20 December 2018 – On Monday 17 December, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) attended an event in Parliament chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, to commemorate Bahrain Martyrs’ Day.
At the event, experts on Bahrain discussed the human rights violations perpetrated by the government against civilians and shared the stories of those who have died at the hands of the oppressive Gulf state.
Among the speakers was Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO of Index on Censorship who talked about the decline of the right to freedom of expression in the last few years. Jodie expressed concern over Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender, whose final appeal hearing will take place on 31 December 2018. In this regard, Jodie said that she hoped the date of his trial had not been chosen so that the outcome of the appeal would be overshadowed by New Year’s celebrations.
Khalid Ebrahim, the Executive Director at the Gulf Centre for Human Rights delivered a speech on state violence and human rights activists and condemned the impunity that torture perpetrators enjoy. “There is no future for Bahraini citizens without accountability”, Khalid said. He added: “The unconditional support of the UK and the US to the government is one of the main reasons for the human rights violations in Bahrain”.
Flavia Caronna, from the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) also discussed state violence and unfair trials. She highlighted the hypocrisy of western countries such as France, the UK and the US, given their decision to export arms to Bahrain while depicting themselves as promoters of human rights and democratic values.
Drewery Dyke, Chair at Rights Realization Centre talked more precisely about deprivation of nationality as a tool to silence Bahraini dissidents. He reminded the attendees that Bahrain is a signatory of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which forbids the stripping of nationality. “This is a policy of cruelty that shows no respect for human dignity”, he stated.
A testimony by human rights defender Ebrahim Al Demstani was also broadcasted at the event. Ebrahim was himself imprisoned and tortured by the Bahraini authorities for giving medical assistance to protestors. He also recounted the ordeal of his son, who died at the hands of the state because of his human rights activism; as well as that of his daughter, who was imprisoned and abused. “Our demands as a family are not any different than any European one, all we want is to continue the path to achieve our rights”.
Finally, Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, shared a short documentary about 14-year-old martyr Ali Jawad Ahmad who was killed at the hands of the state in Bahrain in 2011. Sayed told the attendees that the martyr’s father was currently serving time in prison in reprisal for campaigning for justice for his son, including his participation in peaceful protests. He also touched upon the death penalty in Bahrain stating that “ [it] is the planned murder of political activists”.
The discussion was followed by a question and answer session, in which panellists further highlighted the role of Bahrain’s main Western allies, the UK and US, whose military bases in Bahrain as well as political support emboldens Bahrain to act with impunity towards its own citizens.