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Amnesty International Report 2010 - Bahrain

BAHRAIN

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: 75.6 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 13/13 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 88.8 per cent

The government took steps to promote human rights and to improve conditions for some migrant workers. However, it continued to penalize criticism of the royal family and failed to investigate allegations of torture in 2008. One person remained at risk of execution.

Background

In November, a royal decree established a national human rights institution. Its mandate includes promoting awareness of human rights in Bahrain and proposing legal reforms. The government said it was considering withdrawing some reservations entered by Bahrain when ratifying key international human rights treaties. It also said it would introduce various legal reforms and provide human rights training to judicial and other officials. In March, the security forces shot and injured demonstrators in Sitra and al-Duraz who were protesting against alleged land seizures and for the release of prisoners sentenced after violent protests in 2007 and 2008. The authorities denied the use of excessive force and said the security forces had intervened when the protests became violent.

Justice system – trials and prisoner releases

Three Shi’a activists – Hassan Meshaima’, ‘Abd al-Jalil al-Singace and Mohammad Habib al-Muqdad – appeared before the High Criminal Court in March. They and 32 other defendants, some of whom were being tried in their absence, were accused of financing and planning acts of violence with the aim of overthrowing the government. Thirteen of the accused, who had been arrested on 15 December 2008 and later shown on television “confessing”, alleged that they had been detained incommunicado and tortured. They said they had been subjected to electric shocks, beaten while suspended by their arms, and held for prolonged periods with their hands and feet bound. Before the trial concluded, all the defendants were released in April under a royal pardon. A total of 178 prisoners, including political prisoners, were released under the pardon. The authorities failed to investigate alleged torture of detainees in late 2008.

Freedom of expression

The government remained especially sensitive to criticism of the monarchy. Amendments to the 2002 Press and Publications Law, proposed in 2008, remained pending before the House of Representatives. If implemented, the amendments would remove imprisonment as a penalty for those convicted of criticizing the King or “inciting hatred of the regime”. In January, the Ministry of Information and Culture blocked a number of websites, blogs and discussion forums, including some deemed to “incite hatred and sectarian violence”. Hundreds of websites were said to remain blocked at the end of the year. # ‘Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, a human rights defender, was charged under Articles 92, 160, 165 and 168 of the Penal Code in January after he criticized the royal family. He was accused of calling for the use of force to change the political system, inciting hatred against the country’s rulers and inciting unrest by deliberately spreading rumours. He was also banned from travelling abroad. He denied the accusations. The charges were dropped in accordance with the royal pardon in April.

# In February, Lamees Dhaif was charged under the Penal Code after she published several articles on alleged judicial corruption in al-Waqt daily newspaper. She faced possible imprisonment or a fine if convicted of insulting a public authority. At the end of the year, the case was still being investigated.

Migrants’ rights

In May, the government announced a revision of the sponsorship system – known as kafala – through which foreign migrant workers obtain employment. The new system, which came into force on 1 August, permits foreign workers to change their employment without obtaining their current employer’s consent. The kafala had previously prevented workers from changing their employers or leaving the country, facilitating exploitation and abuse of workers’ rights by employers, including non-payment of wages. The reform does not apply to migrant domestic workers, mostly women, who remain particularly vulnerable to abuse by employers.

Death penalty

In November, the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentence against Jassim Abdulmanan, a Bangladeshi national. He was sentenced to death in 2007 for premeditated murder. The execution was pending ratification by the King.

Amnesty International visits

In March, Amnesty International observed the trial of the 35 people accused of terrorism-related offences. The same month, an Amnesty International delegate participated in an international conference on human trafficking.

Full report (PDF)

WAN-IFRA World Press Freedom Review, January-May 2010

A WAN-IFRA review of the last six months of 2010, has reported that press freedom is under attack on every continent. On Middle East and North Africa the report mentioned that:

“Those in power throughout the Middle East and North Africa continue to resort to harassment, censorship, prosecution, fining and imprisonment of news media professionals in order to control information. Their hostility toward independent and opposition media has often proven to be ruthless.”

The report also noted Bahrain Ban on Al-Jazeera:

On 18 May, Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture and Information decided to “temporarily freeze the activities of the Bahrain bureau of the Qatari satellite news channel Al-Jazeera for having violated professional norms and for failing to observe laws and procedures regulating journalism, printing and publishing.” The ministry’s decision came just one day after Al-Jazeera broadcast a programme about poverty in Bahrain.

