2 Jun, 2008

The appointment of Nonoo to the position of Ambassador to the US raises more worries than hopes

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

1 June 2008

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights welcomes developments in the country which promote equal opportunity among citizens, regardless of gender, race, or religion, and advocates the empowerment and inclusion of women and ethnic minorities in all aspects of Bahraini life.

However, the appointment of Houda Nonoo to the position of Bahraini Ambassador to the United States raises more worries than hopes.

1. A Mask for Double Standards:

On the heels of criticisms about a decision to ban Bangladeshis from receiving work permits in Bahrain (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/2191), it seems the Bahraini authorities are keen to demonstrate their anti-discriminatory policies promoting equality and tolerance by confirming the appointment of a Jewish woman as ambassador. Unfortunately migrants living and working in Bahrain are afforded few legal protections (which are barely enforced), often live and work in terrible, inhumane conditions. They are discriminated against by government officials, who have suggested creating ghettoes in industrial regions of the country to house them. They have been used as scapegoats in the past for the government's own shortcomings in economic policy. (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/1764)

No doubt such a decision also hopes to detract attention from the unwritten law of sectarian discrimination in Bahrain, where although the indigenous Shia make up more than 70% of the population, they hold less than 18% of high ranking positions in government institutions. The economic and political disenfranchisement of the Shia has meant that over 95% of the unemployed citizens of working age are Shia. Shia citizens are banned from military and security sector employments, while thousands of mercenary soldiers from Syria, Jordan, and Balouchistan are naturalized and given these jobs. (see:http://www.bahrainrights.org/node/384)

The appointment of another Bahraini female ambassador may also serve to create a false impression about the status of women's rights in Bahrain, where the issue of a Personal Status Code has been used as a bargaining tool to gain concessions from Islamic opposition movements. In Bahrain female migrant domestic workers live in conditions akin to slavery under the kafala system, spousal rape is not considered a crime according to local laws, women hold only 9% of high ranking positions in government institutions, and Bahraini women married to non-Bahraini spouses cannot pass their citizenship onto their children, while Bahraini men can. (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/1934)

2. Miss Nonoo's part in the Bahraini Authorities' Sectarian Agenda ("Bandergate"):

The BCHR is extremely concerned by the link between Miss Nonoo and the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS), a GONGO, which she is heading.

The BHRWS was shown to be receiving payments from a network of officials under the organization of former CIO head Ahmed Ateyatallah with the intention of further altering the demographic of Bahrain, disenfranchising Shias, inflaming sectarian tensions, marginalizing the opposition in Parliament, and weakening civil society through false civil society groups. The network worked through a media group, a number of false NGOs, an internet sites monitoring group, an electronic voting group, and by supporting electoral candidates financially.

The work of the false NGOs was to discredit the work and reputation of real human rights groups, and indeed the BHRWS repeatedly clashed with other local human rights groups both locally and on regional and international panels. (see:http://www.bahrainrights.org/node/586) BHRWS was rejected by a United Nations panel on Racial Discrimination at the UNCOHR in Geneva because of their position as a GONGO. Miss Nonoo herself implemented a campaign to discredit the work of BCHR members in a series of meetings with officials in Washington in 2005.

3. Dangerous Results of a Political Decision:

As with the decision to ban Bangladeshis from working in Bahrain, this move may also have negative repercussions among Bahraini society by igniting tensions between communities. Bahrain has drawn attention really by its policies of discrimination against the Shia majority, migrant workers, and the status of women's rights. It's longstanding relationship with the United States has been criticized by members of the US government because of Bahrain's position towards Israel, which was raised during the process of negotiating the US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, and also its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities.

Based on this, the move to appoint Miss Nonoo can be seen as a public relations oriented political decision, which the BCHR worries will carry grave repercussions among the local community. Not only is the Bahraini government using Miss Nonoo to give an impression of a tolerant society with equal opportunities for all, but also to improve its position among the Jewish lobby in the US.

In Bahrain there is a continually diminishing level of trust citizens have for their government (particularly after the 'Bandergate' incident and its aftermath), and widespread negativity towards the United States government because of its policies and action in the region, namely its massive support for oppressive regimes and violations of the state of Israel against the Palestinians.

Because of these factors, as well as her known involvement in the government agenda against its people, Ms Nonoo risks being seen as a stooge of the Bahraini authorities, or even a Jewish stooge of the American administration. Again, this will cause further damage to communal relations in Bahrain, which are repeatedly exacerbated by government actions. Jews and Muslims have lived peacefully in Bahrain for centuries, and it would be a great shame to see these relations damaged because of a public relations stunt by the government.

Based on this, the BCHR rejects the politically motivated manipulation of Miss Nonoo's status as a woman and member of an ethnic minority group in her appointment to the position of Ambassador to the United States.

4. Recommendations:

+Bahrain should implement an honest policy of inclusion for all citizens, including ethnic minorities, women, and regardless of religion

+ The Bahraini authorities should take real and well considered steps towards promoting equal opportunities and tolerance in Bahrain.

+ This includes reviewing policies and practices towards women, the indigenous Shia population, ethnic and religious minorities, and migrant workers in Bahrain, and honoring its commitments towards the various UN treatises and conventions it has already ratified.

+ To investigate thoroughly and transparently the documents and findings contained in the report released by Dr. Salah Al-Bander, the former consultant of the government.

For More information please contact Nabeel Rajab +973 39633399

1 Jun, 2008

The Bahraini authorities' commitment to human rights has been shown to be little more than a farce

Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Migrant Forum in Asia Less than a week after taking its position (for the second consecutive sitting) of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Bahraini government has declared a blanket ban on reissuing work permits to Bangladeshi citizens. This decision follows the murder of a Bahraini man by a Bangladeshi mechanic in a dispute over financial matter.

The governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have already implemented decisions to stop hiring Bangladeshi workers in the past, allegedly due to the involvement of Bangladeshi individuals in criminal acts. Voices in the Bahraini Parliament are now urging the expulsion of Bangladeshi workers, which currently number over 90,000.

"The Bahrain government has to show it's commitment to human rights standards in action, not simply words. And such an action completely contravenes it's responsibilities and commitments to human rights," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said.

Bahrain has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which should has been automatically incorporated to domestic law. Bahrain is also a signatory to numerous international conventions which address the matter of racial discrimination and has signed the following human rights treaties:

- International Convention on the Crime of Apartheid

- Anti-Slavery Convention

- International Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

- International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

- International Convention on the Rights of the Child

- International Labour Convention on the Training and Employment of the Handicapped

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a further international accord that Bahrain has agreed to abide by.

To ban, or even worse, expel Bangladeshi workers from Bahrain because of certain crimes committed by Bangladeshi individuals is a blatant form of discrimination.

"A position on the UN HRC cannot be used as a pass to dispel criticisms made about the Bahraini government's human rights record. It is a commitment made by the government, and carries the responsibility of implementing human rights standards in the country.

"The first step towards this would be to reverse this ban.

“Civil society must also play its part,” Mr. Rajab urged.

"We were very disappointed to see the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry call for the ban to be implemented in a way that would not affect businesses. It is time for industry to take on corporate responsibility, and to speak against the government's decision. Part of this responsibility is to their workers, and a recognition of the contribution made by the tens of thousands of workers who are in no way guilty for the crime committed by one individual.

"We would also like to hear voices from the Bahraini community speaking against this move - to speak out against any racism on the government agenda, which exacerbates any tensions between local communities."

Recommendations:

- The murder incident involving the Bahraini and Bangladeshi nationals should be dealt with according to fair and honest legal proceedings. The family of the murder victim should see justice and be awarded compensation to avoid any socio-economic difficulties brought by the loss of their father

- The ban on Bangladeshi workers should be reversed immediately, and the government should put an end to policies which encourage discrimination, whether it is gender-based, racial, sectarian, or national.

- As a signatory to the International Labour Convention on Discrimination in Recruitment and Professions, which upholds the principle of equality in the workplace, Bahrain should reconfirm its stance against discrimination because of race or sex.

