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Wave of arrests as Bahrain marks anniversary of 14 February uprising

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned by the wave of arrests that have been carried in the run up to and on 14 February, which marks the anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

 

Around 40 arrests have been carried out so far as Bahrain marks the uprising anniversary. In the two days leading up to the anniversary, 28 arrests were carried out, with 11 further arrests in the morning of 14 February, including three minors. It is likely that further arrests will follow.

 

The majority of these arrests, which took place in over ten different areas, were carried out following unlawful house raids. A further arrest was carried out against a protestor.

 

Also in the lead up to the anniversary, dozens of peaceful protests have taken place in many cities, including Al-Manama. In the afternoon of 14 February, one protest was met by tear gas.

 

BCHR: “Each year, we see a growing crackdown at this time of year. In 2017 we saw excessive force used against protestors, leading to many injuries. So far this year, we have seen a wave of arrests carried out, and expect that more could follow”.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union and all international human rights organizations to put more pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

• Immediate and unconditional release of those arbitrarily detained

• Immediately put an end to violations of human rights, in particular the right to express opinions and freedom of peaceful assembly

• Accountability of those responsible for violations, regardless of their position

• Compensation of victims in fair compensation pursuant to the size of their injuries. 

 

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Bahrain: 8 years on from 2011, Reform and Accountability Remain a Mirage

Beirut, February 13th, 2019Human Rights Organizations call for Accountability Regarding Human Rights Violations in Bahrain

A conference on the human rights situation in Bahrain was held in Beirut, on the 13th of February 2019 with the participation of international human rights organizations, experts, CSOs, activists and researchers. Members of prominent organizations such Human Rights Watch, FIDH, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship, and others have participated in the discussions of the topics of the conference.

All participants have agreed on the need for accountability to deal with the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation that has been happening since 2011.

Some of the topics discussed revolved around the status of women HRDs, the shutdown on Freedom of Expression, the forms of electronic repression, the failure in implementing the BICI recommendations, and the lack of accountability in Bahrain.

Among the participants, some of the important statements were:

The head of FIDH, Dimitris Christopoulos, said that “Treating Nabeel Rajab the way they did shows that human rights defenders threaten their system by advocating peace".

The Advocacy Officer at Salam DHR, Joshua Cooper, said that “it is clear that BICI process has long come to a halt. To answer why, involves answering why human rights as a whole have regressed in Bahrain, including in the absence of any political transition, the use of sectarian and security narratives, and a lack of international support.”

Jodie Ginsberg the CEO at Index on Censorship commented that “I expect to see a clear commitment from Bahrain's allies that continued cooperation is dependent on Bahrain's commitment to uphold universal human rights.”

Aya Majzoub, the researcher at Human Rights Watch, declared that “the recent victory in Hakeem Al-Araibi’s case proves that the effort to put pressure on Bahrain has been successful in order to reform its human rights record .”

Bahrain Center for Human Rights: We thank the people and the government of Australia for their support of Al-Araibi

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) welcomes the decision of releasing the Bahraini football player, Hakeem Al-Araibi, detained by the Thai authorities, after Bahrain dropped extradition proceedings.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights considers his release a result of cooperation between human rights organizations, governments and the football community in the past two months. Therefore, BCHR thanks Australia, people and government, and all other countries that contribute in his release.

BCHR: “We have worked hard with many members of human rights organizations around the world to reach this result”.

The case of the 25 year-old player who was a refugee in Australia since 2014, and a member of football club in Melbourne had become widely known. He was detained by Thai authorities in last November at Bangkok airport when coming from Australia to spend the honeymoon with his wife. Al-Araibi’s detention was in response to an international arrest warrant requested by Bahrain.

The Thai judiciary began to consider the Bahraini authorities request to extradite him to carry out a previous sentence of 10 years imprisonment. The charges were a result of participating in the “Arab Spring” events in 2011 that included Bahrain, which the player completely denies.

The International Conference “Bahrain: 8 years of Repression Under International Silence”: Human Rights Organizations call for a Radical Change

After the eight-year anniversary of the start of mass democratic protests that took place on the 14th of February 2011, when tens and thousands of Bahrainis peacefully protested and called for reforms, “Bahrain Center for Human Rights”, with the cooperation of “Bahrain Interfaith”, organized an International Conference. Its goal was to discuss the necessary steps to put a stop to the deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain. The conference “Bahrain: 8 years of Repression Under International Silence” shed light on the repressive methods used by the Bahraini government since 2011, which focus on crushing civil society and dissent by arresting activists and human rights defenders, issuing death sentences and dissolving civil and political associations.