Today (Monday) the report was due to be presented to the WAN-IFRA board which is currently meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Read the full report

Source: journalism.co.uk

Bahrain Center Honors Human Rights Watch

Bahrain Center for Human Rights has hosted a dinner in honor of the staff of the Middle East and North Africa division of the Human Rights Watch. A plaque was given to the organization in tribute of their big role in shedding light on violations of human rights in Bahrain, particularly their recent report - Torture Redux - which supports the allegations of torture raised earlier by many victims during period of their detention. The honor ceremony held at the house of Nabeel Rajab – President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights– in the presence of the Head of Middle East and North Africa division, Ms.Sarah Lee, her assistant Mr.Joe Stork, and a group of experts and consultants in the same organization. In addition a group of members of the center and another group of lawyers interested in rights issues in Bahrain have attended the honor ceremony.

Selected Photos from the event (click to enlarge):

For all photos please visit BCHR Flickr Page

Social Watch Report 2009: Bahrain: Increasing numbers of millionaires, and impoverished lower class

The impact of globalization on Bahraini people

The Bahrain’s economy is growing, along with per capita income. However, along with the increasing numbers of millionaires the middle class is shrinking and the lower class is becoming impoverished. There are increasing confrontations and tension between the impoverished groups and security forces. A strategy to shield society from the negative impacts of globalization is urgently needed.

Social Watch Bahrain

Bahrain traditionally has had an open economy for trade, investment and exchange. Since its independence in 1971, the country has been a financial hub for international banks and financial Institutions, joint Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ventures and a transit spot for trade and commodities.

It has been a member of the World Trade Organisation since 1997, removing barriers to trade and investment and the movement of labour. Bahrain signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US which facilitates trade, investment and labour movement between the two countries. As a member of the GCC, Bahrain is negotiating with the European Union (EU) regarding a FTA and recently hosted an ASEAN-GCC conference which debated the prospects of concluding an FTA between the two economic groups. Like many other countries, Bahrain has been influenced positively and negatively by globalization.

This report will concentrate on the impact of globalization on the well-being of Bahraini residents and consider this from a number of angles:

Liberalization of the economy

The Government has been steadily pursuing economic liberalization, which means less and less state involvement in running the economy. This has in inevitably led to the State abandoning certain essential services it previously rendered to its citizens. It has also led to the opening of the market to competition between local and foreign companies. Furthermore, the reduction of restrictions on foreign residents has resulted in their occupying jobs traditionally limited to Bahrainis, such as legal counselors and auditors.

Privatization

In attempting to maintain pace with globalization and to be able to compete in an open market, the Government has resorted to privatizing a number of state institutions and services, including electricity and public transport. In addition, it has increasingly opened other sectors to private control, such as education, health care services, municipal services, administration of ports and air transportation.

Housing

The Government has increasingly lifted restrictions on the acquisition of real estate by foreign residents, especially for GCC citizens, which has led to a rise in ownership of land and property in residential areas. Bahrainis now find themselves at a disadvantage in terms of purchasing power compared to other GCC citizens. This has led to an acute housing crisis: the demand for state-subsidized housing is surpassing supply and there is currently a backlog of some 60,000 applications. As a result, many families have been obliged to move back into extended family accommodations, many of them congested and poorly equipped to deal with overcrowding.

Employment

Due to the lax policy control on the flow of foreign workers, especially cheap labour, Bahraini job seekers are in a weak position when competing for jobs that require specific educational backgrounds and skills. Foreign workers are also more willing to accept lower salaries and tougher working conditions. So, despite increased employment opportunities generated by a growing economy, unemployment is growing among Bahraini citizens, especially among women and those whose educational qualifications (e.g., liberal arts or sociology degrees) are not well matched with the new jobs.

Inflation

The inflation rate has increased steadily, exceeding 7% annually for the last few years. There has been no substantial concurrent increase in salaries, especially in the public sector. In view of this, Parliament agreed in December 2008 to a BD50 (USD 133) allowance/bonus to Bahraini families annualy, for the next two years. However, this does little to alleviate the impact of inflation for most workers, including the low-income foreign residents who are in the same situation, with wages failing to keep pace with inflation. The disparity between a minority with very high incomes and a majority with very low incomes is increasing. There are some Bahraini families who are living on BD 120 per month (USD 319). Although the Government denies that this kind of relative poverty exists in Bahrain, it has been identified by independent researchers as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).2