- The government should ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

For more information, contact:

William Gois

Regional Coordinator

Migrant Forum in Asia

Tel: +63920 9600916

Email: mfa@pacific.net.hk

Web: www.mfasia.org

Nabeel Rajab

Vice-President

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Tel: +973 39633399

Email: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org

ENDORSED BY:

Bahrain Human Rights Society, Bahrain

Youth society for Human Rights, Bahrain

Women petition Committee, Bahrain

IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh

Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program, Bangladesh

Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), Bangladesh

Shikkha Shatha Unnayan Karzakram, Bangladesh

WARBE Development Foundation, Bangladesh

Women Solidarity for Human Rights, Bangladesh

St. John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong

Center for Indian Migrant Studies (CIMS), India

AMI Arunodhaya Migrant Initiatives, India

All Nepal Women’s Association (ANWA), Nepal

Community Development Services, Sri Lanka

Migrant Care, Indonesia

International Network on Labour and Development, Malaysia

Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), Singapore

Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), Singapore

Asian Migrant Center (AMC), Hong Kong

International Justice Network, USA

Solidarity Center, USA

29 May, 2008

Amnesty International Report 2008:Attacked on Human rights defenders and Activitis

KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN Head of State King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Head of government Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Death penalty retentionist Population 0.8 million Life expectancy 75.2 years Under-5 mortality (m/f) 15/15 per 1,000 Adult literacy 86.5 per cent

Isolated incidents of repression of human rights defenders, journalists and internet sites were reported. Courts passed two death sentences, but no one was executed.

Background In February demonstrations were held after three people were arrested and protesters clashed with security forces. The three arrested – ‘Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, President of the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights; Hassan Mshaima’, a former political prisoner and Head of the radical Shi’a opposition al-Haq Movement; and Shakir Mohammed ‘Abdul Hussain – were charged with “inciting hatred and seeking to change the political system by illegal means” and other offences. They were released on bail the day of their arrest. Court proceedings against them were later dropped at the request of King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa.

In September Bahrain acceded to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President of the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was reportedly harassed: he was followed and he and his wife received offensive anonymous phone calls, letters and messages. In March, he was summoned to appear before the Criminal Investigation Directorate apparently for distributing documents related to a report issued in September 2006 by Salah al-Bandar, a UK national and former adviser to the Bahraini government. The report alleged that officials had planned to manipulate the outcome of the November 2006 parliamentary elections at the expense of the majority Shi’a Muslim population. In October 2006 the High Criminal Court had banned publication of any information related to Salah al-Bandar’s report. No charges were known to have been brought against Nabeel Rajab. Freedom of expression In May some 200 Bahraini journalists held protests outside the Council of Representatives (parliament) calling for greater press freedom and an end to prison terms for press-related offences. The same month the Shura (Consultative) Council unanimously passed a new draft law that excluded prison terms for press-related offences. However, the law had not been promulgated by the end of the year.

At least 22 internet sites, including some known for carrying criticism of the government, remained banned.

The local media was reportedly banned from interviewing Ghada Jamsheer, a woman human rights defender.

‘War on terror’ The two remaining Bahraini nationals still held by the US authorities at Guantánamo – Juma’a Mohammed al-Dossari, a Saudi Arabia resident, and ‘Issa ‘Abdullah al-Murbati – were returned to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in July and August respectively. They were released uncharged by the Saudi Arabian and Bahraini authorities.

Counter-terrorism At least 11 people were reportedly arrested under Bahrain’s 2006 counter-terrorism law. Six people were released but five, detained in August, were still being held at the end of the year. They appeared in court on 23 October charged with “preparing attacks against another country, membership of a banned organization and financing terror attacks”.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions Following demonstrations on 17 December and subsequently, about 45 people were arrested. Many were released within hours or days, but at least 20 continued to be held at the Department of Criminal Investigations and in the Central Prison in al-Manama. They were held in solitary confinement and kept blindfolded for lengthy periods. Some were tortured during interrogation by security officials, including with beatings and electric shocks to various parts of the body. According to reports, three detainees – Mohammad Khalil al-Madoob, Hussain Khalil al-Madoob and Hussain ‘Abd al-Nabi – alleged that they were tortured in the days following their arrest and had facial injuries apparently caused by beatings when they were seen by their legal representative.

Death penalty In January a proposed amendment to the 1976 Penal Code to repeal the death penalty for drug trafficking was defeated in the Shura Council. In November the government voted against a moratorium on executions at the UN General Assembly.Two people were sentenced to death for murder: an unnamed Bangladeshi man in January; and another Bangladeshi national, Mizan Noor Al-Rahman Ayoub Miyah, in April.

link:- http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/bahrain

28 May, 2008

GDN:Nabeel Rajab said the government's decision will create hatred between locals and expatriates

Vol XXXI NO. 69 Wednesday 28th May 2008 Clampdown 'may fuel hatred' THE decision to ban Bangladeshis from Bahrain will fuel discrimination against the country's expatriate communities, human rights activists warned yesterday.

Some plan to submit a petition to government officials to intervene and reverse the decision, while others say they will take up the issue at an international level. The now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights vice-president Nabeel Rajab said the government's decision will create hatred between locals and expatriates. "This collective punishment is a decision that was taken without virtually any research on its impact," said Mr Rajab. "This will definitely have a very bad impact on our country.

"However, we will be working with our international colleagues and taking up the issue with human rights associations and groups.

"I call on my government to revise its decision and correct its mistake before it is too late.

"I have been told by some Bangladeshis that they have been attacked by Bahrainis after the government's decision.

"They can't walk on the streets or go to work because the poor people are being targeted by Bahrainis, who now see them as enemies.

"The government has created a negative and dangerous situation with this decision."

He also said that the terrible incident that caused the ban should be looked at as a crime committed by an individual, regardless of nationality.

Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society regional and international relations director Faisal Fulad said that it would submit an official letter to Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Nazar Al Baharna today denouncing the ban.

"Only through a law passed through proper channels can a decision of this sort be taken," he said.

"This ban is against the constitution and we will write to Dr Al Baharna and to international human rights groups about the issue. We will do anything in our capacity to reverse the ban.

"Bahrain should start realising that the world is watching it closely now.

"It is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and the ban is in violation of one of the most basic international treaties because it discriminates between nationalities.

"On April 17, Bahrain promised the council to give equal treatment to expatriates.

"The government forgets centuries of hard work by thousands of Bangladeshis and decides to ban them all based on actions of a handful of people.

"Tomorrow they may ban all Indians from Bahrain if one of them brutally murders a citizen."

Migrant Worker's Protection Society (MWPS) action committee head Marietta Dias said an immediate ban on Bangladeshis was unfair and the government should have first issued a warning to the community.

"The decision is not fair to the tens of thousands of law-abiding Bangladeshis who are earning a decent living in Bahrain," she said.

"I was very disappointed when I heard the news and it came as a surprise. They could have at least given the community a warning first.

"People will just panic now and there will be unseen consequences.

"If there is a crime committed by anyone, the matter should go through court."

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/story.asp?Article=218639&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=31069

27 May, 2008

Bahrain: Detention and torture of seven human rights defenders

Bahrain: Detention and torture of seven human rights defenders By ting.ting Created 2008/05/27 - 15:41 Front Line is deeply concerned following reports of the detention and torture of Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan and Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed of the Unemployment Committee; Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor of the Committee for Detainees; Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor of the Committee Against High Prices; and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan of the Committee Against One Percent. These human rights defenders are active defenders of labour rights in Bahrain. Further Information Posted 27/05/2008 On 15 April 2008, at approximately 12:30am, Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan turned themselves in to Hamad Town Police Station. On 11 April 2008, at approximately 11pm, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan was arrested at his home. On 10 April 2008, at approximately 1pm, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor was arrested at his home. On 9 April 2008, at approximately 3:30am, Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor was arrested at his home. On 31 March 2008, at approximately 1pm, Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed was arrested at work. According to reports the houses of the detainees were forcibly entered and raided without court orders by Special Security Forces (SSF) and armed militia members. Residents were allegedly insulted, private belongings - such as mobile phones and laptops - were confiscated, and money was taken.

Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor were arrested at their homes whilst, in some cases where the wanted human rights defenders were not at home, summons notices were left for them to report to Hamad Town Police Station. Some of the human rights defenders' family members were held hostage until the summons notices were answered.

Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan were detained under accusations of burning a State militia car on 9 April 2008. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed, Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor were detained under accusations of starting a fire on the farm of Shaikh Abdulaziz Atteyatallah on 6 March 2008. Shaikh Abdulaziz Atteyatallah is a former head of the National Security Bureau and is allegedly known locally for involvement in torture incidents during the 1990s.

The human rights defenders have reportedly been held in solitary confinement, deprived of sleep and food, beaten and tortured. A form of torture known as Falaqah has been used against them whereby a hard stick is inserted between the detainee's cuffed hands and tied legs, and then used to suspend the detainee in the air for hours with his legs facing upwards and his blind-folded head facing downwards. The detainee's feet are then beaten until he makes a confession or loses consciousness. The detainees have been denied access to their lawyers. Applications for family visits have involved lengthy waits and restricted conditions.

