Bahrain Weekly Update 6/23/17

Top Stories

Government Denies UN Rights Criticism

Citizen Dies Under Mysterious Circumstances

State Arrests Qatar Sympathizers

NGOs Call on Formula 1 to Move Grand Prix from Bahrain

Updates from Bahrain

Tensions Rise between the United Nations and Bahrain: On June 17, Bahrain’s state news agency released a critical statement on the June 16 joint statement from a group of United Nations Special Rapporteurs condemning Bahrain’s deteriorating human rights conditions. Bahrain News Agency called the statement “contrary to reality,” adding that, “the Kingdom of Bahrain categorically rejects this press release [from the UN]” and that Bahrain, “reaffirms its solidarity with activists and human rights defenders as long as they abide by these principles and commit themselves to respecting the laws and regulations of their countries.” The statement also defends state actions regarding the crackdown in Diraz and the ban of al-Wefaq and Waad.

The same day, officials postponed a visit from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein due to “logistical reasons.” The cancellation came after Deputy Foreign Minister Abdullah al-Doseri met with Commissioner Hussein in New York on June 8.

Citizen Dies Under Mysterious Circumstances: On Monday, June 19, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) reported that it found the body of Nabeel al-Samie on his family’s farm in al-Hajar village. On Wednesday, the MOI and Director-General of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Science reported his death was the result of a bomb blast. However, al-Samie’s relatives have claimed that he was kidnapped from his family’s farm and killed by MOI forces. The MOI has failed to release al-Samie’s body to his family and buried him at al-Hoora cemetery. On social media, many expressed sympathy for al-Samie’s friends and relatives as well as concern over the circumstances of his death. A picture of his body showing signs of significant injury has also been circulated on social media.

Citizen Detained for Expressing Solidarity with Qatar: On Wednesday, June 21,Bahrain detained a citizen for expressing sympathy with Qatar on social media. This is the first arrest the Kingdom has made since cutting ties with Qatar. State media did not release the name of the suspect, but stated that the detention was a result of a complaint filed by the Ministry of the Interior. The suspect faces up to five years in prison and fines. This arrest comes after the June 13 arrest of lawyer Issa Faraj Arhama al-Burshaid, who aimed to sue the Kingdom for the blockade of Qatar.

MP Proposes Allocating Unemployment Funds to Service Deficit: A Member of Parliament in the House of Representatives Finance Committee released a statement in support of the use of unemployment insurance funds to service the budget deficit. The statement was met with condemnation from the Secretary General of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), Hassan Al-Halwachi, who stated the move would, ”launch a dangerous trend that allows the use of the insurance sources to fund the general budget. What today appears to be limited to the insurance fund against unemployment may reach the rest of the insurances sources, which we cannot accept.” He also pointed to the lack of worker representation in the Public Authority for Social Insurance, which manages the unemployment fund.

The MP’s proposal comes in response to falling oil prices, which have placed considerable strain on the Kingdom’s finances. In April, the IMF urged Bahrain to make significant spending cuts, stating, “A sizable fiscal adjustment is urgently needed to restore fiscal sustainability, reduce vulnerabilities, and boost investor and consumer confidence.” Despite fiscal urgency, this suggestion is viewed as harmful to workers, who, according to a recent ILO report, already face significant discrimination and injustice.

Prominent Shi’a Cleric Arrested: On Monday, June 19, Sheikh Hussein al-Sitri wascalled to Hamad Town police station for questioning and was arrested the following day. He faces charges regarding the content of a sermon given during Ramadan. Al-Sitri will reportedly be held for a week while police gather evidence against him. Meanwhile, another Shia cleric, Sheikh Fadhel al-Zaki, was released on June 20, after nearly a year in prison. Al-Zaki was summoned for questioning on August 6, 2016, regarding his involvement in sit-ins outside the home of Sheikh Isa Qassim in Diraz village and later given a sentence that stretched to nearly eleven months.

Diraz Village Remains in Crisis: On Sunday, June 18, blasts sounded in Diraz, the home village of imprisoned Shia cleric Isa Qassim that saw a violent crackdown on protests nearly a month ago. The explosion killed one security officer and wounded two others.  According to the Ministry of the Interior, the attack was carried out by terrorists and “relevant procedures are being taken.” The crackdown on the village continued after the explosion. On Wednesday, June 21, police increased security measures in Diraz, resulting in the arrest of six citizens, including three women and a minor. During the arrests, activists reported that police raided the detainees homes and confiscated money and valuables.

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