Changing social fabric

The steady increase in foreign workers, especially from Asia, over the last decade has resulted in the growth of the expatriate population from 37% of the total in 2001 to 50% in 2007, altering the fabric of society. Foreign workers tend to live in work camps, isolated from indigenous communities, in derelict areas of town and in small groups adjacent to indigenous communities. There is, in general, little integration of these workers into the public arena, in social activities and in NGOs. Moreover, the majority of these workers live alone, with no family, which is viewed as a departure from the social norm and has caused friction between the two communities, especially those adjacent to each other. In general, the lower standard of living and lack of social life among these workers generates an environment conducive to crime, especially sexual assault, burglary, theft and physical abuse/assaults. Poor living conditions, mistreatment from employers, such as the withholding of payment, often for months, has led many foreign workers to suicide, since they find themselves in debt and unable to send money back to families in their countries of origin.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that the Bahraini economy is booming with a high growth rate and increasing per capita income, the benefits of globalization have not extended to the population as a whole. There are increasing numbers of millionaires, and a shrinking middle class and impoverished lower class. The country has been witnessing repeated confrontations and tension between impoverished communities and security forces, especially in the villages, which is why the World Bank now ranks Bahrain low in political stability.3 There is need for a strategy to shield society from the negative impacts of globalization.

Source: Social Watch Report 2009

---- 1 Bahrain Social Watch Coalition is composed of Bahrain Transparency, Bahrain Human Rights Society, Bahraini Women Renaiscence Society, Awal Women Society, Sociologists Society Best.

2 UNDP’s Human Development Report 2007-2008 gives Bahrain 0.88 points on the Human Development Index, despite its impressive per capita income of 20,800.

3 World Bank, Governance Matters 2009: Worldwide Governance Indicators, 1996-2008 shows that Bahrain’s ranking rose above .50 only in 2003, after which it declined steadily until 2007, improving only slightly in 2008 to about .36. Available at: World Bank.

Bahrain: A Human Rights Defender of Senior Age Under Harassment and Travel Ban to Acquiesce to Security Authorities

To the left: Head of National Security Apparatus Shaikh Khalifa Bin Abduallah - To the right: Mr. Abdul-Redha Mohammed
6 June 2010

A 64-year-old Bahraini human rights defender with heart condition, Mr. Abdul-Redha Mohammed, was prevented from leaving Bahrain to London on June 1st, 2010 to rejoin his children. Mr. Abdul-Redha was told by immigration officers at Bahrain Airport that he is under no travel ban, but he will not be able to proceed to his flight pending his reporting to the National Security apparatus (NSA). Upon enquiry, the Ministry of Justice and the Chief Prosecutor Office have both told BCHR lawyer on June 2nd, 2010 that there is no official travel ban order against Mr. Abdul-Redha.

Over the last four months, Mr. Abdul-Redha has been under mounting pressure and constant movement surveillance by intelligence patrols as a means to acquiesce to a meeting with the Head of National Security apparatus, Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdulalh Al Khalife, at a place and time of the latter's choosing. Other pressure and harassment tactics included threatening phone calls but most importantly the sacking of his brother Ali Mohammed from his duties as a consultant at the Ministry of Information.

On May 1st, 2010, secret agents dressed as civilians came to Mr. Abdul-Redha's family house to seize him by force but he was not home. On May 12th, 2010, his brother Ali was summoned by the Security Minister, and was personally held responsible for not being able to persuade his brother Abdul-Redha to “cooperate” with the NSA. Two days later, Mr. Ali received a phone call from the Ministry of Information dismissing him from his duties there.

Background:

As a well-known political dissident in the early eighties, Mr. Abdul-Redha was targeted by the security authorities but managed to flee the country and escape arrest. However, his house was searched and members of his family were under continued harassment and reprisals in the years that followed, specially his wife (Rabab) who was subject to maltreatment and in one case was beaten on the head by a frying-pan. While in exile, Mr. Abdul-Redha was a co-founder and active member of the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners in Bahrain and later a co-founder and the Secretary General of the Denmark-based Bahrain Human Rights Organization. Since 2002, after the general amnesty in Bahrain Mr. Abdul-Redha has been visiting Bahrain regularly but continued to reside in Copenhagen. Since 2002 Mr. Abdul-Redha, has worked closely with the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights which, despite being officially banned in September 2004, remained active in Bahrain. Apparently, the authorities in Bahrain suspect Mr. Abdul-Redha of being behind BCHR activities at the international level.

