January 7, 2013

U.S. and Bahrain: Oppressive Allies Think Alike

In a predictably totalitarian move that threatens the regime itself in the long-term, Bahrain's court system has finally buried the appeals process for 13 oppositional activist accused of plotting to overthrow the government. The decision culminates months of legal warfare with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa's army of legal soldiers, but this illusionary battle never offered a chance to the political prisoners trapped in the monarchy's web. Last month an appeals court knocked one year off Nabeel Rajab's three-year sentence in the vain appearance of fairness. 

Now his partner at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has been sentenced once and for all to life, while his daughter faces nearly a dozen charges herself for protesting peacefully (and often in solitude). Several of al-Khawaja's fellow defendants were accused of plotting an Iranian coup.

Thus it is clear inconsistencies numerous and large among its ruling the Court of Appeal supported the provisions of the courts of national safety, and what came in the report of BICI of the observations and conclusions which lead that all that the defendants in this case have not only exercised their fundamental freedoms in the regulation and expression, peaceful assembly but they were subjected to serious abuses during their arrest, detention and trial.

As is evident the Court did not respond to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations and to prosecute those involved. As is evident synergies of the Constitutional Court and the criminal courts and public prosecution and continuation in the previous approach, making this issue a stark example of the lack of independence of the judiciary in Bahrain, and lack of seriousness in implementing the recommendations of the fact-finding committee.
The rapid nature of news and social media has produced numerous observations to the effect that Bahrain's monarchy "has shown its true colors" - or "pushed the country closer to the brink" - and that its Western allies will be unable to defends its actions. The first two general reactions are inaccurate but partially true. King Hamad's royal circle has demonstrated their inability to redress Bahrain's crisis since the uprising began, making the wrong choice with Saudi Arabia's Peninsula Shield and never looking back from the destruction of Pearl Monument. Aside from a successful propaganda campaign with Western governments and skillful use of low-intensity violence, Bahrain's monarchy has made strategic errors at every turn - if its goal is the resolution of a fundamental political dispute.

Otherwise the monarchy is succeeding wildly in its attempt to provoke and crack down on the island's Shia majority.

Sentencing the opposition's leadership to life in prison sentences the regime itself to permanent unrest. Accordingly, Bahrain has already reached the brink and descended into a canyon of tyrannical abuse and sectarian tensions. Monday's sentencing is simply a new feature in this dangerous environment, and will produce new waves of oppositional action in the streets and at the party level. Protests will occur, counterassaults will follow, and the island will continue spinning out of control until Bahrain's king decides to be a good one - or is removed, internally or externally.

As for Hamad's Western support, particularly Washington and London, they spent last night trying to cover their pig in lipstick rather than formulate a genuine policy to support Bahrain's opposition. Repeated calls for dialogue have bounced off a hardening situation in the streets and prisons, and the modest criticism levied at calculated times has made no lasting effect when outweighed by statements of this type (also here and here). That U.S. policy is blowing in a chaotic wind is increasingly acknowledged by left and right, accepted even by The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Max Boot. Yet the same pattern of "concern" and "regret” that has failed to yield any positive change was on display Monday in the State Department.

"We regret today’s decision by the Bahraini Court of Cassation to uphold the convictions and the sentences of these 13 activists. We’re concerned that this decision further restricts freedom of expression and compromises the atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation. We have repeatedly voiced our concern about these cases both publicly and privately and at the highest levels, and urged the Government of Bahrain to abide by its international obligations, and we have also had Embassy observers at the trial. So we call on the Government of Bahrain to investigate all reports of torture, including those made by the defendants in this case, as it has pledged to do, and to hold accountable any who are found responsible."

The "atmosphere within Bahrain for reconciliation" is already compromised. Conversely, Western "concern" and naked abuse is regularly heaped on the opposition's use of violence in a systematic effort to disguise the all-consuming reality: involved governments are too busy pursuing their own interests to responsibly address Bahrain's full-spectrum crisis.

They refuse to believe that anyone can stop them and dare the people to prove them wrong.

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