Beirut hosted the International Conference on Wednesday, January 16th, as the Arab capital of international human rights organizations. Members of prominent organizations such Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, IFEX, FIDH, Civicus and others have participated in the discussions of the topics of the conference.

Saloua Boukaouit moderated the first panel that discussed the situation of “Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain” and the panelists were Khalid Ibrahim (Director of the GCHR), Ahmed AlWedaei (Director of Advisory BIRD), Mohamad Najem (Co-founder of SMEX), and Kristina Stockwood (Advisory Board GCHR). Additionally, in the second panel, the moderator Annie Game (IFEX Director) discussed the “International Perspectives towards Human Rights violations in Bahrainwith Aya Majzoub (Researcher at HRW), Brian Dooley (Senior Advisor Human Rights First), and Devin Kenny (Researcher at Amnesty). In the third panel which were entitled “Civic and political space in Bahrain”, the panelists were Fadi Al-Qadi (Independent), Drewery Dyke (Salam Director), and Joe Stork (Independent), while Ariel Plotkin moderated the discussion.

The conference issued recommendations after discussions in the form of round tables. There was a call on international diplomatic missions for observing the trials of political activists, human rights defenders and freedom of expression, as well as reporting on due-process violations; that was in addition to verify the status of the detainees of opinion and work to convince the king to end violations and activate the role of the parliaments of the European Union, the United States and Britain.

Among the recommendations were to make use of influential international media and inviting special rapporteurs on torture to visit Bahrain and link it to the obligations of the Committee Against Torture (CAT). Scoping missions to assess which countries/businesses/organizations have most leverage on Bahrain was added to recommendations. The conference also recommended that attention must be paid in the Arab media to the issues of detainees, not just the prominent ones, and to launching a campaign ahead the Formula1 race.

The conference included a video for Nabeel Rajab’s daughter saying: “Instead of honoring my father for his human rights activism in my country he has been subjected in inhumane conditions and ill-treatment in prison. I hope the entire world calls for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate release and for the Bahraini authorities to drop the charges against him.” 

Bahrain: Unabated Repression Free Speech and Association, Dissidents Under Attack

Bahrain cracked down on peaceful dissent during 2018, virtually eliminating all opposition, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2019
No independent media were allowed to operate in the country in 2018, and ahead of parliamentary elections in November, parliament banned members of dissolved opposition parties from being able to run. Peaceful dissidents were arrested, prosecuted, ill-treated, and stripped of citizenship. 

“The Bahraini authorities have demonstrated a zero tolerance policy when it comes to free media, independent political thought, and peaceful dissent,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite the stream of arrests and convictions of dissidents, Bahrain’s allies have failed to use their influence to improve Bahrain’s rights record at home or abroad.” 

In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the populists spreading hatred and intolerance in many countries are spawning a resistance. New alliances of rights-respecting governments, often prompted and joined by civic groups and the public, are raising the cost of autocratic excess. Their successes illustrate the possibility of defending human rights – indeed, the responsibility to do so – even in darker times.

In the days leading up to the November parliamentary elections, the government detained a former member of parliament, Ali Rashed al-Asheeri, after he tweeted about boycotting the elections. He was released on bail three days after the election. On November 4, the Bahrain High Court of Appeals overturned the previous acquittal of a prominent opposition member, Sheikh Ali Salman, sentencing him to life in prison on espionage charges. Salman is the leader of Bahrain’s largest political opposition group, al-Wifaq, which wasoutlawed in 2016.

Nabeel Rajab, one of Bahrain’s preeminent human rights defenders, completed a two-year prison term for “spreading false news” in June. He then immediately began a five-year prison term for his tweets criticizing alleged torture in Bahrain’s Jaw Prison and the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Duaa al-Wadaei, wife of a prominent exiled activist, Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, was sentenced to prison in absentia on March 21 for allegedly insulting an officer at the Manama airport in 2016.

In September, three female human rights defenders held in the Isa Town Prison, Hajer Mansoor Hasan, Najah Yusuf, and Medina Ali,said that prison officials assaulted them and restricted their family visits, phone calls, and time spent outside of their cells. The National Institution for Human Rights dismissed these allegations

The oversight bodies that government set up in 2012 in response to a recommendation by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) once again in 2018 did not investigate credible allegations of prison abuse or hold officials who participated in and ordered widespread torture during interrogations since 2011 accountable.

