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Cablegate: New Human Rights Ngo Aligned with Government

VZCZCXRO4659
PP RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0705 3471438
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131438Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9096
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000705

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/13/2019
TAGS: PHUM PGOV BA
SUBJECT: NEW HUMAN RIGHTS NGO ALIGNED WITH GOVERNMENT

REF: MANAMA 587

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Summary: In the course of an 80-minute diatribe, the president of a London-based, pro-government human rights group denounced the "politicization" of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and accused BCHR president Nabeel Rajab and BCHR co-founder Abdulhadi Al Khawaja (an outspoken Shia rejectionist) of being in the pay of the Iranian government. He acknowledged that his own organization receives funding through the Bahraini embassy in London, but denied that he was employed by the government. End summary.

2.(C) During a meeting with poloff December 6, Hasan Moosa Shafaei, a "part-time, independent human rights consultant" for the Bahraini Embassy in the UK, said he established the Bahrain Human Rights Monitor (BHRM) to provide international actors with an alternative point of view to that promulgated by BCHR. (Note: BCHR, which has ties to the Shia rejectionist Haq Movement, has lost credibility in recent months with inaccurate, somewhat sensationalist allegations against GOB security forces; see ref A. End note).

3.(C) A former exiled oppositionist, Shafaei provided a full-throttled defense of King Hamad's ten-year-old reform process. He said he was a co-founder of BCHR but fell out with Rajab and Al Khawaja when their work took on a more "politicized" hue in 2003-04. In addition to critiquing BCHR's political activities and alleged ties to Iran, he also spoke at length about BCHR's ties to London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement leader Saeed Al Shehabi, who he claimed was in the pay of Iran's Supreme Leader. Shafaei also voiced criticism of the Haq Movement's leadership, as well as the new Shia rejectionist group, Wafa, accusing it of undermining national unity and stability.

4.(C) Shafaei had little to say about the human rights situation in Bahrain, beyond praising the King's reforms. He stated that he established BHRM in January 2009 and operates the organization from his home base of London, where he has lived since the late 1980s. He was generally laudatory of the State Department's annual human rights reports, though he urged the embassy to be wary of BCHR's allegations of police abuse and to provide details on BCHR's and Haq's purported foreign connections.

5.(C) Comment: Shafaei is clearly aligned with -- and remunerated by -- the GOB and its efforts to improve its human rights reputation, and counter allegations of abuses from Shia rejectionists. Shafaei was open about his close relationship with Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (formerly Bahrain's ambassador in London). Post has no evidence to support Shafaei's assertions of Iranian funding of, and influence over, BCHR and the main Shia rejectionist movements. End comment. ERELI

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