Mr. Abdul-Redha told BCHR that the current situation has its antecedents in receiving numerous phone calls on behalf of the then Head of NSA, currently Head of National Security, to agree to meeting with them. About a year ago, the Head of NSA flew to Copenhagen to meet with Mr. Abdul-Redha in a futile attempt to buy him off through a bribery offer that will see him settling in Bahrain. Shocked and insulted, Mr. Abdul-Redha turned the offer down. Upon his most recent visit to his home country on February 5th, 2010, Mr. Abdul-Redha has been subjected to mounting pressure and severe and harassment for once again turning down the Security Minister’s offer of a private meeting at a private location at the upscale Amwaj Islands. Mr. Abdul-Redha remained unwavering in not accepting to meet with security officials in private, and that he would only agree to such meeting if it were in a public place or through an official summon should he be accused of any breach of law.

For more information please call: Nabeel Rajab At +97339633399 Mr. Abdul-Redha Mohammed at +97339122020

In order to Stop the Protests against the Policy of Discrimination and Naturalization and an Increase in Arrests

Excessive Force against the Residence of the Bahraini Villages

Shotgun Injuries on the body of Hasan Abdullah Hasan and Sadiq Ali Shotgun Injuries on the body of Hasan Abdullah Hasan and Sadiq Ali


30 May 2010
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses it great concern for the continuous escalation pursued by the security authorities in Bahrain represented in the violence and bloodiness of the authorities in confronting the growing public protests that prevail the Bahraini villages and areas opposing the authority's policy.
The BCHR received several complaints from sufferers and victims of this policy, the last which was the young Hasan Ali Darwish (20 years old) suffering severe injuries in the village of Karzakan, last Monday 17 May 2010, due to being shot by the Special Forces live ammo "shotgun" when he was leaving his grandmother's house and heading towards his house. The village of Karzakan had witnessed a protest demonstration that led to the intervention of the Special Forces which used live ammo to disperse the protestors. The shooting, which the youth faced, caused a punctured lung which led to internal bleeding. The 12 splinters he faced have not yet been removed. The local newspapers published a news piece stating that the Public Prosecution ordered the imprisonment of the accused for 30 days in custody[i][1].

Two youth from the village of Malkiya suffered from injuries due to firing live ammo "shotgun"[ii][2] at them on Tuesday 13 April 2010, when the youth Abdullah Hasan (18 years old) and Sadiq Ali Abdullah (18 years old) where walking to the baker in the same area, and were startled by the firing of live ammo at them which led to scattered injuries on the bodies of the two youth. Abdullah Hasan was injured with shotgun splinters on his hand, leg and chest, while Sadiq Ali was injured in the head and other parts of his body. When they turned to the hospital, the security forces were contacted and who interrogated them and kept them under security surveillance, then they were pulled out of hospital by force and taken to prison to face the charge of assembling.
The shotgun fires a bullet that explodes directly after firing it, only to offload dozens of solid balls that get scattered over a wide area in aim of hitting the largest number possible of targets, and this normally leads to the downfall of several wounded amidst the demonstrators. These solid blocks penetrate the human skin and stop at the bone, and it is difficult to later extract those blocs from the body, as there are still dozens of Bahraini citizens whose bodies suffer from the remains of these metal blocs since the nineties. It is also difficult to cure or remove these blocs due their small size, and there are many who got killed in the incidents of the nineties due to the indulgence in using this weapon which is intended at hunting small animals and birds.

