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    The appalling human rights records of states in the Gulf must not be swept under the carpet when member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) gather in the Bahraini capital, Manama, this week (6-7 December) for their annual summit, said Amnesty International today.

    Human rights will be notably absent from the agenda at the annual meeting when the six GCC states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - come together to discuss trade and security cooperation, with no mention of the widespread crackdown witnessed across the region on the grounds of security.

    “In recent years across the Gulf we have seen human rights activists, peaceful political opponents and government critics systematically targeted in the name of security. Hundreds have been harassed, unlawfully prosecuted, stripped of their nationality, arbitrarily detained or in some cases imprisoned or even sentenced to death after unfair trials, as part of a concerted effort to intimidate people into silence,” said Randa Habib, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

     

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    Prime minister’s trip to Bahrain comes soon after Prince Charles’ visit
     
    ‘We need to see some measurable sign that the UK’s “engagement” with the Gulf is actually helping human rights activists who are very much at risk of torture and imprisonment’ - Polly Truscott
     
    Ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May’s attendance at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in the Bahraini capital Manama this week (6-7 December), Amnesty International has urged the prime minister to publicly raise human rights issues.
     
    Human rights are absent from the agenda at the annual meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - but Amnesty is calling on Mrs May to use her visit to speak out about the need to for countries in the region to seriously improve their human rights performances. 
     
     
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    Theresa May has been urged to confirm she will put human rights reform on her agenda when she meets Saudi and Bahraini leaders on Tuesday, after announcements on her two-day trip to the Gulf were squarely focused on trade and security. 

    Rights campaigners in Bahrain argue that although the UK has been assisting Bahrain with judicial and police reform since 2012, current levels of UK engagement on rights issues have not prevented crackdowns on journalists and pro-democracy activists. 

    May said: “I think the UK has always had the position, and we continue to have the position, that where there are issues raised about human rights, where there are concerns, we will rightly raise those.

     

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    Bahrain is hosting its 45th National Day bash at Donald Trump's new Washington, DC, hotel on Dec. 7, but the president-elect is the one who could get stuck with the hangover. 

    Trump spent much of the presidential campaign accusing his opponent Hillary Clinton of "pay-to-play" politics by accepting foreign government's donations to her family's foundation. Now Democrats are more than happy to turn the tables on Trump amid growing complaints that his eponymous business interests are creating massive conflicts of interest even before he's sworn in.

    "The American people deserve a president and White House that will act solely in our country’s interests, not those of any foreign government or business. Your private commercial dealings with repressive governments endanger this fundamental expectation of the president and deeply trouble many who care about human rights,” Rep. James McGovern, co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, wrote in a letter to Trump on Monday. “I urge you to immediately and completely end your business dealings with the Bahraini and other foreign governments.”

     

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    A Bahraini court has upheld the death sentences of three men who were tortured into ‘confessions’, and who have faced abuses in a prison where the UK has trained guards. The decision, announced yesterday, comes as the UK Prime Minister prepares to meet Bahraini leaders in the Kingdom tomorrow (6th).

    Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima, and Ali al-Singace were sentenced to death in February 2015. All three were tortured into signing false ‘confessions’ that were used against them in court. Mr al-Samea was abused so badly that he was admitted to hospital for surgery. Mr Mushaima was forced to sign documents despite being illiterate.

     

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    The US State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said that his country considered the report of Bahrain Center for Human Rights that talked about numerous violations of human rights in the last few weeks.

    In a press conference held in the US State Department building on (November 28, 2016), Kirby said that his country made clear consistently concerns over human rights in Bahrain to Bahraini leaders, adding "That is a concern we routinely make clear. You can go on our website, look at the human rights report, and see where the department sits with respect to Bahrain on this. I don't have anything additional or more specific with respect to these reports. We are aware of them. We routinely make clear our concerns."

     

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    My husband, Mohammed Ramadan, is due to be executed in Bahrain any day now. Our three young children are distraught. We want Theresa May, the British prime minister, to call for Mohammed to be released when she meets Bahraini leaders today on her Gulf visit. Our criminal justice system has failed him and the British government, which supports that system, has failed him too.

    In 2014 Mohammed was arrested at Bahrain’s airport where he worked as a police officer. My husband believes in human rights, democracy and transparency. He attended peaceful marches in Bahrain calling for our government to respect these values. As a state employee, he knew that it was risky for him to go to these protests. But he believes in reform and so he went anyway.

    After Mohammed was taken into custody, our family heard nothing for four days – we had no idea where he was, or even if he was alive. Eventually, two weeks later, we were allowed to see him, but only with three guards watching us on a surveillance camera. As soon as we saw him, it was clear that Mohammed had been tortured by the security services.

