25 Dec, 2008

Bahrain: Apprehending activists .. Using excessive force.. Dawn raids of Shiite villages by foreign Special Forces

Amidst security and political tensions, Authorities assert discovering another terrorist cell.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concerns about the deteriorating local security status due to excessive use of force, mass arrests of activists and demonstrators, and dawn raids to several Shiite villages using heavy armed foreign forces. An atmosphere of clashes between demonstrators and security forces consisting of foreign forces prevailed in all villages and areas of Bahrain after the Authority prevented a peaceful demonstration on December 17, called up on by the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture to commemorate the anniversary of victims of torture in the previous era. This date was chosen to retrieve the public memory about the two young men shot dead by snipers of special security forces during nineties of the last century, while they were participating in a peaceful march in the village of Sanabis calling for political reforms, democracy and restoration of the then dissolved parliament.

The clashes were concentrated in the villages of Duraz ,Sanabis , Jidhafs, Daih, North Sehla, Jabalat Habshi, Sitra, Malikeyya , Bani Jamra and South Sehla .The detainees, all Shiite, aged between twenty and thirty years. BCHR believes that the majority of detainees were targeted for their activities in popular and various human rights committees.

On the other hand, an official statement, released to local and international news agencies by a source in the National Security Bureau, stated that a "terrorist" cell was discovered consisting of a group of Bahrainis was "planning" to carry out a terrorist acts aimed at disrupting public order, terrorize innocent civilians and threaten their lives. The said statement did not disclose the number of persons involved or details of the case, but spoke of the intention of bombings, intimidation and murder of citizens and expats and did not publish any pictures or details of the nature of the explosives to be detonated or the bombing destinations.

The state- security Authorities in Bahrain have been known of fabricating fictitious security incidents or exaggeration what happens in protests or "riots" in the light of the security and political tensions in the country by its policies of discrimination against Shiites as well as other outstanding issues. In the past, the same Authorities had numerously portrayed some protesting activities as terrorist plans and spoke of cells and camps of terrorism, but failed to provide any evidence to support such claims and allegations. In 2006, the security authorities claimed that it had discovered a terrorist plot and a training camp to train terrorists in the village of Bani Jamra. But subsequently, it was found that the said place is an ordinary farm of no connection to security story. Rather, the whole issue became mockery and sarcastic comments in the press and public.

Another issue is the death of Majid Asghar Bakhsh in the village of Karzakan, a Pakistani national member of Special Forces who was on duty in civilian clothes in armed security patrol. The security Authorities initially claimed that his death was a result of fire set in the car by protesters, however, the forensic reports revealed later that his death was due to head injury and not burns, a testimony concurrent with that of lawyers confirming the death cause to be injury to the head. Doubts increased in the case when the lawyers brought up document proving that Bakhsh died on a day different from the alleged date.

According to the statement issued by the security authorities, the defendants in terrorist cell case would be prosecuted according to the internationally condemned Terrorism Code (Law No. 58 of 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts). The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism had condemned the law and so did many local, regional and international organizations. These would include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights and Frontline Defenders who oppose the law as it violates human rights principles and its international charters.

Until this moment, neither the families have not met with the accused youth as the Public Prosecutions (PP) conducts prolonged interrogations after midnight till early morning. It is believed that the PP is using this time to ensure that the lawyers and families do not meet with the defendants.

Bahrain is in a state of deep tension primarily because of the unsolved issues such as the systematic discrimination against Shiites, the detention and imprisonment of dozens of detainees, political and sectarian naturalization, and the constitutional issue.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for:

1 – Release of all political and human rights activists from jails 2 - Stop the systematic discrimination against the Shiites in all fields. 3 - Cessation of politically motivated naturalization and stop recruiting foreign mercenaries in Special Forces. 4 – Open a dialogue with the different societal and political groups to reach practical solutions to the outstanding issues. 5- Stop attacks on peaceful marches and demonstrations, which represent signs of the freedom of expression.

