- For defenders
- How can I help?
It was good to have the opportunity to make a presentation at the OSCE Dublin Conference on Internet Freedom last week as it enabled me to raise the cases of human rights defenders Roza Tuletaeva (Kazakhstan), Maxim Efimov (Russia) and Ali Abdulemam (Bahrain). I also raised concerns about the UK Government's damaging proposals for mass surveillance of the Internet.
It was obvious 12 months ago that sentencing human rights defender Abdulhadi Alkhawaja to life in prison after torturing him and subjecting him to a show trial before a military court was a sign of weakness and desperation from the side of Bahrain's rulers. They were frantically trying to construct a conspiracy of foreign subversion even as all the world could see that the truth was bloody repression of peaceful protests. They even detained, tortured and prosecuted medical professionals who had had the affront to tell the truth about those who had been tortured and killed. The attempt at a cover up was a pathetic failure in spite of millions spent on Western PR agencies.
Let us welcome President Obama's condemnation of repression in Bahrain even if it is long overdue and was qualified by weasel words about legitimate Government concerns and Iranian interference. He rightly said "mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens." Talking more generally he also said "the truth cannot be hidden," and "repression will fail, and tyrants will fall."
David Cameron's unwise decision to welcome Bahrain's Crown Prince to Downing Street may also turn out to have a positive side. There was widespread criticism across the UK media from the Telegraph and Mail to the Guardian. The highlight was the Independent's front page banner headline "Cameron embraces tyranny" over a picture of him shaking hands with the Prince on the steps of 10 Downing Street.
One must hope that the media coverage delivered a blunt message to Bahrain's rulers in a way that British and US Government diplomacy has so far failed to do. The Crown Prince had previously been positioned as an advocate of dialogue and reform and might still play a positive role.