     

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    UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been called out publicly by rights groups in recent days over the British government’s cosy relationship with the Gulf monarchies

    Two days before her appearance as guest of honor at the Gulf Cooperation Council Leaders’ Summit, she made it clear she isn’t the type to take such criticism lying down.

    “No doubt there will be some people in the UK who say we shouldn’t seek stronger trade and security ties with these countries because of their record on human rights,” begins the small portion of the 10 Downing Street press release that addressed human rights. “We achieve far more by stepping up, engaging with these countries and working with them to encourage and support their plans for reform.”

     

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    Bahrain Mirror: Middle East Eye website reported a judicial source saying that a "Bahraini court upheld three death sentences and seven life terms against a "terrorist" group convicted of killing police including an Emirati officer in a bomb attack."

    Eight men were later arrested and tried in February 2015. Abbas Al-Samea, Ali Al-Singace and Sami Mushaima were sentenced to death, while the others were jailed for life.

    Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, the advocacy director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said the accused's confessions were extracted through torture.

    "Given the lack of due process and the inclusion of confessions obtained under torture, these sentences are a mockery of justice," he said.

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    Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN) has been blocked from covering the 37th summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Manama by Bahraini authorities.

    Al Jazeera journalist Jamal Elshayyal was refused entry at Bahrain International Airport on Tuesday even though AJMN had followed all necessary procedures and submitted all requested documents to the relevant authorities on time.

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    The Government of Bahrain is diving head first into a possibly new era of dollar diplomacy.

    To celebrate the kingdom’s national day, the Bahraini embassy is holding a reception at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, just blocks from the White House on Wednesday, 7 December.

    By boosting President-elect Donald Trump’s business enterprise, the Bahraini government has initiated what could define the next four years of the Trump administration.

    Could this mean that American diplomacy is up for sale?

    The possibility of a transactional foreign policy may leave American values shortchanged. With this reception, the repressive Gulf monarchy is attempting to wield its financial assets to ingratiate itself with the new administration.

    Over the past several years, the Bahraini government has spent tens of millions of dollars on PR and lobbying firms to paint itself as a stable environment for investment and steadfast security partner, while simultaneously whitewashing its heavy-handed approach in silencing of all forms of political dissent and social unrest.

    Human rights organisations have documented widespread torture in Bahrain’s jails. This past summer witnessed a wave of repression unseen since 2011, as the government took actions to dissolve the largest political opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, revoke the citizenship of the Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, and imprison the most prominent human rights defender in the country, Nabeel Rajab.

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    In the bleak midwinter, who would begrudge a weary Prime Minister the chance to stock up on the Vitamin D on a battery-recharging mini-break to the sun-kissed Persian Gulf?

    Bidding brief farewell to the drudgery of PMQs and that catfight in the Supreme Court, Theresa May has nipped off to Bahrain for a bit of harmless fun with her hosts and King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

    Officially, May will be doing some light finger-wagging at the Bahrainis over human rights, one of those western fads which is as stubbornly slow to catch on in that country as elsewhere in the region. “I think the UK has always had the position, and we continue to have the position,” she says, “that where there are issues raised about human rights … we will rightly raise those.” 

    Using my trusty Disingenuous Blethering-English Dictionary, I am able translate that as follows: “Look, mate, we all know these people are brutes, and as a churchgoing vicar’s daughter I really wish I could tell them so. But if you think I’d offend them, when the post-Brexit economy heavily depends on ingratiating ourselves with these oil-rich horrors, you’re a child without a clue how this wicked world works.”

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    This week the Prime Minister is off to Bahrain to address a Summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council, the regional organisation that brings together Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Ahead of this important exchange, Theresa May has suggested that Britain should focus on trade and not complicate our negotiations with difficult discussions around human rights, labour standards or environmental protection. However, she couldn’t be more wrong - new research demonstrates that when we care about people and planet, our trade flows benefit.

    The government will soon be on the frontline to defend the UK’s trading interests abroad and protect workers from undercutting at home. The government will also be tasked with the tough job of promoting human rights and sustainable development across the globe. This is not just some Brussels-inspired fancy, but a long-standing British tradition that predates our membership of the EU. Our country has something to bring to the world that goes way beyond shipments of goods or the delivery of services.

    Human rights makes good economic sense: a study presented this week in Brussels by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows that trade agreements that include strong labour standards actually increase trade more than agreements that are limited to tariff reductions and quotas.

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    Just four blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, diplomats from oil-rich Bahrain entertained guests in a lavish ballroom at the Trump International Hotel Wednesday, an event that critics said embodied growing concerns about foreign leaders booking Trump properties to try and curry favor with the next American president.

    “I’m very concerned about it,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. “If folks want to win favor with the president, they go to his hotel. When they meet up with him, the first thing they will say is ‘we are staying at your hotel, we took out 30 rooms for a week.’”