According to one human rights group, in 2018, the courts stripped 305 people of their citizenship, bringing the total since 2012 to 810. The majority of Bahraini nationals stripped of their citizenship were left effectively stateless. As of November, Bahraini prisons held 14 people on death row.

Despite significant human rights concerns in Bahrain and its participation in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which is committing serious violations of international humanitarian law, the United States State Department approved five major weapons sales to Bahrain between January and November.

Bahrain Center For Human Rights organizes the international conference “Bahrain: 8 years of Repression Under International Silence”

Beirut, January 16th, 2019_ Human Rights Organizations call for a Radical Change in International Policies Tackling Human Rights Violation in Bahrain

 

An international conference on the human rights situation in Bahrain was held in Beirut, on the 16th of January 2019 with the participation of international human rights organizations, experts, CSOs, activists and researchers. Members of prominent organizations such Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, IFEX, FIDH, Civicus and others have participated in the discussions of the topics of the conference.

All participants have agreed on the emergency of implementing a new international strategy to deal with the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation that has been happening under the silence of the international community, including the UK and the USA.

Some of the topics discussed revolved around the harassment and prosecution of human rights defenders, the closure of civic and political space, the lack of democratic political pluralism, the ban on the entrance of UN special rapporteurs to Bahrain amongst others.

Among the participants, some of the important statements were:

Joe stork made a comment saying that “the silence we are talking about is not international; it is enforced silence in Bahrain.”

Aya Majzoub, the researcher at Human Rights Watch, declared that “We have 5 joint statements on Bahrain since 2012, last one was in 2015. Part of the reason that we haven’t had another joint statement on Bahrain because no country is willing to take the lead.”

The senior Advisor in Human Rights First, Brian Dooley, said that “for the time in generations, in Washington (US Congress), questions are being asked that haven’t been asked before, this is an opportunity to be used.”

 

Recommendations:

  • Call on international diplomatic missions Bahrain to:

-observe trials of {political} activists, Human Rights Defenders, Freedom of Expression

-Report on due-process violations

  • Raise profile of prominent Rights Defenders publically in the US and UK.
  • Special Rapporteurs on torture to visit Bahrain and linking it to CAT obligations.
  • Scoping missions to assess which countries/businesses/organizations have most leverage on Bahrain.
  • Campaigning ahead of F1 races
  • Messaging: more focus on broader trends of repression in Bahrain, not just prominent Human Rights Defenders, especially in Arabic Media.
  • Use Parliamentary procedures in the UK and the US (US Congress) to raise questions about Bahrain.

 

UN: Press briefing note on Bahrain

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva 
Date: 4 January 2019
Subject: Bahrain

We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and to ensure that all Bahrainis are able to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression without fear of arbitrary detention. 

Rajab has been imprisoned since June 2016 for tweeting in 2015 about Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen and allegations of torture inside Bahrain’s Jau Prison. One such tweet read as follows: “We have the right to say no to the war in #Yemen and should struggle for peace and security but not bloodshed #Sanaa.” On Monday this week, Bahrain’s highest court – the Court of Cassation – upheld Rajab’s conviction and five-year prison sentence on charges of "spreading false news and rumours in time of war", "insulting foreign countries" and "insulting publicly the interior ministry". The UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention had last year declared Rajab’s detention to be arbitrary.

Monday’s court decision brings into focus the continued suppression of Government critics in Bahrain through arbitrary arrest and detention, travel bans, harassment, threats, revocation of citizenship and other means. There have been numerous reports of human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and opposition figures being targeted for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The UN Secretary-General’s report on reprisals in September 2018 highlighted several specific cases where civil society activists and their families in Bahrain suffered reprisals for seeking to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council. In some of the cases, the activists were accused of terrorism-related offences.

The arrest, detention and imprisonment of individuals for the exercise of their fundamental human rights is in violation of Bahrain’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it has ratified. We urge the Government of Bahrain to stop criminalising dissenting voices.

UN: Press briefing note on Bahrain

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva 
Date: 4 January 2019
Subject: Bahrain

We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and to ensure that all Bahrainis are able to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression without fear of arbitrary detention. 

Rajab has been imprisoned since June 2016 for tweeting in 2015 about Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen and allegations of torture inside Bahrain’s Jau Prison. One such tweet read as follows: “We have the right to say no to the war in #Yemen and should struggle for peace and security but not bloodshed #Sanaa.” On Monday this week, Bahrain’s highest court – the Court of Cassation – upheld Rajab’s conviction and five-year prison sentence on charges of "spreading false news and rumours in time of war", "insulting foreign countries" and "insulting publicly the interior ministry". The UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention had last year declared Rajab’s detention to be arbitrary.

