Bahrain Weekly Update August 4, 2017

Top Stories

Moody’s Downgrades Bahrain‘s Credit Rating

Bahraini Defense Forces Finish Joint Exercise with U.S. Military

E.U. Delegation Visits State-Run National Institute for Human Rights

Nabeel Rajab to be Tried

Updates from Bahrain

Moody’s Downgrades Bahrain’s Credit Rating: Bahrain’s economic woes continued on Friday, July 28, as Moody’s credit rating agency downgraded the Kingdom’s rating to B1, four points below investment grade. Bahrain’s outlook has been assessed as poor by all three ratings agencies, with Fitch and Standard and Poors rating it at one notch and three notches below investment grade, respectively. Moody’s attributes the downgrade to Bahrain’s massive fiscal deficit, accounting for over 10 percent of GDP, and what is seen to be a general inability to weather the storm of prolonged low oil prices. The government has been hesitant to impose austerity measures, so the deficit will continue without any comprehensive plan for reform. Further, Bahrain’s oil reserves are projected to run dry within nine years, calling into question the rents it has consistently used to bankroll the state and social services. The IMF has warned Bahrain that considerable action must be taken to avoid insolvency.

Bahraini Defense Forces Complete Joint Exercise with U.S. Military: On Wednesday, August 2, the United States concluded a four-day joint military exercise with the Bahraini Defense Forces. Bahraini Chief-of-Staff Lt-General Dhiyab bin Saqr Al Nuaimi attended the exercised conclusion and demonstrated support for bolstering the Kingdom’s military relationship with the United States through continued joint exercises. The exercise began the same day as the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet encountered Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Nabeel Rajab Trial to Begin Next Week: On August 7, human rights defender Nabeel Rajab will be tried on charges of “spreading rumors in wartime,” “insulting a neighbouring country,” and “insulting a statutory body,” regarding statements tweeted about the Yemeni Civil War and conditions in Jau Prison. Rajab stands to serve up to 15 years in prison for his alleged crimes, in addition to the two years to which he was sentenced on July 10 for “spreading false rumors” during televised interviews in 2016. He is currently serving an additional year for a 2016 New York Times op-ed he wrote which was critical of Bahrain.

European Delegation Visits National Institution for Human Rights: On Wednesday, August 2, the head of Bahrain’s state-run National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR),Said bin Mohammed al-Faihanireceived a delegation led by Deputy Head of the E.U. Delegation to the GCC Alexis Konstantopoulos. According to the state-run Bahrain News Agency, al-Faihani “commended the strenuous efforts exerted by the EU Delegation to follow up on human rights issues in the Arab region,” and Konstantopolous, “reviewed the human rights situation in the kingdom, and the role of the NIHR in dealing with it.” Konstantopolous also addressed the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2016 Human Rights and Democracy Report’s assessment of the Kingdom, which expressed concern over the limitations Bahrain has placed on civil society and its Shia majority.

Diraz Demonstrators Released from Jail: Film director Yaser Nasser and cleric Sheikh Ali Hmaidan were released from jail on August 1 and 2, respectively. The two had beendetained for approximately a year in relation to participation in Diraz sit-ins protesting the arrest of Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qasim, which were ongoing until they were violently broken up by security forces in May. Additionally, reports that Sheikh Hmaidan’s wife’s car was set [Ar] on fire without explanation less than a day after her husband’s release have circulated on social media.

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