In recent times there have been other cases of detention and torture of human rights defenders in Bahrain. On 21 December 2007, Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal was arrested by SSF members in relation to peaceful demonstrations marking the 13th anniversary of the death of two young Shiite men who were killed by Security Forces while participating in a demonstration calling for the restoration of democracy. Between 21 and 27 December 2007, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Hassan Abdulnabi, Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna and Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan of the Unemployment Committee; as well as Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais of the Committee Against High Prices; Naji Ali Fateel of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin-Al-Arab, a founding member of the Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee, were arrested in relation to the same event. They were accused of having taken part in an ‘illegal gathering and rioting’ and of ‘theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of a weapon and ammunition without permission’, and placed in detention. Some have been subjected to forms of torture such as Falaqah, electrocution, sexual abuse and sleep deprivation while being held in unsanitary conditions which threatened their physical and psychological integrity. Front Line has written to you on a number of occasions regarding the ongoing human rights violations connected to the seven remaining detainees of December 2007. Furthermore, on 25 December 2007, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was physically assaulted and verbally insulted outside the Office of the Public Prosecutors by a masked Bahraini officer and three SSF members when he was requesting permission to enter the building.

Front Line is concerned that the detention and torture of Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed, Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor, Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan is a result of their legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular their work to defend labour rights in Bahrain. Front Line sees this as part of an ongoing trend of harassment of human rights defenders. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological welfare of the above-mentioned human rights defenders.

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Source URL: http://frontlinedefenders.org/node/1450

Bahrain: Detention and torture of seven human rights defenders Take Action Please take action on behalf of seven human rights defenders in Bahrain.

Copy the enclosed letter and send it to the address provided.

Thank you for taking action on behalf of seven human rights defenders in Bahrain.

Target adresses: HM Shaikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain, Office of the King, The Amiri Court, Rifa'a Palace, PO Box 555, Manama, Bahrain

Letter: Your Majesty,

I am deeply concerned following reports of the detention and torture of Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan and Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed of the Unemployment Committee; Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor of the Committee for Detainees; Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor of the Committee Against High Prices; and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan of the Committee Against One Percent. These human rights defenders are active defenders of labour rights in Bahrain.

On 15 April 2008, at approximately 12:30am, Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan turned themselves in to Hamad Town Police Station. On 11 April 2008, at approximately 11pm, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan was arrested at his home. On 10 April 2008, at approximately 1pm, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor was arrested at his home. On 9 April 2008, at approximately 3:30am, Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor was arrested at his home. On 31 March 2008, at approximately 1pm, Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed was arrested at work. According to reports the houses of the detainees were forcibly entered and raided without court orders by Special Security Forces (SSF) and armed militia members. Residents were allegedly insulted, private belongings - such as mobile phones and laptops - were confiscated, and money was taken.

Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor were arrested at their homes whilst, in some cases where the wanted human rights defenders were not at home, summons notices were left for them to report to Hamad Town Police Station. Some of the human rights defenders' family members were held hostage until the summons notices were answered.

Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan were detained under accusations of burning a State militia car on 9 April 2008. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed, Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor and Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor were detained under accusations of starting a fire on the farm of Shaikh Abdulaziz Atteyatallah on 6 March 2008. Shaikh Abdulaziz Atteyatallah is a former head of the National Security Bureau and is allegedly known locally for involvement in torture incidents during the 1990s.

The human rights defenders have reportedly been held in solitary confinement, deprived of sleep and food, beaten and tortured. A form of torture known as Falaqah has been used against them whereby a hard stick is inserted between the detainee's cuffed hands and tied legs, and then used to suspend the detainee in the air for hours with his legs facing upwards and his blind-folded head facing downwards. The detainee's feet are then beaten until he makes a confession or loses consciousness. The detainees have been denied access to their lawyers. Applications for family visits have involved lengthy waits and restricted conditions.

In recent times there have been other cases of detention and torture of human rights defenders in Bahrain. On 21 December 2007, Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal was arrested by SSF members in relation to peaceful demonstrations marking the 13th anniversary of the death of two young Shiite men who were killed by Security Forces while participating in a demonstration calling for the restoration of democracy. Between 21 and 27 December 2007, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Hassan Abdulnabi, Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna and Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan of the Unemployment Committee; as well as Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais of the Committee Against High Prices; Naji Ali Fateel of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin-Al-Arab, a founding member of the Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee, were arrested in relation to the same event. They were accused of having taken part in an ‘illegal gathering and rioting’ and of ‘theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of a weapon and ammunition without permission’, and placed in detention. Some have been subjected to forms of torture such as Falaqah, electrocution, sexual abuse and sleep deprivation while being held in unsanitary conditions which threatened their physical and psychological integrity. I have written to you on a number of occasions regarding the ongoing human rights violations connected to the seven remaining detainees of December 2007. Furthermore, on 25 December 2007, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was physically assaulted and verbally insulted outside the Office of the Public Prosecutors by a masked Bahraini officer and three SSF members when he was requesting permission to enter the building.

I am concerned that the detention and torture of Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed, Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor, Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan is a result of their legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular their work to defend labour rights in Bahrain. I see this as part of an ongoing trend of harassment of human rights defenders. I am concerned for the physical and psychological welfare of the above-mentioned human rights defenders.

I urge the authorities in Bahrain to:

1. Grant the immediate and unconditional release of Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Sadeq Jawad Ahmed Al-Fardan, Hasan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed, Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor, Habib Mohamed Habib Ashoor, Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor and Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan, as it is believed that they are being detained solely on the basis of their legitimate non-violent human rights work;

2. Initiate an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the reports of torture and ill-treatment of the afore-mentioned human rights defenders, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice;

3. Take measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the aforementioned human rights defenders while in detention and ensure their freedom from ill-treatment and torture, as is their right under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

4. Ensure that the treatment of the human rights defenders in custody adheres to all those conditions set out in the ‘Basic Principles for Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by General Assembly resolution 45/111 of 14 December 1990’;

5. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders and organisations in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

I respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals.

I would particularly draw attention to Article 5 (b) “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the rights, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (b) to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups”, and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

Yours sincerely

27 May, 2008

Detention of eight Bahrainis in Saudi Arabia without charges- Fear to be victims of political conflicts and sectarian tension

The continued detention of eight Bahrainis in Saudi Arabia without charges Fear to be victims of political conflicts and sectarian tension Bahrain government is urged to do more to guarantee the rights and safety of its citizens

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights - May 26, 2008 The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is highly concerned about eight Bahraini teachers who are still in detention for more than two months in solitary confinement in (Hayr Prison - Riyadh) which seems ad hoc to security issues, without any charges or the possibility to provide legal advice. The detainees are: Majid Abdalrasol Salman Al-Ghasra, Abbas Ahmed Ibrahim, Sayed Ahmed Alawi Abdullah, Issa A.Hasan Ahmed, Mohammed Hassan Ali Marhoon, Mohammad Abdullah Al-Moamen, Ebaraim Marzam and Mohamed Mahdi. The detainees and their relatives are in amounting concern since it is not clear what the nature of the case is and what is the fate of the detainees. It is reported that the Eight Bahrainis were on a visit to Riyadh during their work holiday. Through their return to Bahrain they strayed the road entering a military area, where they were detained. For the first four days, they were considered as missing persons and their detention was not disclosed after intense efforts of their families in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The detainees were allowed to meet their parents only after 55 days of their detention. Detainees have told their parents that they have been subjected to severe psychological pressure during interrogation on details of their lives. Interrogators accessed their emails, and pressured every one of them to get information about himself and his others friends. The detainees were also interrogated on their affiliations and beliefs - as they belong to the Shiite denomination where as the ruling regime in Saudi Arabia, belong to the Wahhabi-Sunni doctrine hostile to Shi’a. The press in Bahrain has widely sympathized with the detainees and members of Parliament urged Bahrain government to take action to release the eight citizens. The government issued a decision to work hardly for their release and Amnesty International issued an urgent action about the case, however, the fate of the case is still unknown. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) fears that the eight detainees are victims of the political conflicts and sectarian tension in the region. The BCHR calls on those concerned to do what ever possible in order to secure: • The immediate release of the eight detainees as long as there are no charges against them • Guarantee the rights of detainees in accordance with international standards, including allowing visits and contact with them regularly by parents and lawyers, and ensuring their right to legal consultations and the presence of lawyers during interrogation • A more serious and transparent action by the Government of Bahrain to guarantee the rights and safety of its citizens.

Attached: A detailed report on the Case and the measures taken by their Relatives from the date of their detention on 29 February 2008 until 30 April 2008.

