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Repression and impunity in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

Anti-government protesters defying a ban on protest marches, shout anti-government slogans in a village west of Manama on 13 September 2013
Anti-government protesters defying a ban on protest marches, shout anti-government slogans in a village west of Manama on 13 September 2013

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

On 12 September 2013, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) organized an event at the 24th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to highlight the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and lack of accountability for human rights violations within the Gulf region.

The speakers of the event included Ms. Maryam Al-Khawaja, acting director of BCHR and co-director of GCHR, Mr. Khalid Ibrahim, co-director of the GCHR, Melanie Gingell, a board member of the GCHR. Mr. Jeremie Smith, director of the Geneva office of CIHRS, chaired the event. The event was attended by state delegations, United Nations officials and civil society groups from around the world.

Ibrahim highlighted ongoing widespread attacks against human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. He then moved on to discuss the findings of the GCHR's recent report on the role of human rights defenders within the transitional process in Yemen and ongoing attacks against these defenders.

Ibrahim also pointed out the continued lack of accountability for human rights violations in Yemen, including the failure of the Yemeni government to appoint any members to the National Commission of Inquiry, created by the new president of Yemen more than a year ago, and called on the government ensure that these individuals are appointed and the commission is allowed to progress. The UN Human Rights Council is due to adopt a resolution on Yemen this month concerning accountability and human rights within the country.

Gingell then discussed the "UAE 94", a group of human rights defenders and reformists in the UAE that have been jailed and tortured for creating and signing a petition asking for democratic reforms. Gingell spoke of her attempt to monitor the trial of the "UAE 94".

These individuals have been imprisoned and tortured and their families threatened for their human rights and pro-democracy activities. Despite the charges against them, the government has failed to provide any evidence to prove that they planned to overthrow the government or commit an act of treason. Gingell highlighted that over the last two years there has been a crackdown in the country on all forms of expression advocating for democratic reform within the country.

Al-Khawaja discussed the ongoing repression of human rights defenders in Bahrain and the use of excessive force against those participating in protests and demonstrations. In particular, BCHR has documented more than 1000 arrests of political activists since the beginning of 2013.

Political prisoners in the country continue to be subjected to ill-treatment and torture. The government has failed to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which submitted its findings to the government almost two years ago.

Forty-seven states from around the world signed onto a joint declaration at the UN Human Rights Council on 10 September to call for a halt to human rights violations in Bahrain and for the government to implement the BICI recommendations. This is the third such declaration by UN member states within the last year and half. Al-Khawaja expressed her hope that if Bahrain continues to repress dissent and refuse to implement reform, stronger action will be taken by UN member states.

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