About Sunjeev Bery

Sunjeev Bery serves as Advocacy Director for Middle East North Africa issues at Amnesty International USA. He lobbies US officials, diplomats, and officeholders regarding human rights concerns across the MENA region. His commentaries on US foreign policy and human rights have appeared in a range of U.S. newspapers and publications. Previously, Sanjeev served as a regional director for the American Civil Liberties Union, where his work included advocacy on post-9/11 security policies. He has also served as a public interest lobbyist on student financial aid issues in Washington DC and as a fundraiser for environmental and human rights organizations. Sanjeev holds a BA from UC Berkeley and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was a Harvard Public Service Fellow. He is a recipient of the 2007 Asian Law Alliance Community Impact Award and has received commendations from the California State Senate and Assembly for his human rights advocacy.
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Will Congress Put Bahrain in the Human Rights Spotlight?

Bahraini boy with tear gas cannisters

Bahraini Shiite boy crouches by pile of tear gas canisters collected by protesters (AFP/Getty Images)

Against a backdrop of ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain, the US Congress is about to hold a high-level public hearing today on events in the country.  Organized by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the hearing will focus attention on whether or not Bahrain’s government has actually followed through on the promises it made to end human rights abuses and hold violators accountable.

The hearing comes at a key time. In April of this year, Amnesty International issued an important report demonstrating the Bahraini authorities’ failure to implement human rights reforms. Indeed, Bahraini courts have continued to sentence activists to prison simply for criticizing the government.

These prisoners of conscience include Nabeel Rajab, who faces 3 months in jail for tweets that the government didn’t like.  Doctors and medical workers have also been sentenced to prison following comments they made to the international media.  And then there is Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a political activist who is now imprisoned on a life sentence. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Update: Bahrain Keeps Ridiculous Charges Against 11-Year-Old Boy

Ali Hassan Bahrain

Ali Hassan has been spared a prison sentence for now but will be subject to government monitoring for a year. (AFP/GettyImages)

Despite an outpouring of global concern, news reports indicate that the Government of Bahrain has still not dropped its charges against 11 year old Ali Hassan.

As I wrote earlier this week, Bahraini police arrested the young boy in mid-May on a street that is both near his home and the site of a protest.  The police denied him access to a lawyer for 23 days of his nearly one month of detention.

Amnesty International is confirming the details of yesterday’s court decision regarding the young boy’s sentence.  According to news reports, the Government of Bahrain has allowed Ali to live at home, but is requiring him to be subjected to government monitoring for a year. The reports also indicate that the original charge of “illegal gathering” and disturbing “public security” has still not been dropped.

On the one hand, the young boy appears to have been spared the worse case scenario of several years in jail.  This demonstrates the power of the global human rights spotlight, in which worldwide concern for Ali put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to keep him out of prison.  But at the same time, Ali appears to still be facing criminal charges.

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Will Bahrain Convict an 11-year-old “Protester”?

Ali Hassan Bahrain

Ali Hassan could face jail time for allegedly "participating in an illegal gathering."(Photo Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/GettyImages)

This Thursday, an 11-year-old boy will find out if the Government of Bahrain truly considers him a security threat.

Young Ali Hassan was arrested by Bahraini police on May 13th on a street near both his home and the site of a protest. He was detained for 23 days before being allowed to see a lawyer, and he spent nearly a month in jail before being released.

He has been charged with “participating with others in an illegal gathering of more than five people, in order to disturb public security by way of violence.” The Guardian reports that if found guilty, Ali could be sentenced to up to three years in prison (take action here).

The case has drawn international media attention, with articles in CNN, the Associated Press, Time, RealClearPolitics, BBCAFP, The Independent, The Telegraph, and others.  Once again, the Government of Bahrain is in the spotlight for violating human rights.

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Egypt’s Generals Retake Power

Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egyptian elections

Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi (portrait) celebrate in Cairo's Tahrir square on June 18, 2012. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/GettyImages

Over the last four days, a stunning succession of events has cast doubt on whether Egypt will transition to an accountable system of government:

  1. Egypt’s Supreme Court nullified recent parliamentary elections.
  2. Egypt’s military disbanded Parliament and assumed legislative powers.
  3. Egypt’s Minister of Justice expanded the military’s powers to arrest civilians.

All of this happened on the eve of this weekend’s runoff elections for the presidency.  On Saturday and Sunday, voters went to the polls to choose between two presidential candidates — Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi has claimed victory, and Egyptian media are also reporting that to be the case. Whoever wins the presidency will take office without a parliament, a constitution, or defined presidential powers, and will have to negotiate with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) –  the military leadership. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hamas Must End the Death Penalty

Trapped between a crushing Israeli blockade and human rights violations at home, the 1.6 million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip face many challenges in their daily lives.  In our 2012 Annual Report, Amnesty International catalogues the list, from a humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli blockade to detention and torture by Hamas security forces.