A Detailed Report on the Case of the Eight Bahrainis Detained in Riyadh and the Measures Taken by their Relatives from the date of their detention on 29 February 2008 until 30 April 2008. ======================================

Date and reason for leaving Bahrain: The eight detainees left Bahrain in the morning of Friday 29 February 2008, heading to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through King Fahad Causeway using two cars, four in each vehicle. The aim is to visit tourist and ancient attractions in the Kingdom. The had a laptop, a paper tourist map of Saudi Arabia that had some of the attraction areas they had intended to visit. They also had a GPS to use with the map as they had no guide. Communication with the eight people was cut from the first day and their families were not able to communicate with them on their mobile phones which were on but seemed to have been confiscated from them as none of them replied. On the following day, Saturday 1 March 2008, the family of one of the detainees received a phone call from their son in which he informed them he would return to Bahrain “tomorrow” Sunday, hanging up without giving any other information. Causes of Detention: The causes of detention as mentioned by the detainees themselves when visited by some of their family members were as follows: The group set out to Saudi Arabia in a tour. They began to visit some tourist areas on their way to Riyadh. The group lost their way as they took a non-main road to Riyadh. Having walked for about one hour without knowing where they were, they found themselves in front of a military base, so they decided after some hesitation to go up to the guards and ask them to show them the way to save the time of looking for the way on their own, but they were surprised by a number of military soldiers rounding them up and putting them in an open area which looked like a stable for around 48 hours, then we were transferred to Al Hayer prison in Riyadh where they were kept in isolation each in a chamber not more than 2x3 meters in size.

Relatives are inquiring at the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs: On Sunday 2 March 2008 a delegation of the relatives of the detainees went to Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Manama, Bahrain, to inquire about the reason behind the disappearance of their sons as it may be the case that the Embassy of Bahrain in Riyadh may have been in possession of any information in relation to the fate of their sons. Unfortunately, though, the Ministry disclaimed receiving any information about the disappearance of their sons, but promised to do its best diplomatic efforts through its Ambassador in Riyadh to find out and then inform the relatives about the latest news. The Ministry was presented with the names of the missing eight, their personal and phone numbers as well as details of their two cars.

The Governor of the Northern Governorate meets the relatives of the detainees: On Tuesday 4 March 2008, a meeting was held in the Northern Governorate between representatives of the detainees and the Governor HE Jaffar Bin Rajab and two representatives from the Ministry of Interior, names Lt Abdul Rahman Al Rumaihi, Intelligence, and Khamis Abdul Rasool from the Interpol. However, the meeting did not yield any favorable result.

Relatives inquire about their sons through their friends in Saudi Arabia: Relatives were then forced to inquire about their missing sons through the people they know in Saudi Arabia, particularly via His Eminence Shaikh Hassan Al Saffar, the known Shiite Clergy in Saudi Arabia, who promised to promptly make a move to reassure them about their sons. In forty-eight hours, the relatives received a phone call from Shaikh Hassan Al Saffar telling them that the eight lost people are detained by the Saudi Authorities due to their entering a sensitive area. Subsequent to this bit of news the Ministry of Exterior in Bahrain made a break out of its silence through a few words to confirm the news without giving any details.

Representatives of the relatives meet the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs The relatives of the eight detainees forwarded a request to the Ministry of Exterior in Bahrain asking for a meeting with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Nazar Al Baharna which was set to be on Monday 10 March 2008. The result of the meeting was what had already been mentioned in the media by the Ministry that the eight were being detained by the Saudi Security Authorities in Riyadh without specifying their place of detention or the reason behind detaining them. It became clear that the information in possession of the relatives was more than that provided by the Minister. Three of the relatives’ representatives also held another meeting with the same Minister on 18 March 2008 without yielding any new progress except the repetition of promises to make practical moves towards freeing the detainees and that they would come back to their families in Bahrain.

Several Meetings and Repeated Pleadings The families of the eight detainees formed a committee to follow up their sons’ case and find out about their fate. The committee comprised eight persons, one to represent each family, and the committee started to hold meetings accordingly. For days after the detention of the eight people, the relatives received information that their sons were detained by the Saudi Authorities at Al Milz Prison after entering a prohibited area. However, the Bahrain Ministry of Exterior denied having any official information about the matter. Soon after, the Ministry released a very short statement through the official newspapers confirming the news. At this point the relatives began their appeals to the Bahraini political leadership at the top levels and via the newspapers as well as through written appeals signed by the representatives of the relatives of the detainees. Written and verbal appeals were sent to many characters of whom are: • His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa the King of Bahrain via Shaikh Nasser Al Osfoor, the Judge of the High Jafaria Court. • HH the Prime Minister through a verbal appeal forwarded by Shaikh Sadeq Al Marzooq (Al Jamri) who called for an urgent meeting for the relatives one day prior to meeting HH the Prime Minister, but the meeting was put off because of the sudden travelling of HH the Prime Minster, after which no other meeting was arranged for even after the return of the Prime Minister. • HE the Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, but the relatives failed to obtain a permission to meet them.

Moving from the inside of Saudi Arabia: As all doors were closed in Bahrain, relatives started to move towards the inside of Saudi Arabia, appealing for the top leadership of the Saudi Kingdom starting from the Custodian of the Two Holey Mosques King Abdulla Bin A. Aziz, Crown Prince HH Amir Sultan Bin A. Aziz, Minister of Interior HH Amir Naif Bin A. Aziz, HH Amir Salman Bin A. Aziz the Amir of Riyadh. A meeting was also organized between Mohammed Al Ghasrah the brother of the detanee Majeed Al Ghasrah and the President of the Human Rights Society in Saudi Arabia Dr. Turky Al Sidairy in his majlis in Riyadh on Saturday 20 March 2008, where written letters were submitted to Dr Al Sidairy to the aforementioned Saudi Leaders, but he advised they would be of no effect and that he is informed of the issue of the eight detainees. He thought their issue is simple and not complicated and advised that it would soon be resolved. Dr Al Sidairi promised to follow up the matter personally and inform the relatives of all new developments. The following day, Al Ghasrah talked to the Embassy of Bahrain in Riyadh to enquire about the matter but nothing new emerged. On Monday 31 March 2008, Al Ghasrah visited the Bahrain Embassy in Riyadh and from their he phoned the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Nazar Al Baharnah, to complain about the very slow process towards a solution for the issue, After which al Ghasrah received confirmation about the place of detention where the eight detainees were kept, so he promptly requested from the Embassy to work on quickly arranging a visit to his brother. He was lucky enough to obtain a visit permit scheduled to be on Wednesday 2 April 2008 at one o’clock in the afternoon, where he met his brother for about one hour.

Before the event of Al Ghasrah visit to Dr Al Sidairi and his visit to Bahrain Embassy, there had been another attempt by another representative, Mohammed Mirzim Al Haddad the brother of the detainee Ebrahim Mirzim Al Haddad, ln Sunday 23 March 2008. Al Haddad visited the Bahrain Embassy in Riyadh and reminded them of their responsibility to officially reply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but none of this happened. Al Haddad also informed the Embassy officials that Shaikh Hassan Al Saffar, the well-know Shiite Clergy in Saudi Arabia informed the relatives that their sons were detained in Riyadh. In its response to such information, the Embassy promised the relatives to restart work on the matter again.

Parliamentary groups join the efforts: Relatives avoided involving any political entities in the issue so that it is not utilized by some parties who might politicize it, which might lead to worsening it rather than solving it, leaving negative effects on the detainees. However, relatives, after all hopes were blocked, saw that the Parliament must play its role in this issue. The Al Wifaq Society were the first to be put in the picture. Al Wifaq was successful in generating a consent among most parliamentary blocs to produce a resolution with desire that obliges the Government to provide the Parliament with a detailed report on the progress of all efforts exerted to release the detainees and return them to their families.

Visiting the Eight Detainees in Al Hair Prison in Riyadh

Finally…after a long period of patient waiting the relatives received a phone call from the First Secretary in the Bahrain Embassy in Riyadh, Mr. Moosa Al Neaimi informing them that the Saudi Ministry of Interior has agreed to allow four of each of the detainees’ families to visit their sons, i.e. allowing a total number of thirty two people to carry out the visit. The families left Bahrain on Wednesday 23 April 2008 on a bus provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Riyadh Palace Hotel in Riyadh where they were met by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain Mr. Mohammad Saleh Al Shaikh who held a twenty-minute meeting with the families briefing them on the nature of their work toward the issue of their eight sons, with a speech full of reassuring and sympathetic expressions. However, the families could not hide their disappointment from the unenthusiastic handling of the issue by the Embassy and generally by the Government. After that the group handed two letters of pleading to the HE the Ambassador, one to HH Salman Bin Fahad, the Amir of Riyadh, and the other to HH Amir Naif Bin Abdul Aziz the Minister of Interior in Saudi Arabia. HE the Ambassador promised to deliver the two letters after knowing their content. The relatives also asked the Ambassador to take the opportunity of the existence of HH the Prime Minister in Riyadh to talk to Him and present Him with the issue and the Ambassador promised them to do so as well. After that the families started to set out to the prison to visit their sons, but only two families at a time taking around 100 minutes for each visit. To that the visit to the last two detainees was over around eleven o’clock before mid-night.

