Sunday, March 22, 2015
Human rights campaigners have presented police with a 'dossier' of new evidence against a Bahraini prince accused of torture after he revealed on social media he was staying in London.
Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, 27, accidentally let slip he was back in Britain on Thursday when he posted a video of himself running in Hyde Park.
The prince posted the video on Instagram alongside a squadron of the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry with the caption: 'That's how it feels and sounds when you run in Hyde Park, London.'
Today The Independent reported human rights lawyers acting for FF have delivered a 'dossier' of new evidence to Scotland Yard in a bid to have him charged following the revelation he is visiting the capital.
Previous allegations which gave rise to the diplomatic immunity row did not stick. No charges were brought against him due to a lack of evidence and both he and the government of Bahrain strongly deny the accusations.
The case arose after FF, who has been granted asylum in the UK, claims he was badly beaten - though not by the prince directly - and given a prison sentence after taking part in protests in the Gulf state in February 2011 which left dozens dead.
Following the decision to revoke his diplomatic immunity in October last year, a spokeswoman for the Government of Bahrain said: 'As the British DPP has today affirmed, an arrest would have been improper given the absence of evidence of the conduct alleged.
'As Bahrain has never sought anonymity or sovereign immunity from the English Courts for anyone in respect of this case, it expresses no view on the DPP's statement that immunity was inappropriate.
'This has been an ill-targeted, politically-motivated and opportunistic attempt to misuse the British legal system. The Government of Bahrain again categorically denies the allegations against Sheikh Nasser.'
Lawyers for Prince Nasser said: 'The police have previously declined to investigate Prince Nasser on the basis of the insufficiency of the evidence against him. The submission of this new dossier at this time coincides with other attempts by opposition activists to use the British justice system to influence UK-Bahraini relations.'
Prince Nasser, born in May 1987, is the eldest son of the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and his second wife, Sheia bint Hasan Al-Khrayyesh Al-Ajmi of Kuwait.
He was educated in Bahrain at the Ibn Khuldoon National School, before commissioning from Royal Sandhurst Military Academy in August 2006, two terms after Prince William.
During his Sovereign's Parade, Prince Nasser was presented with the King Hussein Medal, awarded to the overseas officer cadet considered to be the most improved recruit.
He currently serves as commander of Bahrain's Royal Guard and as president of the Bahrain Olympic Committee.
Inspired by the Arab Spring, protesters in Bahrain had initially wanted to achieve greater political freedom and equality for the Shia muslims who form the majority of the population, as opposed to the ruling Sunni royal family.
However, following an attack on protesters who had gathered at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama on February 17, 2011, demonstrators began to call for an end to Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's rule.
The following month 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and 500 troops from UAE arrived in Bahrain to quell the protests, and on March 15 the king of Bahrain declared martial law and a three-month state of emergency.
A man identified only as FF was later granted refugee status in the UK, and from there, set about trying to bring charges against Prince Nasser.
Claiming the prince should be held responsible for his beating and imprisonment during the turmoil, his accusations were stopped when the prince was granted diplomatic immunity.
In October last year, this was overturned, creating the possibility - albeit an unlikely one - that he could be charged when travelling outside Bahrain. However, these charges collapsed due to a lack of evidence.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3005315/Human-rights-activists-call-arrest-Bahraini-prince-accused-torture-reveals-s-staying-London-posting-Hyde-Park-selfie-Instagram.html#ixzz3VAY4iy1L
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President Barack Obama said that Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu's pre-election disavowal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes it “hard to find a path” to resolve the issue.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Washington on March 22 for his first official visit since taking office.
Ghani is traveling with Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah. The two men came to power in September as part of a power-sharing deal.
The two Afghan leaders are due to hold talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who will host them at Camp David on March 23.
Talks are expected to focus on a range of issues, focusing largely on security including the withdrawal of U.S. troops, economic development, and U.S. support for the Afghan-led reconciliation process.
During the trip, Ghani will also address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
The visit also includes a stop in New York for talks at the United Nations.
Ahead of the visit, Ghani has said his country faces a "difficult" spring in terms of security.
By Michael O'HanlonBrookings Institution
As Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah prepare to visit Washington, DC, the prospects are much improved for a sustainable US-Afghan partnership.