19 Dec, 2008

AP:Police disperse Bahrain protest

Witnesses: Police disperse Bahrain protest By REEM KHALIFA – 5 hours ago MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Witnesses say Bahraini security troops have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of protesters demanding Arab governments take action to end the closure of the Gaza Strip.

The witnesses say a number of people, including women and children, were wounded by rubber bullets and others overcome by gas. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals by authorities and could not give exact numbers.

Ibraheem Sharif, an opposition leader, says more than 10,000 people were attending the rally Friday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Mohamad Bin Dina denies rubber bullets were used, saying tear gas was fired when some demonstrators began destroying public property and throwing stones at police. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gpCxJx1tcrgtx8_fW0OmL4RjCysQD955RVPO0

Bahraini demonstrators assist a veiled woman who collapsed while riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who urged people across the Arab and Muslim world to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini demonstrators flee tear gas and rubber bullets fired Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah for Arabs and Muslims to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini demonstrators flee tear gas and rubber bullets fired Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah for Arabs and Muslims to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini demonstrators assist a veiled woman who collapsed while riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who urged people across the Arab and Muslim world to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

19 Dec, 2008

London:Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group

Bahrain seminar, 11.00 Thursday December 18, Moses Room

This week Bahrain was hosting a regional security summit, and the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, a close relative of the King like most leading members of the government, gave the keynote speech. He had the nerve to say that in Bahrain “individual rights are protected, and ….the fundamental principles of democracy, the rule of law, and economic freedom prevail”. As we have noted on previous occasions, one of the principles of democracy is that the people have the right to change the government through the ballot box, whereas in Bahrain, the electorate has no right or power to dislodge the ruling family. The Prime Minister, the king’s uncle, has held office as Prime Minister for 38 years, a world record. The king himself appoints all the Ministers, under a constitution that preserves the hereditary dictatorship. Another principle of democracy is that the majority decide public policy. Again as we have noted before, on Bahrain the Shi’a did constitute 70% of the population, but they hold less than 13% if the top positions in government departments. I say ‘did’, because the ruling family has a long term strategy of encouraging immigration by Sunnis and emigration by Shi’a, in a unique piece of demographic engineering that was reported by Human Rights Watch and others. In the census of 2001 there were 406,000 citizens, and this has leapt to 529,000 by the end of 2007 . Although there are reports on how this is organised from reputable international organisations like the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Asian Commission on Human Rights and the International Crisis Group, up to now there has been no systematic collection of the evidence, as I suggested when we met in August. I repeat: the conspiracy to change the cultural identity of a population is a crime against humanity that must be exposed, and the process of setting up a mechanism for receiving testimonies in confidence and publishing them on the web is now in train. Collecting and publishing this material has to be done abroad, since freedom of expression is another of the rights which are not protected in Bahrain. Last week a writer and journalist, Maryam al-Shoroogi, was charged with sedition for an article she wrote on discrimination in public employment, based on her own personal experience. Whistle-blowers who report inconvenient facts are generally liable to prosecution, but we do know how the conspiracy is organised from the report by Dr Saleh al-Bander, a British citizen who was expelled when he published details of the plan master-minded by Sheikh Ahmed bin Atiyatalla Al Khalifa, yet another member of the royal mafia. When three prominent human rights activists spoke at a meeting in Washington DC about the exclusion of Shi’a from higher education and public sector jobs, they were branded as ‘traitors’ and ‘stooges of the Unuted States’ on returning to Bahrain, and the Interior Minister, one more al-Khalifa, called for the enforcement of Article 34 of the Penal Code, which provides that a person who criticises Bahrain abroad is liable to three months imprisonment and a fine. I wrote to the Foreign Office Minister who deals with Bahrain, Bill Rammell MP, and he said our Ambassador was seeking a call on the Interior Minister to discuss his Article 34 demand, and also the wider issues of Bahrainis speaking at conferences abroad. But the British Consulate in Manama is an accomplice in making it difficult for human rights activists to speak at overseas meetings, by delaying the granting of visas, as with our speaker from the Bahrain Youth for Human Rights today. This is not the first time our invited speakers have had delays in getting their visas, and as there is no record of any of our speakers over many years complying with the immigration rules, one is tempted to suspect collusion between the consulate and the Ministry of the Interior. Our Minister said he wasn’t aware of the coordinated smear campaign against Nabil Rajab, chairman of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and his two colleagues, who attended the Washington meeting. Human Rights Watch, IFEX, the network of free expression groups, and Frontline Defenders, have all carried notices about the threats, and its clear that the regime’s plan is to intimidate human rights activists in the hope of silencing them without having to use more drastic tools of repression.