The eight detainees informed their families that they had been kept in isolated chambers of 2x3 meters. They did not know about the visit. It was clear they were not subjected to body torture, but their psychological state was not favorable. They looked exhausted and psychologically worn out. Their bodies looked emaciated and lean. Their weight is clearly at loss compared to their weights before they left Bahrain. Besides, their faces looked very pale and yellowish due to the pressure they had been put under in their isolation and squeezed detention. One of the detainees experienced a state of hysteria and hit his head repeatedly against the wall of his chamber in more than one incident and was taken to hospital where the physician stated he did not have any psychological problems according to the detainee’s responses to the doctors questions which were started with the following question, “Are you Shiite?”. Therefore the detainee was taken back to his chamber. Let alone the psychological torture they are subjected to during the investigation session as they are taken out of the chambers blind-folded and cuffed then subjected to a load of questions by more than one investigator. The questions covered even the smallest details of their families trying to put pressure on them to confess doing things they have nothing to do with. They were regularly promised they would be released, but soon again be put under more pressure by other investigators asking them the same questions to tell them nothing is recorded against them and so on. That had its effect on their faces and physical stat. They were especially surprised by questions relating to the smallest details. One of them was reminded by the investigator that he had traveled to Iran in 1997. He even specified the period he stayed in Iran in a very accurate manner which encouraged the detainees not to say anything which is not true at all during the investigation and that is what happened all the way through. They had confidence in themselves and had no motive to say anything but the truth. This confidence kept their responses to the investigator tact without any fear. They were not worried about question relating to their religion and where they send their Khums or which strikes they joined in Manama. Their responses were true and clear. The most worrying thing was the attempts by the investigators to illicit information and get confessions that the detainees had any kind of association with regional powers such as Iran or foreign organizations such as Hizbulla. All this investigation and handling of the matter did not show a hope of releasing them soon which put more pressure on them leaving them in disappointment and disparateness, forcing them to inform their families that they would carry out a hunger-strike until they were released and their suffering is ended. Furthermore, one of the detainees said that the Government of Bahrain shall be held responsible for his health if he carries out a hunger strike. The detainees mentioned to their visitors that they had been very disappointed at the slow method of handling the issue by their government. As soon as the next morning emerged the families returned to Bahrain after loosing their positive hope. They returned to Bahrain on Thursday 24 April 2008 without a feeling that releasing their sons would be soon.

The Statement Released by the Families on the Visit On their return to Bahrain, the families issued the following press release published in the newspapers on Sunday 27 April 2008:

Thanks to Allah whose trusts are never lost, and thanks to Him in sorrow and in joy. Now that Allah graced us with a visit to our beloved ones, we find ourselves obliged to publish the truth to the public as well as officials, in Bahrain and to the outside world showing and clarifying the following points to avoid confusion and unfavorable talks:

First: After the failure of the families to obtain a permission to meet HM the King of Bahrain, and after their failure to obtain a similar permission to meet HH the Prime Minister, the effort of the Bahrain Embassy in Riyadh was able to obtain a permission to visit their detained sons in Riyadh on Wednesday 23 April 2008. The Ministry of Foreign affairs provided a bus to transfer the relatives to and from Riyadh and provided their meals which was appreciated by all the relatives.

Second: The Embassy of Bahrain in Riyadh gave the choice to the families to either travel on Tuesday 22 April 2008 and the stay overnight in Riyadh at the expense of the Embassy or travel on Wednesday to meet the time of visit at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The families chose the second choice to leave Bahrain very early morning on the day of the visit without staying overnight.

Third: The bus arrived in Riyad around the noon of Wednesday 23 April 2008. The First Secretary, Mr. Moosa Al Neaimi, of the Embassy of Bahrain guided the bus to Al Riyadh Palace Hotel where the families stayed. When the relatives arrived in the hotel they were surprised by being told they would not be able to go altogether and only two families at a time and the families are staying in the hotel at the expense of the Saudi Ministry of Interior who will also provide two small buses to transfer the families from and to the hotel.

Fourth: Before commencing the visits to Al Hair Prison, the families were asked to go to the eighth floor to meet HE Mohammed Saleh Al Shaikh who was waiting for them in one of the meeting rooms in the eighth floor. He met them with excellent hospitality and respect and explained to them the nature of their actions toward their eight sons, with lots of assurance and sympathy to the families who seized this un recurring opportunity of meeting the Ambassador, especially that he would leave the hotel to meet HH the Prime Minister who is on a visit to Riyadh, to express their disappointment of the way the Government and the Embassy treated their issue. Having talked to the HE the Ambassador, the families handed him two letters, one to be submitted to HH Amir Salman Bin Abdul Aziz the Amir of Riyadh and the second to be submitted to HH Amir Naif Bin Abdul Aziz, the Minister of Interior to deliver them at his responsibility. HE showed his readiness to help and fulfill the request of the families. The families also asked the Ambassador to put the matter before HH the Prime Minister to be informed of the issue and he promised to do so during that twenty-minute meeting before leaving them to the airport to meet HH the Prime Minister. The First Secretary stayed with them to complete the process of the visits to the detainees.

Fifth: The first family visit to the prison commenced with two families only as planned by the Ministry of Interior of Saudi Arabia at one in the afternoon. And as each visit lasts for about ninety to a hundred minutes, the last families to visit their sons finished their visits around midnight. The trip to the prison took about half an hour and when the bus arrived they asked one of the families to enter a newly built facility at a time. When they became inside the other family was asked to go in but in a different room. They were nicely met by the members of the police in the building. They were checked and their belongings were kept at the entrance. Then they were allowed in. When they went in the families are surprised to see their son enter the room un cuffed and unblind-folded. His surprise was even more as he did not expect the visit. The rooms became in a mourning-like with everyone crying or weeping. And so is the case to all the visits.

Sixth: It was clear they were not subjected to body torture, but their psychological state was not favorable. They looked exhausted and psychologically worn out. Their bodies looked emaciated and lean. Their weight is clearly at loss compared to their weights before they left Bahrain. Besides, their faces looked very pale and yellowish due to the pressure they had been put under in their isolation and squeezed detention.

Seventh: One of the detainees experienced a state of hysteria and hit his head repeatedly against the wall of his chamber in more than one incident and was taken to hospital where the physician stated he did not have any psychological problems according to the detainee’s responses to the doctors questions which were started with the following question, “Are you Shiite?”. Therefore the detainee was taken back to his chamber. Let alone the psychological torture they are subjected to during the investigation session as they are taken out of the chambers blind-folded and cuffed then subjected to a load of questions by more than one investigator. The questions covered even the smallest details of their families trying to put pressure on them to confess doing things they have nothing to do with. They were regularly promised they would be released, but soon again be put under more pressure by other investigators asking them the same questions to tell them nothing is recorded against them and so on. That had its effect on their faces and physical stat. They were especially surprised by questions relating to the smallest details. What surprised the eight detainees was the very accurate information that is related to their personal life that one of them said that the investigator told him about his visit to Iran some years before and the exact period during which he stayed in Iran.

Eighth: Among the questions asked were questions in relation to the religious leaders and who they pay their Khums as well as questions about their participation in activities such as strikes and sit-ins in the streets of Bahrain. The responses of the detainees were very clear and honest without any ambiguity or hesitation. What worried the detainees was the concentrated questions by which investigators tried to illicit confessions from the detainees that imply their belonging to regional countries such as Iran or organization such as Hizbullah. All this investigation and handling of the matter did not show a hope of releasing them soon which put more pressure on them leaving them in disappointment and disparateness, forcing them to inform their families that they would carry out a hunger-strike until they were released and their suffering is ended. Furthermore, one of the detainees said that the Government of Bahrain shall be held responsible for his health if he carries out a hunger strike.

Nineth:

Each visit continues for about 90 to 100 minutes and then the family is ordered to end the visit, only to restart crying and weeping again with sadness over the faces of everybody, even more than the beginning of the visit. The visits ended with the detainees wondering more than ever before at the attitude and stand of the Bahrain Government in handling this case. The detainees were asking if they were not good citizens, or if they have ever done anything wrong to their country to which they gave all their loyalty and effort. “Don’t we have rights like the other citizens that oblige our country to endeavor to release us?” “Why are they treating the matter so coldly?” “Has our home country forgotten us so easily although we have thought of it without a stop?” All such wonders were uttered by the detainees in front of their families requesting from them to deliver their voice of suffering and complaint to the top people of the Country and at the highest levels.

Tenth: The families left Riyadh in the early morning of Thursday 24 April 2008 without even having breakfast. Their hearts were broken and their hopes and dreams vanished as they were driven back to Bahrain without a foreseen hope. In the bus back, everyone was even more sad than they had been when they were on the trip to Riyadh. They were crying and weeping all the way to Bahrain. It was easy to read on the gloomy faces the sadness, surprise and astonishment that was left on them by the worry and fear of the unexpected future of their sons.

