Sunni Muslim in a country with a majority Shia population - was emboldened by the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House," since he "cannot be bothered to even mouth the usual platitudes about the importance of fair trials and free speech."

"It is unsurprising then that the Trump administration has had nothing to say about the royal decree on 5 January which restored the powers of Bahrain's National Security Apparatus (NSA) to arrest and detain people. Nor has the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office," he said.

Law pointed out that curtailing the powers of the NSA was a key recommendation of the BICI. The commission found that these agencies "followed a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which in many cases amounted to torture, with respect to a large number of detainees in their custody."

"In the wake of the Bassiouni report, only a tiny handful officers were ever convicted despite overwhelming evidence against the force," he noted.

Law also shed light on the continued imprisonment and prosecution of opposition and human rights figures, namely Ayatollah Isa Qassim, the highest religious authority in Bahrain's Shia community, veteran human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, and Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the already banned opposition political society Al Wefaq.

Pointing out that the elections in Bahrain will be held in 2018, Law stressed that "even with Wefaq and Waad banned, there still remains scope and just enough time to form a new political society, one that draws from both Sunni and Shia and is driven by young Bahrainis."

"For its part, the FCO, which has remained very much on the sidelines when it has come to commenting on the current wave of repression, can hardly stand aside and ignore a fresh initiative, particularly one that comes from young Bahrainis," he added.

"I said to my friend, ‘Take the Al-Khalifas at their word. Take what is on offer and see how it can be improved upon,'" to which his Bahraini friend replied: "Why not? We have nothing left to lose."



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