In the same way, the al-Khalifas use the monopoly service provider Batelco to block websites that deal with human rights abuse in Bahrain, including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The al-Bander report also shows that large sums of money are paid to organisations running websites and Internet forums which foment sectarian hatred, and to GONGOs – Government Organised NGOs – such as the Jurists' Society, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, the Bahrain First Society and the Bahrain Political Society. The regime is also spending money on a US lobby firm, Patton Boggs, to peddle the line that the Shi’a are getting a fair deal in Bahrain. Unfortunately, it has turned out that the UN’s Universal Periodic Review, which was intended to be the mechanism for identifying and rectifying human rights abuses in every country as its name implies, is ineffective. In the case of Bahrain, there were submissions from 12 ‘stakeholders’ with serious criticisms of inequality and discrimination; violations of the right to life, liberty and security of the person; maladministration of justice and breaches of the rule of law; denial of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and right to participate in public and political life, and the right to an adequate standard of living. But the report which followed doesn’t have a single word to say on any of these matters. It simply repeats some of the minor recommendations made by other member states, such as that Bahrain be invited to inform the Human Rights Council in four years time what plans it has to pass laws for the protection of domestic workers, and that the draft press law ought not to unduly restrict freedom of expression.

We just held the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was the occasion for much self-congratulation. It would have been far better, to have recognised the insufficiency of the UN processes it has taken the world all that time to create, and to underline the necessity of holding seminars like this, to allow genuine debate on the persistent and endemic human rights crises that still undermine many people’s freedoms. The submerged half of Bahrain’s population looked in vain to the new system in Bahrain, but until there are the fundamental changes to their own system of governance they will continue to rely on us to keep their flag of liberty aloft.

1. A gender perspective be included in the planning of the next stages, including the outcome of the review (Slovenia). 2. Initiating a public campaign with the view to removing reservations to CEDAW, ratifying the Optional Protocol and harmonizing national legislation with the Convention. Bahrain was invited to inform about plans in this regard (Slovenia). 3. With regard to the recommendation of Switzerland reflected in paragraph 35 above, Bahrain can conduct wide consultations between different partners, in particular the legislative authority, with the view of adopting a family law. 4. Bahrain could consider signing the Convention on the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance (France). 5. The draft law on the provision of citizenship to children where the father is not a Bahraini citizen would be considered a priority (Russian Federation). 6. With regard to the recommendation of the Netherlands reflected in paragraph 40, Bahrain would inform the Human Rights Council in the next review of Bahrain that will be held after four years on the status of adoption of new legislation on female domestic workers. 7. The draft press law ought not to be unduly restrictive on freedom of expression (Sweden). 8. Bahrain could consider inviting the United Nations to a workshop on follow-up to the UPR (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). 9. The positive dynamism of the information sector of Bahrain be recorded (Tunisia). 61. With regard to the other recommendations, the State under review offers the following comments: 1. While independence of the judiciary is preserved by the Constitution and laws, efficiency and performance are the main areas that the judiciary and the Government are working to enhance. 2. Forced marriage is a crime in the laws of Bahrain and is covered by the Criminal Code and the anti-trafficking law. Victims are entitled to remedies and protection in accordance with the laws of Bahrain. 3. Bahrain would consider inviting special procedures in the future.