    It is not known what motivated Bahraini officials to move their annual “Bahrain Day” celebration from the Ritz Carlton to the Trump Hotel – embassy officials did not respond to phone and email messages. They were equally tight-lipped Wednesday, where the event went off behind heavy security.

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    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The Islamic State group is calling on its followers to launch attacks in Bahrain and to target American military personnel stationed on the tiny island ahead of a visit by the U.S. defense secretary.

    It's been five years since Bahrain's 2011 Arab Spring protests, which saw Shiites and others demand more political freedoms from the ruling Al Khalifa family. The government put down the demonstrations with help from Saudi and Emirati troops, and later pledged to carry out reforms.

    Authorities have suspended the country's largest Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, and doubled a prison sentence for its secretary-general. Human rights activists, Shiite leaders and others have been imprisoned, lost their citizenship or been forced into exile.

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    A British thinktank that bills itself as a global authority on military and diplomatic affairs has been accused of jeopardising its independence after leaked documents showed it has secretly received £25m from the Bahraini royal family, which has been criticised for its poor human rights record.

    Confidential documents seen by the Guardian show that the country’s repressive rulers donated the sum to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) over the last five years.

    Bahrain gained independence from Britain in 1971 and is ruled by the Khalifa dynasty, which has been castigated by campaigners for presiding over deteriorating human rights. During May’s visit to the country campaigners have again highlighted the Bahraini state’s crackdowns on journalists and pro-democracy activists.

    The campaigners have criticised Bahrain’s rulers for dissolving the main political party, jailing and torturing activists, and persecuting opposition supporters and clerics.

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    A British research institute has received £25 million in cash from the Bahraini government since 2011, leaked documents published in the Guardian show.

    The documents also suggest that the Bahraini royal family has agreed to keep the majority of the donations secret. It is thought that the Manama government donated the large sum as a political lobbying mechanism. It is alleged that the secret Bahraini donations account for over a quarter of IISS’ income. Since the report has been leaked, many questions about the research credibility of IISS have been raised. Many have accused IISS of undermining its political independence and expressed their mistrust of the institute.

    Bahrain is notorious for its crackdown on freedom of speech and other rights, after what was suspected to be an Iran-backed revolt of primarily Shia Bahrainis was crushed in 2011.

    Since then, journalists, academics and citizens who speak out against the government have been systematically arrested and allegedly tortured while in prison for their dissent.

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    DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The Islamic State group is calling on its followers to launch attacks in Bahrain and to target American military personnel stationed on the tiny island ahead of a visit by the U.S. defense secretary.

    The appeal came in a video that also urges militants to attack the Sunni-ruled island’s Shiite majority, amid a widescale government crackdown on dissent.

    In a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, Bahrain’s government said it “remains vigilant against terrorist activities and extremism.”

    It’s been five years since Bahrain’s 2011 Arab Spring protests, which saw Shiites and others demand more political freedoms from the ruling Al Khalifa family. The government put down the demonstrations with help from Saudi and Emirati troops, and later pledged to carry out reforms.

    In the time since, sectarianism has grown on the island and the Sunni-dominated government is in the midst of a crackdown on unrest at a level unseen since 2011.

    Authorities have suspended the country’s largest Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, and doubled a prison sentence for its secretary-general. Human rights activists, Shiite leaders and others have been imprisoned, lost their citizenship or been forced into exile.

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    Bahraini authorities should immediately release the human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, Human Rights Watch said today. Rajab’s trial is scheduled to resume on December 15, 2016, on charges that inherently violate the right to free expression. Among Bahrain’s allies only the United States has publicly called for his release.

    Rajab was arrested on June 13 for comments on his Twitter account that criticized Bahrain’s participation in Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen. At the last hearing on October 31, the court ordered an Interior Ministry technical expert to determine whether Rajab had posted the comments. Because the court has repeatedly rejected Rajab’s request to be released on bail, he will have spent more than six months in pre-trial detention by the time the court is expected to deliver its verdict, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

    “Rajab shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place and countries like the UK, France, and Germany should be loudly calling for his immediate release,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Keeping him in detention for all these months while the government seeks an expert opinion only compounds the injustice.”

     

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    The first time I had to leave Bahrain, I was given 24 hours to do so and told not to tell anyone. My father had been informed that my name was coming up during interrogations of political detainees, and that is usually a sign that arrest will follow. 

    I left for London in September 2010 with a heavy heart, determined to return. And so, after the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East began, I was active in calling for protests in Bahrain, and I returned home to take part in them.

    The second time I left Bahrain, my father had convinced me that it was critical to have someone carry the voices of the movement outside the country. I felt the weight of the entire uprising on my shoulders. I thought my exile was temporary; I had no idea that it would not be.

     

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