To be sure, there are risks. Afghan corruption remains serious and national governance is weak. US President Barack Obama is anxious to wrap up the US military mission to Afghanistan by the end of his own presidency.
The aid budget for Afghanistan has already been whittled away by a US Congress that finds it unusually large in light of Afghanistan's challenges in using it well, not to mention broader US fiscal pressures.
But all that said, compared with a year ago, times have changed for the better.
Whatever his contributions to his own country, and whatever the American flaws that also deserve a share of the blame for Afghanistan's enduring challenges, the previous president, Hamid Karzai, had became a major problem in Afghanistan's relationship with the West, becoming far too prickly even when there was sometimes a logic to some of his positions.
This attitude did not sit well with a United States that was sending its sons and daughters to fight and sometimes die in the Hindu Kush, while also turning Afghanistan into America's largest aid recipient.
Then, a disputed presidential race where both sides accused each other of fraud threatened the very essence of Afghan democracy while taking the country towards the precipice of sectarian conflict.
Meanwhile, Nato forces reduced their combined military strength in Afghanistan to just 10% of what it had been at peak, even as the Taliban remained resilient.'Wise man'
Compared with all these circumstances, the situation today is much more promising in terms of American political support for the Afghan project.
There are still important tasks in front of Mr Ghani, Mr Abdullah, and American lawmakers during the visit. But the die is cast for a successful outcome.
Mr Ghani is a wise man who understands America, having lived here a long time and also having handled many aspects of the modern US-Afghan relationship in various government jobs in Kabul over the past decade and a half.
He is also a kind and gracious man who will surely thank Americans for their sacrifice on behalf of his country, and is a committed reformer who will be able to cite progress in some areas of Afghan governance, even while acknowledging that there is a great deal more work to do.
The Afghan president is a worthy commander-in-chief who appreciates not only the efforts of Nato troops, but the sacrifices made - and the tenacity displayed - by his own army and police.
I am sure he will say all these things.
Meanwhile, on a somewhat smaller but still important stage, Mr Abdullah will play his part as well.
He will embody the fact that Afghanistan continues to co-operate across ethnic and sectarian lines, despite the tensions, in a way that much of the Middle East today does not.
He too will have ideas on reform and improvement of Afghan governance - indeed, he ran for president on just such a platform in both 2009 and 2014.
The US Congress will generally like what it hears.
To be sure, it may whittle away modestly at the Afghanistan aid request, especially on the economic side, as it has before.
But with the Middle East in turmoil, and America's military departure from Iraq in 2011 looking like a clear mistake, few will be anxious to repeat the error in Afghanistan, or to cut off aid precipitously after so much joint spilling of sweat, blood, tears, and financial resources there since 2001.US needs bases
President Obama is actually the greater challenge on the US side.
Even if he agrees to slow down the planned cuts to US forces in Afghanistan this year, his intention of taking all operational American military forces from the country by the end of next year remains on the books.
It is a big mistake, and needs to be changed.
The US needs counterterrorism tools - meaning military bases - on an enduring basis from which to strike al Qaeda, perhaps Islamic State, and other extremists in the region even after 2016.
It also needs to sustain a kind of presence, and thus leverage, that it squandered in Iraq in 2011 (admittedly, the Iraqis had a hand in that too).
With its leverage weakened, Washington was far less able to influence former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's increasingly misguided and sectarian rule.
Again, no repeat performance of such a policy is desirable in Afghanistan.
The US should keep two to three bases in Afghanistan indefinitely, as part of an enduring presence and partnership.
So while Congress is important on this one, it's the White House reaction to the Afghan leaders' visit that we should watch most closely.
Pakistan's Cold Heart Toward Christian Minorities: No Gov't Minister Honored Dead Church Bomb Victims
BY SHAHID KHAN
Few years ago, I visited Youhanabad, one of the largest Christian neighborhood in Punjab, Pakistan. I remember the long terrain of endless houses that had an acute sense of love and unity in the air. Today this sense of a peaceful community has gone and instead blood, violence and destruction show their grim presence after 15 innocent people, including 7 Muslims, died last week in the wake of suicide Church bomb attacks on March 15, 2015.