18 Dec, 2008

The British Embassy in Bahrain prevents a human rights activist from getting a visa

Due to his Participation in a Human Rights Symposium in the British House of Lords:

The British Embassy in Bahrain prevents a human rights activist from getting a visa

Manama, Oslo – 17 December 2008 The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights -BYSHR and the Arab-Euro Center for Human Rights and International Law-AECHR express their deep concern regarding the measures the British embassy in Bahrain took in delaying the procedures of obtaining a visa for entering the British lands for Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati – president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights – in order to participate in a symposium held by Lord Eric Avebury – member of the British House of Lords [[i]] – regarding human rights issues in Bahrain. Mr. Avebury had extended an invitation to Mr. Al-Maskati to participate with a paper on human rights issues in Bahrain on 18 December 2008 at the headquarters of the British House of Lords in London.

Mr. Al-Maskati stated that he received the invitation on 30 November 2008, and on 4 December he applied for a visa and he attached the letter addressed to the British embassy in Bahrain to facilitate obtaining the visa. For 13 days he continuously and for several times kept checking with the people in charge of extracting visas, and he also checked with the visa department in the British embassy. This continuous follow-up did not give any results whether with a rejection or approval, nor did the embassy even ask for additional documents other than the invitation letter that was attached to the visa application.

Al-Maskati made clear that he informed Lord Avebury of the delay in obtaining the visa, and Lord Avebury told him that he would keep track of the case with the British Foreign Office to know the cause of delay in the visa.

Al-Maskati stressed that on 17 December 2008, he decided not to participate in the symposium, and he informed Lord Avebury of this decision, because he would not be able to travel within just one day, and in case he did get the visa he would not be able to participate because the next flight would arrive in London later than the time of the event.

The information of The BYSHR and the AECHR indicate that the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some of the members of parliament, who have a close relation with the executive powers in Bahrain, have played a role in preventing the participation of human rights activists in the event held by the House of Lords [[ii]]. The reports published in the local and international newspapers indicate the intensive meetings that were held between some of the MPs and the British ambassador in Bahrain, and between the Minister of Foreign Affairs with the British Foreign Secretary, where they discussed issues concerning Bahraini human rights activists who have obtained political asylum in Britain and the Bahraini authorities resentment towards the British government giving political asylum to Bahraini activists who the authorities accuse of committing acts of sabotage and riots in Bahrain, and also Bahrain’s resentment towards holding annual events on human rights issues in Bahrain, and the participation of international organizations in these events.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Arab-Euro Center emphasize that the British embassy in Bahrain does not carry out the EU guidelines on human rights defenders in the world. The European Commission of Human Rights has confirmed that the Union Member States should inform their embassies in countries of the guidelines on the definition of human rights defenders, and which emphasizes providing the protection possible to whoever carries out a job in the field of human rights [[iii]].

The BYSHR Rights and the AECHR stress on the following:

To provide legal and moral protection to the human rights activist Mohammed Al-Maskati, in order for him to practice his work in utmost freedom.

To investigate the details of the delay in extracting a visa for Mr. Al-Maskati by the British embassy in Bahrain.

The European Union should direct a straightforward criticism to the British government for the embassy’s lack of attention towards the EU Commission of Human Rights’ guidelines.

The British embassy in Bahrain should practice its diplomatic work in utmost freedom without any pressures from the Bahraini authorities.

The international organizations should criticize what the British embassy in Bahrain did towards Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati.

For further information:

In Bahrain, Nader Al-Salatna – Vice president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights

+973-3... or naderalsalatna@ byshr.org

In Norway, D. Abdullah Al-Salamo – Assistant director of the Arab-Euro Center for Human Rights

+33-65... or a.alsalmo@gmail.com

Organization’s number: 989 862 057

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[i]] Lord Eric Avebury’s website http://ericavebury.blogspot.com/

[[ii]] Statements of some of the MPs close to the executive power , Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs statements

http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7011832072

[[iii]] The EU human rights commission’s guidelines on the defenders of human rights

http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/GuidelinesDefenders.pdf

16 Dec, 2008

Bahraini Forces attack residents to prevent a demonstration calling for release of political and human rights activists

