Saturday, February 15, 2014

Double Standards in Bahrain

Bahrainis mark the third anniversary of the pro-reform protest movement which came to be known as the 14 February Coalition, human rights violations continue unabated in the country. While many countries have been quite vocal in condemning atrocities committed against protesters in some countries in the Middle East, when it comes to Bahrain, calls from the West for an end to human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bahraini authorities have been rather muted. The irony is that when similar atrocities were committed in Libya, Egypt and most recently Syria, Western countries and especially the US and UK, heavily criticised the regimes in those countries for using brute force to counter peaceful protests, and for reigning in citizens for expressing their views. Some 122 Bahrainis have since died from torture, lung infections caused by tear gas, and from live ammunition used by the Bahraini security forces. 1,300 Bahrainis have been arrested in connection with their role in the protests and those still in detention have been tortured and denied access to medical care. Hospital doctors and nurses are harassed for treating victims of the protests. Thousands of workers have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs for taking part in the demonstrations.

Citizens in Bahrain have little recourse to the legal system. The judiciary and police are far from independent and operate with the utmost impunity, leaving citizens who dare condemn atrocities at their mercy. Bahraini authorities ensure that they impose charges against activists and journalists which carry maximum sentences, and which, in the eyes of Bahrain's allies, portray a country doing its best to ensure that its territorial integrity and internal security are protected from "criminals and trouble makers". Last September, a court in Bahrain sentenced a group of 50 political and civil activists under the country's terrorism law to jail terms ranging from five to 15 years, for "trying to destabilise the country", and for alleged links to the "14 February Coalition".

 The lack of decisive action from the West on Bahrain on its record of  atrocities is because of the strategic significance of this oil rich Gulf kingdom. Bahrain currently hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, and is a major source of oil for the US and has enjoyed strong historical ties with the UK government. The strategic presence of the US fleet in Bahrain's capital Manama, serves as a deterrent for the US to exert sufficient pressure on the kingdom to implement much needed reforms.  Thee is also the desire by Western powers to support Saudi Arabia and counter Iranian influence in the region.  In the immediate aftermath of the initial protests, troops from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bulldozed their way into Bahrain to suppress the demonstrations. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia  accuse Iran of instigating the demonstrations and for trying to destabilise Bahrain in support of their Shia brethren. Such claims receive the backing of the GCC members and will of course strengthen the US and UK resolve to maintain the current regime in Bahrain.

From Al Jazeera

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

"For three years now people in the little island nation of Bahrain have been nonviolently protesting and demanding democratic reforms... For three years now the king of Bahrain and his royal thugs have been shooting, kidnapping, torturing, imprisoning, and terrorizing nonviolent opponents... For three years now, Saudi Arabia has been aiding the King of Bahrain in his crackdown on the people of Bahrain...For three years now, the U.S. government has been tolerating the abuses committed by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, continuing to sell weapons to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia..."