There are reports that at least one of the four “confessed” to the crime of murder after being tortured.

Meanwhile, Palestinian armed groups have used the Gaza Strip to fire indiscriminate rockets and mortars into southern Israel.  Daniel Viflic, aged 16, died in 2011 after a school bus in which he was travelling was struck by a missile fired from Gaza.

The latest news is that four Gaza Palestinians are facing execution after being given the death penalty by Hamas military and criminal courts.  There are reports that at least one of the four “confessed” to the crime of murder after being tortured.  The family of Na’el Jamal Qandil Doghmosh has stated that when they saw him after two months in prison, his nails had been torn out and there were burns and bruises on his body.

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The Chilling Words of Syria’s President

Assad speech Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gives a rare rare televised speech delivered in parliament on June 3, 2012. Assad said that his government faces a foreign plot to destroy Syria, and blamed 'monsters' for the Houla massacre. (Photo Louai Beshara/AFP/GettyImages)

Yesterday, Syrian President Bashar Assad justified his government’s actions by comparing himself to a doctor trying to save a patient.  As reported by the Associated Press,  Assad stated in a speech:

When a surgeon in an operating room … cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood?  Or do we thank him for saving the patient?

The disturbing words come against a backdrop of horrifying violence.  Amnesty International has received the names of nearly 10,000 people killed since the government began cracking down on peaceful protestors over a year ago.  Although peaceful demonstrations have continued, the unrest has turned increasingly violent. Armed opposition groups, many loosely under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have also carried out attacks – mainly against Syrian security forces.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is Egypt’s “State of Emergency” Finally Over?

egyptian protester run tear gas

A masked Egyptian protester runs after picking up a tear gas canister fired by riot police during clashes near the interior ministry in Cairo on February 4, 2012. (Photo KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last night at midnight, Egypt’s 31-year-old “Emergency Law” came to an end.  The law gave Egypt’s police and security forces widespread powers to arrest and detain Egyptian civilians.

Under Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, thousands of people experienced torture and other human rights abuses.  So far, government accountability for these violations has been almost nonexistent.

Egyptians may get the first steps towards accountability tomorrow, when a verdict is expected in the trial of Mubarak on charges of killing protesters during the “January 25 Revolution” last year. Some 840 protesters were killed and more than 6000 injured during the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down in February 2011.  But while significant, this trial does not delve into the human rights abuses under Mubarak’s rule for the three decades prior to the revolution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will Russia Stop Blocking UN Action on Syria?

Assad and Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, February 7, 2012. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Following the deaths of at least 108 people in Houla, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the Syrian government that it “bears the main responsibility for what is going on.”  But despite these strong words, Russia continues to obstruct meaningful UN Security Council action that could stop the violence in Syria.

As reported in The Telegraph (UK), Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov later stated, “We believe that a review now by the Security Council of any new measures on the situation would be premature.”

Meanwhile, Syrian civilians continue to be killed in a government campaign that amounts to crimes against humanity.  Since the Syrian government’s crackdown began last March, Amnesty International has received the names of some 9,750 people who have been killed, including more than 700 children. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The World Reacts to Syrian Violence

Burial of victims killed by Syrian forces in Houla, Syria

Syrians bury tens of victims' bodies who were killed by Syrian forces as they attend their mass funeral in Houla, Syria, on May 26, 2012. ©Sniperphoto.co.uk/Demotix

On Friday, the Syrian military brutally killed over 100 people in Houla, Syria.  Our sources tell us that the barrage of shells, mortars, rockets and raids on Friday left at least 108 dead, including 34 women and 50 children.

The horrifying violence has had geopolitical repercussions around the world:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, “The government bears the main responsibility for what is going on.”  It was a surprising departure from past statements by Russian officials that provided diplomatic cover for Syrian government violence.
  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called on “Arab, Islamic and international governments … and the people of the free world to intervene to stop these massacres.”
  • And today, at least 10 nations expelled their Syrian ambassadors and senior Syrian diplomats — the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.

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Another US Arms Shipment to Bahrain

bahrain weapons protests

A Bahraini man walks past graffiti that reads 'Your weapons will not make us bow' (AFP/GettyImages)

Last week, the Obama Administration announced that the US Government is providing new arms shipments to the government of Bahrain.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain monarchy continues to avoid basic accountability for its ongoing human rights violations.  Not a single senior Bahraini official is publicly known to have been investigated for the many acts of torture, imprisonment, and even killings that have been documented.

In a public statement, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the military items being given to Bahrain “are not used for crowd control.”  Ms. Nuland also stated that the items sent to Bahrain would not include the “TOW missiles and Humvees” that Amnesty International and other organizations opposed late last year.

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