Using tear gas, rubber bullets and all means of force, Bahraini Special Forces (BSF) fiercely attacked the residents of village of Sanabis in an attempt to suppress a demonstration started from within the village after being banned from being launched from its declared position. The sponsoring group of the event composed of fourteen well known scholars, political, human rights activists publically called for a peaceful demonstration to be held last Friday. The demonstration is to call for cleansing the Bahraini prisons from all political and human rights defenders. Three days before the event, the sponsoring group informed the Authorities of its call and passed a written notification to the Capital Security Authorities who refused to receive it. An hour before the event, the BSF, armed and outnumbered, besieged the location where the demonstration should launch, preventing any body from coming close. Protestors then gathered in the nearby village of Sanabis and initiated a demonstration, towards the other end of the village, away from the location of the BSF. The security forces fiercely attacked the demonstration as it reached the main road, and showered it with rubber bullets and tear gas. Protestors reverted to the village main center, but the BSF chased them into Sanabis throwing big quantities of gas and the bullets, on the residents of the village. Protestors and people from the village re-acted by blocking main roads with garbage containers, setting fire into them . This situation continued until the evening, and resulted in the arrest of some detainees.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concerns over the violent attitude of the Authorities towards freedom of assembly, and the violent re-action by the demonstrators. A month ago, the same group held a sit-in in front of the Bahrain Mall, calling for the same demands and was attended by representatives of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, local committees defending the rights for detainees in addition to some political societies. The event lasted for over an hour without any clashes or misconduct. The act of the Bahraini Authorities is in violations to articles of the ICCPR, conceded by Bahrain on September 20, 2006, in particular that for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Article 19 of ICCPR states that "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference". Article 21 of the same covenant states that:"The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, 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

10 Dec, 2008

Journalist prosecuted for alleged sedition, slander, false reporting

Urgency: Threat (BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has learned that Maryam Al-Shoroogi, a journalist and writer from "Alwasat" newspaper, was summoned on 1 December 2008 by the Public Prosecution (PP) Office on charges of publishing an article which harms unity and introduces discrimination sedition between citizens in Bahrain.

Al-Shoroogi was interrogated by Nawaf Hamza, Head of Public Prosecutions, who decided to postpone the case until summoning the writer's friend to confirm the validity of the information brought up by the journalist in her article.

The interrogation focused on Al-Shoroogi's response to a Civil Service Bureau (CSB) statement, charging Al-Shoroogi with insulting the Bureau when she accused it of using discriminatory practices based on political affiliation. Moreover, the CSB accused Al-Shoroogi of slander and false reporting when she mentioned her experience of employment discrimination by staff of the Bureau when she and her friend were applying for jobs with the CSB.

In a statement to "Alwasat" newspaper, Al-Shoroogi stated that she told the PP: "There is discrimination taking place. I mentioned the details of my own experience when a friend and I applied for posts with the Civil Service Bureau."

Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR, stated that: "Prosecuting the journalist and writer Al-Shoroogi is yet another example of deterioration in the level of freedom of expression and journalism in Bahrain". He continued:"The Bahrain government should stop its systematic practice of sectarian discrimination against the majority indigenous Shia, rather than silencing journalists and writers who are highlighting a way to stop it."

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to the Bahraini authorities: - urging them to cease harassing journalists and writers who express their views on public affairs and issues related to misconduct, corruption and ill-practices - calling for the amendment or abolition of all legislation targeting journalists and writers who exercise their duty of documenting, reporting and analysing the conduct of public institutions - asking that they repeal the case against Al-Shoroogi and ensure that no reprisals are carried out against her as a result of reporting on discriminatory practices in the government - calling for an end to the practice of sectarian discrimination against the majority indigenous Shia

APPEALS TO: His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the King of Bahrain Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, 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

6 Dec, 2008

Petition of Activists and Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain

Friday, December 5, 2008 We, the undersigned, are activists and human rights defenders, who, individually and in association with others, strive for the protection and realization of fundamental freedoms as well as the economical, social, cultural, civil and political rights in Bahrain and abroad.