In another case received by the BCHR which proved the excessive use of force by the Special Forces when dealing with the inhabitants of the Bahraini villages, two students from the Al-Jabriya Industrial School, and they are Mohammed Ammar Ahmed and Sayed Abbas Habib (17 year-olds), were arrested on 14 April. The bus carrying the students back to their village was driving near the concentration of the Special Forces stationed at the village of Karzakan, and it was filled with the sounds of clapping and singing, which angered the Special Forces and pushed them stop the bus and beat everyone inside and arrest the earlier mentioned students without any legal justification.
Some of the Bahraini village and areas are being besieged with Special Forces for several months, and these forces and the civilian militias belonging to them of foreign individuals brought by the security apparatuses as mercenary forces from several tribes in Syria, Jordan, Yemen or the province of Balochistan in Pakistan. These forces raid the residents of the Shiite villages and abuse them in a systematic manner, where the villages are stormed and live ammo, rubber bullets and tear gas is used, which leads to the injury of hundreds of people among them elders, women and children. Several properties, houses and mosques are damaged. The mercenary forces are used to prevent the political seminars and to attack the peaceful protests and demonstrations. The Special Security Forces use armed civilian militias wearing, in some cases, black masks and attack the villages. The description "mercenary" can be applied to these Special Forces that are selected in a structured manner, and from certain countries; to be used security and military wise outside the usual framework of the security and military apparatuses of the country. These "mercenaries" are granted materialistic and job privileges that the citizens working in the same unit and same jobs do not get. They are given housing, travel tickets and are thrown into political disagreements which they are not a part of, and they are trained in a special manner to raid the villages and humiliate the residents. The votes of these mercenaries were also used, after actively granting them the Bahraini citizenship, to marginalize the parliamentary elections of 2006, which is a matter that is expected to be repeated in the coming elections. The BCHR believes that targeting the Shiite villages on a regular daily basis by using foreign forces from a Sunni sectarian background, aims at creating sedition between the people of the country of the two sects, and to deepen the differences and sectarian tensions. This policy was met with utter rejection by the civil society institutions and human rights organizations in Bahrain.
In a fourth incident that happened in Sitra area, north of the capital, a car carrying two youth who are Yousif Ahmed Hubail (28 years old) and Hasan Ahmed Hubail (21 years old) – the brothers of one of the wanted – was stopped by civilians in order to arrest them without knowing the reason behind that. When the two youth refused to obey these civilians due to them being unaware of their identities, the civilians severely beat the two youth. It later turned out that these civilian forces had come to arrest their brother (Hubail), and who was not in the car they were driving.

Yousif Hubail and the Bruises Caused by Beating Yousif Hubail and the Bruises Caused by Beating


On the same day, the two youth submitted a notification to the Sitra district police station; however they were surprised that the nature of categorizing this case changed from them being plaintiffs to defendants, on the charge of attacking security men while carrying out their official duty.
The majority of the villages and areas of Bahrain witness rising public tensions, and semi-daily confrontations with the Special Forces. The demands of the protestors are usually presented in stopping the systematic sectarian discrimination against the Shiite sect, whose pace increased since the arrival of the current King to the throne, and to stop the policy of the political naturalization in aim of changing the demography to manipulate the results of the elections, and to stop the continuous arrests of the people of these villages, and to end the established torture in the Bahraini prisons, and to stop bringing, funding and training foreign mercenary forces. Also, of the reasons for protests is the increase of poverty level among the citizens and the pervading corruption amidst the ruling class and the class surrounding it, and the authority being a party in inflaming sectarian disputes between the Shiites and Sunnis, and marginalizing the role of the Parliament and excelling in humiliating the loyal representatives of people in it.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights recommends:

1. Stop bringing firearms of all kinds, and to refrain from the use of excessive violence against the demonstrators; 2. Stop bringing and exploiting the non-Bahraini mercenaries with a sectarian agenda in the various security apparatuses. 3. Set up an independent commission of inquiry, to investigate the issue of using excessive force, and the illegal exploitation of foreigners, and to bring the ones responsible for it to trial; 4. Initiate an actual dialogue process with the pillars of society to resolve the crisis the country is going through, and to stop resorting to security solutions.

[i][1] http://www.alwasatnews.com/2813/news/read/430319/1.html [ii][2] http://www.alwasatnews.com/2778/news/read/403243/1.html

Re-criminating the Innocents of Karzakan to Acquit the Criminals of the Security Apparatuses

