The POMED Wire

Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Morocco and Western Sahara

The State Department’s annual Human Rights Reports for Morocco and Western Sahara highlighted problems with government corruption and disregard for rule of law by security forces as serious concerns in 2014. The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention detected “a systematic pattern of acts of torture and ill-treatment during the arrest and detention process” for civilians, with acts of ill-treatment were “frequently linked to large demonstrations, a perceived threat to national security, or terrorism.” In particular, the arrest and detention of undocumented migrants often occurred “contrary to law,” as they were escorted to the borders without an opportunity to exercise their rights. Refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants were especially vulnerable to abuse, with reports detailing “mass arrests and brutalization” of primarily sub-Saharan migrants by security forces.

While Moroccan law provides for a right to public trial and right to appeal, it was withheld in certain cases, especially for people who protested incorporating Western Sahara into the country. In Western Sahara, the report states that “widespread impunity existed” and “there were no prosecutions of human rights abusers.” While the “law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention,” security forces often ignored this, particularly during protests, with Sahrawi independence activists most …

U.S. Lifts Holds on Arms Sales to Bahrain

The Obama administration announced yesterday that it will resume weapons sales to Bahrain, which had been reduced since Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 2011. When announcing the move, State Department Spokesman John Kirby said that “Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation.” Kirby also noted, “Bahrain is an important and long-standing ally on regional security issues, working closely with us on the counter-ISIL campaign and providing logistical and operational support for countering terrorism and maintaining freedom of navigation.”

This decision comes just weeks after the conviction and sentencing of opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman for criticizing the government, as well as the release of the State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2014. That report describes myriad rights abuses committed by Bahraini authorities and a culture of impunity for perpetrators of crimes against political prisoners and peaceful protesters.

Last week, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him not to renew arms sales to Bahrain, saying he would use his position to oppose any such moves. Following the announcement of the renewal, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) stated “if the U.S. is truly committed to regional stability, we must …

Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Bahrain

The State Department recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, and the following pertains to the section on Bahrain. The report discusses some initial steps the government has taken toward improving human rights since 2011, such as establishing the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Institute for Human Rights, both of which have acted to implement some of the recommendations given by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). However, “local and international observers continued to express concern the government did not make significant progress on other BICI recommendations, including dropping charges against individuals engaged in nonviolent political expression, criminally charging security officers accused of abuse or torture, and integrating Shi’a into security forces.”

The report cites the “most serious” ongoing human rights concerns in Bahrain as “citizens’ limited ability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters (some of whom were violent) on vague charges, occasionally leading to their torture and mistreatment in detention; and lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists, students, and journalists, including harsh sentences.”

The report notes that police have enjoyed near total impunity as evidence of torture and abuses have continued to …

Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Turkey

The State Department has released its annual Human Rights Report on Turkey, which states that one of the most significant human rights problems in 2014 was impunity and weak administration of justice. The report details that Turkey’s judiciary and law enforcement remain politicized, specifically mentioning the case where the government reassigned thousands of police and prosecutors in response to an anti-corruption investigation being conducted on senior government officials and their families. The European Commission determined that Turkey “had not made progress in limiting the immunity of members of parliament and senior public officials” in corruption-related cases. Notable is a law passed in April that gives members of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization immunity from prosecution. A new set of courts was also created, where single judges now hold “extraordinary powers” over politically sensitive cases, resulting in a “chilling effect” on political accountability.

Another serious problem in 2014 was government interference in freedom of expression. At least seven journalists were jailed at the end of 2014, charged under antiterror laws or for connections to illegal organizations. Use of excessive force by security to disperse protests and detain protesters was also frequent during the year, justified through anti-terror measures. According to the …

Yemen Talks Lose Momentum, UN Envoy Hopeful

Photo Credit: AFP

Photo Credit: AFP

As fighting continues to rage in Yemen, prospects for a ceasefire look increasingly dim. UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva ended without any agreement between the Saudi-backed government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels. The parties were apparently not at all close to an agreement, and Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin expressed doubt that talks would be reconvened. However, UN Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed reportedly believes there in an “emerging common ground” on which a settlement can be built. He will be in Riyadh this week and Sana’a next week in an attempt to negotiate an agreement.

Ahmed and the U.N. Security Council also urged a humanitarian pause in order for relief supplies to be delivered to Yemen’s suffering population. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s people require humanitarian assistance, with widespread shortages of food, water, and fuel reported. Magdelena Mis reported that some fear the water crisis in Yemen could become a greater concern than the war as ground water supplies are severely depleted and water prices have risen dramatically since the beginning of the Saudi-led bombing campaign. This has only exacerbated the humanitarian and security situation in a country where around …

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