On basis of the Declaration articles recognizing the right and the responsibility of individuals, groups and associations to promote respect for, and foster knowledge of, human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels, known as “the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders” which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998. In particular, reference is made to Article 1, which states that

“Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”

And Article 2, which states that:” 1. Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political as well as other fields and the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all these rights and freedoms in practice.

2. Each State shall adopt such legislative, administrative and other steps as may be necessary to ensure that the rights and freedoms referred to in this Declaration are effectively guaranteed. Citing Articles of the International Covenant of the Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), acceded by Bahrain on September 20, 2006, and in particular, Article 2, which states: Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

We, thus:

1- Call upon the Bahraini Authorities to cease harassments of activists and human rights defenders, and eliminate all practices of its various organs, which are aimed at impeding the exercise of their rights and their role in the realization, protection and promotion of economic, social, cultural, civil and political Bahrain, including the introduction of those rights through the available means and mechanisms established by The United Nations and international human rights organizations.

2- call upon the Bahraini Authorities to stop activating and reforming all legislations promulgated during and post the era of the State-security measures, which confiscate the recognized basic rights and violate all norms, international covenants and treaties, including the rights of activists and defenders of rights.

3- Recognizing the important duties performed by human rights defenders, and the dangers they face, we call upon the current representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders to put Bahrain in the list of priorities and expedite the visit to Bahrain and meet with activists and defenders of rights there.

Signatories:

1. Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

2. Mohammed Al-Maskati, president of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.

3. Abduljalil Al-Singace, head of the Human Rights Office at the Movement Liberties and Democracy “HAQ”.

4. AbdulGhani Al-Khanjar, spokesman of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture.

5. Abbas Omran, a trade unionist and member of Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

6. Mohammed Saeed, human rights defender.

7. Layla Dashti, human rights defender.

8. Nader Al-Salatna, spokesman of the Committee of Unemployed and Underpaid and member Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.

9. Naji Fateel, member of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights – (Imprisoned for 5 years since December 2007).

10. Hasan Abdulnabi, the president of the Committee of Unemployed and Underpaid (Imprisoned for 7 years since December 2007).

11. Mohammed Al-Singais, Head of Committee to Combat High Prices - (Imprisoned for 5 years since December 2007).

12. Maitham Sheikh, Member of the Committee of Unemployed and Underpaid – (Imprisoned for 5years since December 2007).

13. Shaker Mohammed Abdulhussein - the Committee of Unemployed and Underpaid – Detained and under prosecution since April 2008).

14. Hassan Kathom Ebrahim Ahmed - Member of the Committee of Unemployed and Underpaid work – (Detained and under prosecution since April 2008).

15. Sadeq Jawad Al-Fardan - Member of the Committee of the Committee of Unemployed and Underpaid – (Detained and under prosecution since April 2008).

16. Ali Mohamed Habib Ashoor - Committee for the Defense of the Detainees – (Detained and under prosecution since April 2008).

17. Habib Mohammed Habib Ashoor - Committee for the Defense of the Detainees – (Detained and under prosecution since April 2008).

18. Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan - member of the Committee Against 1% - (Detained and under prosecution since April 2008).

19. Fadhel Abbas Mohamed Ashoor - member of the Committee to Combat High Prices – (Detained and under prosecution since April 2008)

4 Dec, 2008

Bahrain: Travel restrictions on human rights defender, Abdulghani Al-Khanjar

Front Line is concerned following reports received of a travel ban imposed on human rights defender, Abdulghani Al-Khanjar who was refused entry to Qatar at Doha Airport on 2 December 2008.

Further Information Abdulghani Al-Khanjar has reportedly been prevented from entering Qatar and the other Gulf States due to his presence on a list due that includes his name, along with other activists, that was issued and distributed by the Ministry of Interior in Bahrain. Abdulghani Al-Khanjar is the spokesperson for the Bahraini National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture. Front Line believes that Abdulghani Al-Khanjar has been targeted as a result of his legitimate work in defence of human rights, in particular his work to help the victims of torture in Bahrain. Front Line is concerned that the travel restrictions that has been imposed against Abdulghani Al-Khanjar form part of an ongoing trend of harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain.

