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UN's Ban Ki-moon Has No Comment on Bahrain Jailing Zainab al-Khawaja

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 27 -- With all the talk at the UN General Assembly about the Arab Spring and freedom of expression, the UN's and others' failure to speak out again Bahrain jailing Zainab al-Khawaja for tearing up a photo of the King, even when asked, is noteworthy.

  On September 26, the day after US President Obama's speech about freedom of expression and after months of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon statements about the right to non-violent protest, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: The daughter of a very prominent Bahrain activist — the daughter’s name is Zainab al-Khawaja — has been sentenced to two months in jail for tearing up the picture of a Bahraini royal, and I am wondering, does the Secretary-General or the Secretariat have any view of this arrest in terms of freedom of speech, or in terms of the right to oppose one's Government?

Spokesperson Nesirky: No specific comment on this specific case. If that changes, I will let you know.

  Twenty-one hours later, no statement had been issued. Nesirky went on to point backward:

Spokesperson Nesirky: But you will have seen that the Secretary-General met already with the Foreign Minister from Bahrain. And I would refer you to the readout that we gave on that.

But here was that readout:

The Secretary-General today met with H. E. Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister reviewed the situation in the region. They also discussed current developments in Bahrain, including the human rights situation. The Secretary-General welcomed the commitment made by His Majesty King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, to dialogue, good governance and genuine democracy and called on the Government to complete the implementations of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. He also emphasized that a genuine, all-inclusive dialogue that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Bahraini communities is the best way to promote lasting peace, stability, justice and economic progress in Bahrain.

  And days after Ban "welcomed the commitment made by His Majesty King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, to dialogue, good governance and genuine democracy," a prominent democracy activist was sentences to prison for tearing up the King's photograph. Now Ban, and others, have "no specific comment on this specific case." So it goes at the UN.

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