Following the aforementioned details, we, the relatives of the detainees join our sons whose voices rise from their chambers demanding from our Government to bear its responsibilities toward our sons. We also hold our Government, the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain, responsible for what might the conditions of our sons be if they decide to go on a hunger-strike, or the possibility of fabricating any accusations to them as we know up till now that no charge has been claimed against them since February 29, 2008. All that happened was that they lost their way and found themselves in front of military base in which there is nothing wrong. They thought asking the way from a friendly military person would certainly lead them to the right path, and with all the innocence they had they approached the man asking for help. Instead of the courtesy they expected they were treated otherwise. We demand our Government to seriously follow up the matter and endeavor to release them and bring them home to rejoin their Country’s moving construction lead by HM the King of Bahrain, King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, May the Almighty Allah Bless Him.

The Families of the Eight Detainees in Riyadh

Relatives of the Eight Detainees Meet the Bahraini Human Rights Activist, Mr. Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja:

Having faced closed doors, the relatives of the detainees decided to resort to the Bahrain Human Rights Center to promote the case of their sons internationally. They coordinated with the President of the Center Mr. Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja in a meeting with him on Saturday 26 April 2008. Abdul Hadi requested from the relatives to provide him with a detailed report on all their moves and the progress of their moves since their sons had been detained until the date of the meeting him. A bilingual Arabic/English report was prepared and is ready for delivery.

Relative Meet the President of Al Wifaq bloc Shaikh Ali Salman:

A meeting was held on Monday 28 April 2008 in the headquarters of Al Wifaq bloc between the relatives of the eight detainees and the President of Al Wifaq bloc in the presence of the Member of Parliament, Mr. Jalal Fairooz, and Mr Mirza Al Qatary the Head of Follow up and Surveillance Committee. The relatives informed the President of the bloc of the development of the case, especially the recent visit to the detainees in Riyadh. Shaikh Ali Salman expressed his blocs’ readiness to move at all possible levels and respond to the relatives’ demands, promising to forward the case to HM King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa in the meeting scheduled between them. It is worth mentioning that this is the second meeting with Al Wifaq bloc, after the first meeting with MP Jalal Fairooz and Mr Mirza Al Qatary.

A Telegraph to the Custodian of the Two Holey Mosques:

The most recent actions taken by the relatives before writing this report is sending a telegraph to the Custodian of the Two Holey Mosques King Abudlla Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud the King of Saudi Arabia. The telegraph was sent in the morning of Wednesday 30 April 2008, 08:30 a.m. using fax number (17261152) of BAtelco.

That was a detailed report on all the movement and actions carried out by the relatives of the detainees since they were detained on Friday 29 February 2008 until Wednesday 30 April 2008.

Representatives of the Families of the Eight Detainees. For them: Mohammad Al Ghasrah 0097339416961

Ghalib Al Oraibi 0097339678631

26 May, 2008

GDN:MPs' proposal xenophobic SAY vice-president Nabeel Rajab

MPs' proposal xenophobic say rights groups Published: 26th May 2008 HUMAN rights and social activists have slammed a call by a group of MPs to ban Bangladeshis from living in Bahrain due to their alleged criminal nature. The activists said that if Bahrain implemented the move, it would be in breach of United Nations laws on human rights. They described the proposal as xenophobic and contrary to human rights laws, particularly after Bahrain won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

A group of human rights and other societies had then welcomed Bahrain's election to the council saying the country would now be scrutinised from close quarters by international organisations.

The now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights vice-president Nabeel Rajab described the move as racist and shameful.

"If a Bahraini commits a similar or even worse crime what action would they take," he said "Would they deport all Bahrainis from here?

"If an American or European had committed the crime instead of the Bangladeshi, would the MPs dare raise their voice against them, forget imposing a ban on their countries? This is pure racial discrimination.

"Something like this should not even be thought of or discussed.

"I am ashamed that this statement was made by a Bahraini citizen and above all an MP.

"Bangladeshis, like all other expatriate nationalities, should first be appreciated for all the contributions they have made to our country.

"Instead of that, our MPs forget the hard work and sweat of thousands of expatriates and plan to deport them all based on one person's actions.

"This recent terrible incident should be looked upon as a crime committed by an individual instead of his nationality being highlighted.

"He definitely did not commit the crime because of being a Bangladeshi or any particular nationality.

"The man should be given the appropriate punishment instead of a whole community being attacked."

Mr Rajab said that the Bangladesh Embassy has to take tougher measures in addressing the problem of their own citizens when dealing with host governments.

"Workers should be guaranteed their right not to be deported with prior review of their cases by an independent judiciary in order to ensure that their right to fair and due process is respected."

Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society regional and international relations director Faisal Fulad said that the proposal was against Bahraini culture and heritage.

"We are against this move because it is absolutely wrong to ban a whole nation for one person's crime," said Mr Fulad, who is also a Shura Council member.

"The crime was committed by a person and not a community, so the criminal should be punished instead of tens of thousands.

"People from every country have flaws in their characters in one way or the other, including Bahrainis. That doesn't mean that all of them should be sent back home.

"It is up to the court to decide the punishment and not MPs."

Migrant Worker's Protection Society (MWPS) action committee head Marietta Dias said that banning Bangladeshis was unfair.

"I don't think this is fair at all to the tens of thousands of law-abiding Bangladeshis who are earning a decent living in Bahrain," she said.

"Terrible incidents like this are expected in a society where different nationalities live together.

"What happened to the Bahraini victim and his surviving family is indeed very appalling and has no justification.

"But the punishment should be directed towards the person rather than the nation he comes from. "This is human rights violation and racial discrimination."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- © Gulf Daily News

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/story.asp?Article=218469&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=31067

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Ban on workers 'will spell misery' By Begena P Pradeep Published: 26th May 2008

ALL Bangladeshis could be expelled from Bahrain by the end of this year if a proposal by a group of local MPs is approved by parliament, it emerged yesterday.

The proposal by Al Asala bloc follows the death of a Bahraini who was killed in an attack after an argument with a Bangladeshi mechanic at a workshop in Suq Waqif, Hamad Town on Friday.

The worker demanded BD1.500 for welding machine repairs, but Bahraini Mohammed Jassim Dossary insisted on paying BD1, sources told the GDN.

Following a heated exchange, the worker attacked him with a grinder.

Mr Dossary reportedly lay bleeding on the road for some time before he was helped.

He was declared dead at BDF Hospital where he was rushed with severe neck injuries.

The man has been arrested and detained for seven days pending further investigation and medical, technical and police reports, the Public Prosecution said.

He is charged with premeditated crime and will stand trial after the investigations are over.

The seven-member bloc plans to submit the proposal to parliament when it reopens in October after the summer break.

They will set a timeframe to expel all Bangladeshi workers, currently said to be around 90,000 in Bahrain, and stop the recruitment of new ones.

"It has been observed that people from the Bangladesh community are involved in many ugly crimes and murders," bloc member Abdulhaleem Abdulla Ahmed Murad told the GDN.

"We don't want to live with people of such criminal nature. We have been receiving many complaints and requests from Bahrainis to get rid of Bangladeshis from their neighbourhood.

"They were worried for their lives and families.

"Now after the murder of the Bahraini, our people who live in areas that are mostly populated by Bangladeshis are afraid even to step out of their homes.

"Why should we live our lives like mice in our own country because of foreigners?

"Bangladeshis seem to have a culture different even from other Asian expatriates, which we find hard to adjust to.

"They are involved in murders, robberies, drugs and prostitution, which is a threat to social security in Bahrain.

"It is not possible to deport all Bangladeshis from Bahrain at once.

"So we will set a timeframe within which they should be sent home and all the while, no new Bangladeshi should be allowed into Bahrain.

"We are not against a particular group and not saying that all Bangladeshis are bad people.

"But this is their general nature and we don't know who is good or who is bad.

"If you look at the crime records of the past two years, Bangladeshis are the ones who have committed the most shocking and gruesome crimes.

"We don't want to risk any more of our people's lives and this decision is in the best interest of Bahrain.

"We need some time to study the after-effects of our proposal and need to discuss the issue with Bahrain's Labour Ministry and Interior Ministry.

"Then the proposal will be submitted to the parliament when it reopens after summer."

Mr Murad pointed out that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were successful in banning Bangladeshis from their countries and that Bahrain should follow suit.

Saudi Arabia's Labour Ministry had clarified in March that the decision to stop hiring Bangladeshis was in the housing and agricultural sectors.

This decision was taken because the quota fixed for Bangladeshi workers in Saudi was over, according to a top Ministry official.