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1658

3 Dec, 2008

Visiting human rights organizations should be aware of arranged boasting and polishing press interviews

Local Authorities tailor human rights organizations visits to extract false statements about freedom of expression in Bahrain The sources of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) affirmed a funded scheme of inviting some of the regional and international human rights organizations to meet with Bahraini officials and extract statements from them which are used to polish the image of freedom of expression and press in the country.

In a recently published interview with Mr. Nedham Assaf- President of Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, he commended the level of media freedoms in Bahrain, and criticized those who disagree with the Government, without making a reference to reports by local and international organizations regarding the laws which violate basic rights, the constraining practices for liberties, the hard grip over media (TV, Radio and Press), censorship on daily newspapers and barring access to a large number of websites.

According to the published interview with Al-Wasat newspaper, Mr Assaf, who visited Bahrain through an official invitation by the Bahraini Ministry of Information, stated that “Bahrain has a good atmosphere of freedom of press, and a wide space for freedom of expression”.

Reporters without Borders sent a letter on June 26, 2008 to the Bahraini Minister of Information Jehad BuKamal stating that, "the Bahraini journalists are still exposed to imprisonment because of their writings, and the administrative decisions that permit the closing down of websites are still in effect." The organization concluded its letter by saying that, "the 5th article excludes electronic publications from the press law, although it does not seem necessary for us to have a special law for the Internet. It is possible to apply the Press Code No. 47 of 2002 for the entire print press, in disregard of the nature of the press. We finally remind you of our persistence on liberating the audio-visual sector. It is not possible to expand the space for liberties, which you are striving to achieve, without putting an end to state monopoly for this sector."

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls its colleagues in the Amman Centre for Human Rights Studies to look at the international reports on liberties in Bahrain, and not to fall into the scheme of promoting countries which violate freedom of expression, press and media. The Government, when inviting officials of these organizations to Bahrain, it tailors and arranges interviews which are with pro-government figures and institutions (GONGOS), while it prevents them from meeting with independent NGOs and civil societies.

30 Nov, 2008

Public Relations will not Resolve Sectarian Discrimination- Patton Boggs is the lobbying group for the government in the USA

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights notes the recent appointment of law firm Patton Boggs as a lobbying group for the Bahraini government in the USA. According to the Washington Intelligence Online Report, the Bahraini authorities have hired the Democrat lobbyists, "essentially to say the Shi'ites are getting a fair shake in Bahrain".

"Lobbying is of course a legitimate practice and powerful tool in the American system," Bahrain Centre for Human Rights President Nabeel Rajab said.

"What concerns us is that the issue the government will be lobbying on - discrimination against the Shia majority in Bahrain - and the approach the Bahraini authorities have taken towards this issue. "This action shows us that the government has full intentions to continue with its policies of sectarian discrimination, marginalization and disenfranchisement of a large percentage of the population.

"Instead of putting money into tackling these problems on a local scale by addressing issues of poverty, the national housing shortage, unemployment and discrimination, the government has chosen to put money into a public relations venture, presumably to cover up these problems in the face of the international community."

Facts on Sectarian Discrimination in Bahrain (taken from the BCHR Shadow Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination):

+ Discrimination against the Shia is institutionalized at the highest level of government office

+ Although Shia citizens account for at least 70 % of the population, they hold less than 13 % of top ranking positions in Ministries

+ A report revealed in 2006 by former government consultant Dr Salah Al Bander revealed the adoption of a national programme to illegally naturalize Sunnis from tribal groups in the region in order to alter the demographic make-up of Bahrain's population

+ Permits to establish Shia places of worship are regularly denied

+ The religious national curriculum does not teach about practices and beliefs of Shia Islam

+ In order to maintain sectarian segregation, Shias are denied the right to buy land in certain areas of the country, including the area of Riffa in which most of the ruling family have settled

Although the Bahraini government has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, it cannot be invoked in Bahraini courts.