Monday’s court decision brings into focus the continued suppression of Government critics in Bahrain through arbitrary arrest and detention, travel bans, harassment, threats, revocation of citizenship and other means. There have been numerous reports of human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and opposition figures being targeted for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The UN Secretary-General’s report on reprisals in September 2018 highlighted several specific cases where civil society activists and their families in Bahrain suffered reprisals for seeking to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council. In some of the cases, the activists were accused of terrorism-related offences.

The arrest, detention and imprisonment of individuals for the exercise of their fundamental human rights is in violation of Bahrain’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it has ratified. We urge the Government of Bahrain to stop criminalising dissenting voices.

Bahrain: Domestic Workers Freedom of Religion and Worship Rights

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Interfaith condemn the government of Bahrain’s disregard for the growing abuse against female domestic workers in the Kingdom. We call on the governments of Bahrain and of labor-sending countries to ensure religious freedom rights are protected.

This report traces abuse and exploitation to which female domestic workers in Bahrain are subjected by employers, with regards to their rights of worship. The report outlines the rights and international legal standards that apply to workers.

Approximately 460,000 migrant workers, mostly from Asia, make up 77 percent of the country’s private workforce. Due to shortcomings in Bahrain’s legal and regulatory framework and the failure to implement and enforce existing laws, migrant workers, especially female domestic workers, endure serious abuses such as unpaid wages, passport confiscation, unsafe and unhealthy accommodation, excessive work hours, and physical and psychological abuse. They are also being subjected to deprivation of their rights to worship and the absence of religious freedoms. 

Many human rights organizations have expressed concerns over the treatment of female domestic workers in Bahrain, confirming that housekeepers and domestic workers are systematically exposed to discriminatory, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. In a recent report on labor in the Gulf Countries, the number of female domestic workers in Bahrain was estimated to exceed 80,000. The increasing rate of their abuse has raised serious concerns over the absence of strict and well-established legislation and administrative measures that regulate the relationship between these  women and their employers. 

Reports stated that the majority of these maids are practically treated as private property, looking more like a modern day slavery system, wherein the maids are deprived of their basic human rights. Many of these workers are not able to nor allowed to communicate with friends, family and other people besides residents of the house they serve in. Although they are physically and legally not detained or arrested, some of them are forced to live in a state of incommunicado. Many of them do not leave the house and are not allowed to step anywhere near the door. 

Additionally, there is no proper legal framework that preserves the female domestic workers’ religious freedom rights including the right of worship and practicing religious rituals in line with the Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Female domestic workers are reportedly deprived not only of the freedom to worship their religion but also of portraying their religion or its symbols in any manner or way. Most maids are not allowed, and in reported cases severely punished, to even wear or put up religious symbols like a cross, even though there are no laws prohibiting employees from wearing or carrying religious symbols. BCHR and Bahrain Interfaith documented cases of female domestic workers being subjected to deprivation of their right to freedom of religion.

Despite fear of reprisals, domestic workers told stories of being prevented from practicing their religion. (Their full names are withheld in order to protect them from further abuse.)

Ruwaina (Philippines) told us: “We are three maids at the same house, and two of us are not allowed to wear the cross, because it is haram. We understand that, but the boss doesn’t allow us to go to church also.  One time he saw me pray and punished me……but [another maid] is Muslim, she is also not allowed to go to Mosque.”

Additionally, there are reports that female domestic workers and housekeepers, particularly Hindu, have been victimized and abused severely at a physical and mental level.

Roopa (India) stated: “My boss will not let me go to the temple, because he said that I am a pagan and worship stone.  I cannot live like this anymore!”

Moreover, female domestic workers are repeatedly deprived of taking holidays, even on special religious occasions like: Eid, Christmas, Diwaly, etc.

Julie (Philippines) said: “I told him, deduct from my salary if you want, but please send me to church, at least just for Christmas. He said, “You are Kafir (infidel), I will not help you commit wrong.  Even if you go to the Labor Ministry, or to the embassy, no one can do anything for you.”

Jojah (Indonesian) reported: “Not even once did my employer allow me to attend the prayers or sermons at the mosque, not even during Eid.  Even in the house, I am not given time to perform my daily prayers.  Only at night when the family goes to sleep, I perform my prayers too late.”