The official's clarification came amid rumours that Saudi had halted hiring Bangladeshis altogether after media reports pointed to their involvement in most of the criminal acts.

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry in May last year said that a decision to suspend the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers to Kuwait was taken because of the crimes committed by them.

It has suspended hiring them citing increasing incidences of crimes.

The country had decided to ban Bangladeshi workers in 1999, apparently because a worker strangled his 90-year-old employer, stole his money and fled.

They lifted the ban a year later following the signing of a technical agreement between the two countries.

However, Bangladesh Embassy hopes the Bahrain government would consider their citizen's murder as a "discrete incident" and "not punish" the entire Bangladeshi community for one person's misdeed.

"We want Bahrain to consider this unfortunate and sad incident as a discrete one and hope the government will not choose to ban the entire community for one person's crime," embassy first secretary Ibrahim Muhammad told the GDN.

"There are more than 90,000 Bangladeshis living in Bahrain and everyone should not be punished for the actions of one person.

"We fully acknowledge that many of our citizens are engaged in various crimes which is frustrating for us and we plan to organise a motivational campaign.

"We will educate the people to report any of their problems to the concerned authorities instead of taking the law into their own hands even if they get desperate.

"Bangladeshis represent the second largest expatriate community in Bahrain.

"They are working here as engineers, policemen and other security personnel, doctors, teachers, financial experts, accountants, business management officials, hotel management staff, chefs and service staff, salesman, bakers, mechanics, plumbers, masons, carpenters, tailors, hairdressers, construction workers, cleaners, drivers, and domestic aides.

"Bangladeshis own or run about 200 grocery shops or cold stores, Internet call centres, small restaurants and saloons centred in Manama, Muharraq, Hamad Town and East Riffa."

Mr Muhammad also pointed out that Dhaka has not yet lifted a ban on their housemaids from travelling abroad to any country in 1998 to protect them from abusive employers, though the policy was implemented in Bahrain in 2004.

Embassy Charge d'Affaires Saiful Islam expressed his sincere sympathy and condolence to the family members, relatives and friends of the murdered Bahraini.

"The news has shocked and saddened me and the Bangladeshi community in Bahrain," said Mr Islam.

"There is no doubt that this sad event has created a very disturbing situation for the Bahrain government, its citizens and for us, the Bangladesh government and the Bangladeshis living here.

"I know that my condolences cannot relieve the pain in the minds of the bereaved family members, friends and relatives of the victim, but I can assure that the Bangladesh government would like to see the perpetrator of the crime dealt with according to law.

"Our government has also expressed shock and sadness at the news of the death.

"They convey their heartfelt sympathy to the members of the victim's family.

"We hope that bilateral relation with Bahrain would not be affected as a consequence of this incident.

"We assure all assistance in the trial process of the suspect. "We, the Bangladeshis, are thinking of them in their sorrow and they have our sincere condolences." begena@gdn.com.bh

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© Gulf Daily News http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/story.asp?Article=218474&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=31067

22 May, 2008

Pakistan and Bahrain must now live up to the standards set for Human Rights Council membership,” said Juliette de Rivero

UN: Sri Lanka’s Defeat a Victory for Human Rights Council UN Vote Upholds Council Membership Standards on Rights

(New York, May 21, 2008) – UN member states enforced the standards they established for the new Human Rights Council by not re-electing Sri Lanka to the body today. Domestic and international human rights advocates who had opposed Sri Lanka’s re-election to the council said the vote was a victory for human rights standards and for victims of abuse in Sri Lanka. Fifteen seats on the 47-member council were filled in the election during the UN General Assembly, in which six candidates competed for the four open seats reserved for Asian countries. The UN assembly elected Japan with 155 votes, South Korea with 139, Pakistan with 114, and Bahrain with 142 votes. Sri Lanka failed to win election with 101 votes, as did the new state of Timor Leste, which garnered 92 votes.

In reconstituting the UN’s leading human rights body in 2006, UN states required council members to “uphold the highest standards” of human rights and “fully cooperate” with the council. Sri Lanka was one of the initial members elected to the rights council in 2006, and strongly campaigned for re-election this year in New York, Geneva, and capitals around the world.

“We applaud UN members for rejecting an abusive state which has used its position on the Human Rights Council not to promote human rights, but to protect itself and other violator states from scrutiny,” said Steve Crawshaw, UN Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch and spokesman for the NGO Coalition for an Effective Human Rights Council. “The defeat of Sri Lanka this year, and of Belarus last year, will help discourage other human rights violators from seeking or winning election to the council.”

In opposing re-election, a coalition of Sri Lankan nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) said that their government has “presided over a grave deterioration of human rights protection” since winning membership, and “has used its membership in the Human Rights Council to protect itself from scrutiny.” A coalition of NGOs from all regions of the world charged Sri Lanka with widespread disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and a failure to cooperate with UN human rights experts. Three Nobel Peace Prize winners – Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina, and former President Jimmy Carter of the United States – also called on UN Members to oppose Sri Lanka’s re-election bid.

A coalition of NGOs also successfully opposed the candidacy of Belarus for the Human Rights Council in 2007, when Belarus was defeated by Bosnia and Herzegovina on a second ballot in the General Assembly.

“The rejection of Sri Lanka after a global campaign lends vital support to the victims of abuse, and sends a strong message to the government of Sri Lanka,” said Michael Anthony, program coordinator of the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. “We hope this result will open a new international dialogue with Sri Lanka that encourages the government to put an end to rampant violations by its security forces, and accept the assistance of human rights monitors from the United Nations. The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam also commit grave human rights abuses, but this does not justify government abuses, and the people of Sri Lanka would benefit greatly from UN monitoring of both sides to the conflict.”

There were competitive elections for the open seats allocated to two of the other five UN regional groups. To represent Western European and Others Group, UN members elected the United Kingdom and France, while Spain failed to win election. From Eastern Europe, Slovakia and Ukraine were elected, while Serbia was unsuccessful. A “closed slate” nominated by the African Group – Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, and Zambia – all won the “absolute majority” required for election to the four open African seats, as did the three countries – Argentina, Brazil, and Chile – which ran uncontested for the three open seats allocated to Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We wish that there had been competitive elections in all five regions, as contemplated when the council was established,” said Franck Kamunga of the African Democracy Forum in Nairobi. “However, all of the countries elected this year have the potential to make a real contribution to promoting human rights. The important thing now is for the new council members to put aside political considerations and alliances and use their positions conscientiously to protect the victims of human rights abuse.”

While taking no position on whether Pakistan and Bahrain should have been elected to the council, the NGO Coalition for an Effective Human Rights Council specifically called on both governments to implement domestic human rights reforms and engage more constructively with other governments on the council.

“Pakistan and Bahrain must now live up to the standards set for Human Rights Council membership,” said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “They must work to strengthen the council’s capacity to protect the victims of human rights worldwide, rather than allowing abusive governments to be shielded from scrutiny.”

21 May, 2008

Statement by National and Int. NGO’s On the Candidacy of Bahrain to Human Rights Council

Statement by National and Int. NGO’s On the Candidacy of Bahrain to Human Rights Council May 18, 2008 We, the undersigned, national and international NGO’s, urge the Bahrain government to commit, if elected, to achieve the following, during its membership period: On the international level:

1. to support broad and equal attention by the Council to all serious human rights situations around the world, including through existing permanent agenda items, special sessions, new mandates, and other Council mechanisms, 2. to play a constructive role in the UPR process, by conducting an equal and objective assessment of the human rights records of all states, regardless of regional, cultural, or geo-political ties, 3. to support the further strengthening of and cooperation with the special procedures, both country-specific and thematic, 4. to support the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, 5. to support further strengthening the effective role of NGO’s in the councel and its mechanisms,

On the national level:

6. to schedule the implementation of all voluntary commitment stated by Bahrain government in its report and its statement to the HRC Universal Periodic Review this year, 7. to remove reservations on the ratified treaties, namely; ICERD (art. 22) Individual complaints (art.14), ICESCR (art. 8(1)(d)), ICCPR (arts. 3, 9(5), 14(7), 18 and 23) Inter-state complaints (art.41), CEDAW (arts. 2, 9(2), 15(4), 16, 29(1)), CAT (art. 30(1)) Inter-state complaints (art. 21): Individual complaints (art. 22), CRC-OP-AC (art. 3(2)), 8. to ratify other core treaties and instruments, namely: ICCPR-OP, ICCPR-OP, OP-CEDAW, OP-CAT, ICRMW, CPD, OP-CPD, CED, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Conventions on Refugees and Stateless Persons, Protocol III of Geneva Conventions, ILO Fundamental Conventions No 87, 98 and 100, and UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, 9. to submit due and overdue reports to UN treaty bodies, namely: CERD periodic reports due in 2007, HR Committee Initial report due in 2007, CAT periodic report due in 2007, CRC periodic reports overdue since 2004, CRC-OP-AC and CRC-OP-SC Initial reports overdue since 2006, 10. to fully cooperate with UN Special Procedures including; responding to all letters of allegation and urgent appeals and questionnaires on thematic issues within the deadlines, 11. to fully implement the recommendations of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (visited BAH in 2001) and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (visited BAH in 2006), 12. to respond positively and promptly to any request for visit by UN Special Procedures, including the standing request by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the expected request by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, 13. to react positively and concretely to the CRC’s 2002 concluding observations including providing information on serious allegations of torture and arbitrary arrest of persons under 18 and to investigate effectively all cases of torture by police officers or other government officials and bring the perpetrators to justice, 14. to react positively concretely to CAT’s 2005 conclusions and recommendations including; the full insurance of the independence of the judiciary, the lack of a comprehensive definition of torture in domestic law, the blanket amnesty extended to all alleged perpetrators of torture or other crimes by Decree No. 56 of 2002, the lack of redress available to victims of torture, to ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism, including the law, complies with international human rights law, the inadequate safeguards available to detainees, including access to external legal advice while in police custody, to medical assistance and to family members, and lack of access by independent monitors to all places of detention without prior notice, notwithstanding assurances by Bahrain that it will allow access to civil society organizations. 15. to react positively and concretely to CERD’s 2005 conclusions and recommendations including; to take measures to give effect to the provisions of the ICERD, to incorporate in domestic law a definition of racial discrimination that includes the elements set forth in article 1 of ICERD, to provide statistics on cases of application of relevant provisions of domestic legislation concerning racial discrimination, the disparate treatment of, opportunities afforded to, and discrimination faced by, members of some groups, in particular the Shia, and to provide information on concrete steps taken to ensure that everyone, without distinction based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin, enjoys the right set out in Art 5 of ICERD, 16. to react positively concretely to CERD’s request to maintain dialogue with all civil society organizations, including those critical of its policies, and to requests and concerns of SRSG on the situation of human rights defenders including; that the decision to dissolve the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was an attempt by the authorities to silence human rights defenders in the country, the use of criminal charges such as “encouraging hatred of the State” and “distributing falsehoods and rumors” frequently implies the risk of suppressing legitimate free speech particularly when such charges are raised against a person for having denounced alleged human rights violations, the heaviness of the alleged sentences for defamation which is still a criminal offence in the country, to provide information on certain human rights activists and on any charges brought against them, to review the Law on Societies and other relevant regulations to ensure that Bahrain’s legislation adequately protects the right of persons to freely organize to defend human rights. 17. to investigate and provide redress and safeguards in regard to the shared concern of three UN mandate holders with respect to the alleged disproportionate use of force by the Bahraini security forces when dispersing peaceful demonstrators where many of the demonstrators were reportedly beaten and some required hospital treatment. 18. to take serious steps regarding notes by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, together with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, that; Bahrain does not have a codified family law that stipulates clear and equitable norms on divorce or child custody, judges can decide cases according to their personal interpretation of Sharia, reported failures to take into account clear evidence of violence against women. 19. to take serious steps regarding allegations raised by CERD and UNHCR of substantial prejudice against women migrant domestic workers, their working conditions, and their lack of protection under the Labor Code. 20. to respond positively and concretely to the concern and request by CERD and UNHCR that Bahraini woman is unable to transmit her nationality to her child when she is married to a foreign national, and that a foreign man is unable to acquire Bahraini nationality in the same manner as a foreign woman. To consider modifying these provisions and ensure that particular groups of non-citizens are not discriminated against with regard to access to citizenship or naturalization. 21. to establish the national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles as recommended by CAT and CERD. Signatories up-to-date:

International and Non-Bahraini NGO’s:

1. Democracy Coalition Project, Dokhi Fassihian, Acting Executive Director 2. Africa Democracy Forum, Franck KAMUNGA, Coordinator 3. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Moataz El fegiery, Executive Director 4. Humanus International, Dieudonné Zognong, President, 5. FORUM-ASIA, Giyoun Kim, UN Advocacy Programme Manager 6. The Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, Humberto Guerrero, Advocacy Director 7. Defense International – Norway 8. International Justice Network, USA 9. The Andean Commission of Jurists (Comision Andina de Juristas) – Peru 10. CARAM – ASIA 11. African Centre, Hannah Forster 12. The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists – Egypt 13. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive Director of 14. Yemen Women Journalists – MOF 15. TAKAMUL Youth Regional Network 16. The National Society for Democracy and Law – Palestine 17. Political Development Forum – Yemen 18. Earth Centre for Human Rights – Egypt 19. Yemen Organization for the defense of Rights and Freedoms 20. The Arab Centre for the Independence of Lawyers and Judges – Egypt 21. National Commission for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) –Yemen 22. Damascus Centre for Studies and Civil Rights – Syria 23. Yemen Monitor for Human Rights –Yemen 24. Human Rights First – Saudi Arabia 25. Women Journalist Without Restrictions – Yemen 26. Human Security Initiative – Sudan 27. Social Democratic Forum- Yemen 28. Conscience Institute for Human Rights, Palestine 29. Vo Van Ai, President, Que Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam 30.The Egyptian association for community participation enhancement 31.El Nadim Center for the psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence 32.Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies 33. Human Rights Watch

Bahrain National NGO’s:

29. Bahrain Human Rights Society 30. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights 31. Bahrain Women Petition 32. Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society 33. Returnee Committee 34. Democratic National Action Society – WA’AD 35. Movement of Liberties and Democracy "HAQ" 36. Bahrain Women Renaissance Society 37. Democratic Progressive Forum Society 38. Islamic Action Society- AMAL 39. National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture 40. Committee for the Unemployed and the Underpaid

12 May, 2008

BCHR: Media coverage of elections marred by self-censorship, political pressure, exclusion of voices and blocking of Internet

(BCHR/IFEX) - The following is an abridged 3 May 2008 BCHR press release:

On World Press Freedom Day: A Report by a Regional Group Calls for Reforming the Media in Bahrain; The BCHR Calls for Discussing Report Findings and Implementing Its Recommendations

The results of monitoring the media coverage of the last parliamentary elections in Bahrain reflected a number of pitfalls in terms of freedom of the media in fair coverage of elections. It aroused doubts about the fairness and credibility of radio and TV stations as well as the eight daily newspapers. Despite the relative margin of liberty in Bahrain in comparison with some neighboring countries, the report concludes that the media played a role in hindering democracy instead of supporting it and that there is a lot to do in order to reform this state of affairs. (. . . )

Summary of the results:

1. Candidates and political associations were prevented from accessing radio and television programs under the pretext of neutrality toward competitors. While, on the other hand, these stations were used during the campaign period for mobilization and propaganda in favor of the ruling elite and the government, which would influence the voter in favor of candidates close to the government. Programs were broadcast to undermine members of the opposition who did not have an opportunity to express their opinions.

2. On the main radio channels, the quantitative results in the report show that electoral mobilization and government news occupied 93% of broadcasting time compared to other topics, namely electoral information and competition. While on the main TV channel, electoral mobilization and government news occupied 71% of broadcasting time compared to other topics. Through qualitative results, the report shows that electoral mobilization is overwhelmingly used as political propaganda for the King and the royal family, which places indirect influence on the elections by strengthening the loyal candidates and weakening the opposition.

3. In regard to foreign press, the authorities adopted a clever yet manipulative approach, by selecting and generously hosting 200 representatives of foreign media, especially from Arab countries, and providing them with facilities and tours, which is reflected in their bias in covering the elections.

4. The authorities prevented access to Internet sites which are considered as dissident sites.

5. Although all eight daily newspapers are privately owned and declare themselves as independent and politically independent, in law and practice, they are subject to government influence and pressure. That is reflected in self-censorship and wide coverage of government news and achievements. ( . . . )

10. In conclusion, the media in Bahrain has failed to play an impartial role in 2006 elections of the House of Representatives. When radio and TV channels lack independence and refuse to take a campaigning role, and when the national newspapers lack impartiality and professionalism, and when candidates lack effective means to reach voters, that all reflects negatively on participation, the voter's right to access to information, and their ability to make the right choice, which would put under question the credibility of the entire democratic process. (. . . )

BACKGROUND: This report is the result of a project supervised by the Arab Working Group for Monitoring of Media Coverage of Elections in November 2006. It was undertaken in cooperation with International Media Support of Denmark, and was implemented by four national groups: BCHR, the Bahrain Society for Freedoms and Democracy Support, Amnesty International - Bahrain Group and Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society.

For the full press release, see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org, info@bahrainrights.org, Internet: http://www.bahrainrights.org