The unfortunate history of minorities in Pakistan is littered with violence and institutional discrimination at all levels. Minorities receive a "step mother love" from the land they belong to. Their patriotism is questioned and their loyalty to the country is often mingled with doubt and suspicion. Are Christians alienated in their own country?
In Pakistan, the history of minorities in general and Christians in particular is reddened with blood of innocents with endless catalogues of persecution. The memories of the unspeakable horrors of 1997 in Shanti Nagar are still fresh. The attack by thousands of violent fundamentalists destroyed 785 homes and 4 churches and subsequently 2,500 people fled persecution. A similar event took place in 2009 when the Christian villages of Gojra and Korian were hit by religiously motivated violence. Nine Christians were burnt to death when their homes were attacked with chemical fire bombs locals had made themselves. The worst attack to date, took place in March 2013 in Peshawar when the All Saints Church was hit by a twin suicide bomb attack which left more than 100 dead and no less than 250 injured. In November 2014 the Christian couple Shehzad Masih and Shama Bibi were beaten to death by a Muslim mob after being accused of desecrating a copy of Koran.
In the midst of this ever-increasing persecution the terror-stricken Christians have no hope but to clamour for help to the Government which seem to have no ears at all. Christians find no protection of the law as their vulnerability is even exploited by the laws itself since they give room for the wide misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws, which further compounds their precariousness, disillusionment and alienation.
In most liberal democracies around the world, the law of the land should be the life blood for its citizens. It protects and promotes basic and fundamental rights of its citizens regardless of race, religion, language or any other background. However, in Pakistan, laws are more often than not used to spite the weak and the vulnerable and they often support the strong.
Laws should be equally applied to everyone, but how far government has provided protection and justice to the victims of persecution? How many of those who killed Shehzad Masih and Shama Bibi have been charged with murder or terrorism? Who among the attackers of Shanti Nagar or of Gojra and Korian has ever been prosecuted? To fully understand the two-faced nature of Pakistan's approach to justice system a recent statement of Pakistan Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar is worth to mention here. Commenting on the post Lahore Church blasts violence which saw two Muslim men burnt to death by violent Christians Nisar said: "Lynching is the worst form of terrorism."
Without doubt it is true that no one has a right to take law in its own hand and those who perpetrated this heinous crime of lynching two men should be brought to justice. Nevertheless, it is equally important to treat all citizens with justice. True rule of law does not allow any sense of alienation or stigmatisation.
What further punctuates the sense of alienation among Christian community is the cold reaction of political elite in Pakistan who tend to disengage themselves from the horrors Christians frequently suffer. It stokes the sense of alienation which leaves millions of Christians discouraged, dispirited and disillusioned.
When terror attacks happen around the world, the government officials rush to the scenes of violence including the premiers. The iconic presence of a premier in the midst of terror stricken people provides them the moral courage they need it the most. When France faced the horrors of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and on a Jewish Supermarket in Paris in January this year, President Francois Hollande not only showed presence at the scenes of violence he further invited other heads of government to march with him and the French people in unity against terrorism. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on contrast was more interested in celebrating a multi-million motorway project rather than to give condolences to the victims in person.
To cap it all, no government minister attended the bereaved families of Youhanabad at the time of writing these lines let alone the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Pakistani Christians have long suffered the scars of persecution in the guise of misuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws to the terrorist bomb blasts in their places of worship, never before in the history Pakistani Christians took law in their hands, let alone killed innocent people on the whims. We have to ask ourselves and the government of Pakistan how it could come this far. Why are Christians so much alienated so that they resort to such violent acts of lynching to vent their helplessness?
Has their cup of patience overflowed or the pangs of persecution have become so unbearable that the violent acts of lynching seem to be the only chance to draw attention?
It is the first and foremost responsibility of the echelons of any state to provide legislation which serves the weak and the strong alike. They have to ensure that laws are applied equally to all citizens and that the justice system neither favors nor discriminates anyone on grounds of their race, religion, language or any other background. Only then alienation will stop and persecution be eliminated so that Pakistan as nation can find its peace and prosperity in unity to combat the challenges of the 21st century.