"Depriving tens of thousands of maids and domestic workers in Bahrain from their right to attend churches, temples, mosques and religious centers should be loudly denounced by human rights organizations in Bahrain and abroad," Sheikh Maytham Al Salman, the head of Interfaith Organization stated. "The government of Bahrain has miserably failed to protect the religious freedom of domestic workers and maids from abuses committed by state and non-state actors."

Bahrain has claimed that it is committed to improving migrant labor laws and practices; however, the implementation of laws are inconsistent with international labor law standards and the international human rights commitments of the government of Bahrain.

Even though religious freedom rights are not directly denied by the government, it is the government's full responsibility to enforce legislative and administrative measures to protect religious freedom rights of domestic workers.

"These Asian migrants, due to not being able to find appropriate work in their country of residence, take up these jobs in Bahrain to ensure that they sustain their livelihood and that of their families. They left their countries, but they did not leave their religion and beliefs and Bahrain must ensure their protection and rights to worship," a local labor rights activists said.

Bahrain is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and is a state party to relevant international treaties that protect freedom of religion or belief. It is also a signatory since 2006 to the ICCPR,which states in Article 18 that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [or her] choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [or her] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion, which would impair his [or her] freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [or her] choice.” The ICCPR establishes an individual’s right to freedom of movement, and Article 7 of the ICESCR recognizes “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work.”

 

Therefore, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Interfaith call on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Protect the religious freedom and worship rights of all people in Bahrain;
  • Enforce the signing of employment contracts between all domestic workers and their employers, clearly stating in the contracts the number of working hours and their right to a weekend and yearly paid holiday; and
  • Immediately adopt corrective measures to ensure low paid domestic workers are not deprived from enjoying their basic human rights.

Bahrain: Concern about the Increased Application of Death Penalty in Light of Continuing to Ignore Torture Allegations

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely concerned about the Bahraini government continuing to issue death penalty sentences in light of the deteriorating political and human rights situation since February 2011. Since then, Bahrain courts have issued 32 death penalty sentences against 32 detainees arrested on political grounds. Most of them reported that they were exposed to physical and psychological torture to force them to confess. Three of the convicts were executed in January 2017 by firing squad after the murder of a policeman.

Zuhair Ibrahim Jassem, 38, will attend trial on Thursday, November 29, 2018. His family and human rights activists in Bahrain fear that he will be sentenced to death penalty, the most extreme sentence given in similar cases. Zuhair faces charges of joining a terrorist cell operating in Bahrain against police officers, training in the use of weapons, operations against police officers and killing of a policeman.

In details, Zuhair’s family informed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights that civilian forces had stormed their house in the Sutra area on November 2, 2017. They arrested Zuhair after searching the house and confiscated Zuhair's personal belongings without giving the family any information or explanation about the reasons for the arrest or search. Mrs. Hanin Ali, 35, Zuhair’s wife, said that she was beaten by a member of the authorities who broke into their house after her husband was arrested. Moreover, she was threatened with rape. He pointed the gun at her head while interrogating her in an isolated room to give information about her husband Zuhair before his family will be summoned to the criminal investigation unit.

Zuhair was in the Criminal Investigation Building for about 55 days before being transferred to the Dry Dock Prison. Zuhair was brought to his family after severe torture caused by the interrogators who investigated him by stripping him of all his clothes and severely electrocuting and beating him. The interrogators also threatened to kill his family, if he did not confess about the charges against him. Therefore, Zuhair signed the papers of confession about the above-mentioned charges after his arrest on 13 November, as announced by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior, which defamed him and other defendants on Bahrain TV Al-Wasi, on 15 November 2017.

On February 20, 2018, the Public Prosecution ordered that the case was referred to the Grand Criminal Court. Zuhair’s family says that he spoke to the judge about the torture he was subjected to, but the judge did not care. His family also filed a complaint about his torture at the Special Investigation Unit of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The legal advisor of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Ibrahim Sarhan, said that death sentences are issued in trials that do not have fair trial guarantees. Although there are allegations of victims being tortured and brought before judges, but their legal rights weren’t observed. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) believes that the continued use of this aborted penalty in Bahrain is a violation of international conventions and treaties, especially Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right of living, freedom and self-safety”.

Based on this, the BCHR calls upon the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union, and other allies and international institutions to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:

  1. The release Zuhair Jassem, the suspension of his trial and the dropping of all confessions extracted from him under torture.
  2. Stop using the death penalty.
  3. Abolish previously issued death sentences and investigate allegations of torture of defendants.
  4. Accountability of elements of the security services who prove their involvement in the commission of acts of torture no matter how high their positions are.