13 May 2010
In a political sentence issued by the Supreme Appeal Court on 28 March 2010[i][1] to convict 19 defendants of killing a policeman from the Special Forces, the Pakistani Majid Asghar Ali, and imprisoning them all for 3 years, after annulling the acquittal issued in their favour on 13 October 2009.
All of the following: Kumail Ahmed Ali Mohammed, Fadhel Abbas Ali Ahmed, Mohammed Maki Ali Mansoor, Hussein Abbas Ali Ahmed, Fadhel Abbas Mohammed Ashoor, Abdullah Juma Abdullah Ali, Sayed Ahmed Hameed Adnan Alawi, Sayed Sadiq Ibrahim Juma, Sadiq Jawad Ahmed Jawad, Hussein Ali Mohammed Dhaif, Habib Mohammed Ashoor, Ibrahim Saleh Jaffar, Hussein Abdul-Kareem Maki Eid, Sayed Omran Hameed Adnan Alawi, Hussein Mohammed Ali Khatam, Habib Ahmed Habib Ashoor, Qassim Mohammed Khalil Ibrahim, Sayed Jaway Hameed Adnan Alawi and Hamed Ibrahim Al-Fardan were arrested at different periods after the Ministry of Interior announced in the newspapers on 10 April 2008, that a security patrol has been attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails by masked people, and which resulted in the death of one the patrol men and the injury of the others on 9 April 2008 in the area of Karzakan. On the next day, the same source announces that it was able to arrest the perpetrators. This was followed by a visit by the Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, to the Ministry of Interior where he met the Minister of Interior, the head of the National Security Apparatus and senior leading officials in the country, and declares that there will be no tolerance for the offenders. The Public Prosecution announces that the offenders were arrested according to the findings of the inquiries of the General Directorate of Investigations and that it had initiated their interrogation and declared that they confessed committing the crime. Quickly after that, the Bahrain News Agency and the Department of Foreign Media at the Ministry of Information, and the newspapers allied with the authority released the news and distributed it to all news agencies and world newspapers, and along with that suggested to those media institutes that the crime was committed by a group of youth from one of the Shiite villages. However, after the arrest that lasted more than 17 months, and under cruel detention conditions suffered by the defendants and wide violations and systematic torture practiced against them, and arbitrary detention in solitary cells for extended periods, and torture that was installed to the sentence, the High Criminal Court issued its ruling of acquitting all the defendants of killing the security man and which is a ruling that was later appealed by the Public Prosecution.
According to the sentence, the court was not satisfied with the prosecution witnesses statements – who are members of the Special Forces – and who did not show how the injury which had led to the death of the policeman had happened, especially that the forensic report who inspected the victim proved that the wounds on the victim's body was unrelated to the death, and that the chief medical examiner had said the cause of the injury was most likely due to the victim's fall out of the car after it had flipped over and his head hit the ground. Moreover, there is no physical evidence that proves the involvement of any of the defendants in that crime. The forensic report proved that the confessions made by the 19 defendants were extracted under torture and harsh detention conditions. The court ended its ruling by it not being assured that the incident, in place of the accusation, can be proven against any of the defendants, which is something that requires releasing them according to article 255 of the Code of Criminal Procedures[ii][2], which means they are not guilty of any of the charges against them.

Defendants Convicted Retroactively

The earlier acquittal sentence placed many of the ones accounted for the authority or the ones close to them in a great embarrassment, and some of their reactions even seemed troubled or rejecting the acquittal sentence due its rush, initially, in announcing its opinion and being influenced by the misleading media campaign carried out by the authority and the fake scare of the security apparatuses in the arbitrary prior conviction of the defendants, even before the court instigated the case. The hasty statements of those included apparent incitement against the defendants and a prejudgment, which created a hostile and negative atmosphere towards the defendants and which greatly affected them and their families and their areas of residence. Yet, this campaign contributed in restricting some of the articles of the Penal Code issued with decree no. 15 of 1976, and especially law no. 14 known for the Molotov law which was quickly passed with no review, taking advantage of the negative atmosphere and the charge and incitement accompanying the arrest. As a result of this tense atmosphere created by the authority since day one of arresting the defendants, it launched a violent security campaign against the village of Karzakan and the villages near it, the residents of these areas were collectively punished by using excessive force against them and which led to the injury or arrest of dozens of detainees since the arrest of the defendants and up to this day. In correspondence with this security campaign against the village, there was a press and media scare to incite against the defendants and their areas, or by rallying in a sectarian manner in the Juma Prayers, and a race between the Shura members and the loyal MPs or the societies close to the authority to convict them and seek justice. This campaign had a provocative and hate aggravating nature, and it lacked moral and human standards in most cases.[iii][3]

A few weeks after their first acquittal, the Human Rights Watch issued a report about torture in Bahrain "Torture Resurrected", and which is a summary of the work of several months of two experts, who carried out an accurate investigation in the torture allegations in Bahrain, and which concluded that torture in the Bahraini prisons is a systematic practice. It indicated that the detainees in the Bahraini prisons faced torture on the hands of the ones detaining them during the interrogation in order to extract confessions from them. This matter was met with a wide reaction from the Bahraini authorities, especially due to the mention of a group of officials[iv][4] in the security apparatuses in this report, and the report's recommendations to the Bahraini authorities to question those officials regarding the allegations of their involvement in the torture crimes against the defendants, and which is a campaign that ended in convicting the defendants and sentencing them to three years in prison. The head of the team of lawyers, Lawyer Mohammed Al-Tajer appealed the sentence on 26 April 2010.

Criminating Innocents to Acquit the Criminals

The BCHR believes that annulling the acquittal sentence of the defendants and wiping out the entire past ruling, and then convicting and sentencing them to prison is a political call that lacks integrity, impartiality and independence, and was influenced by the report of the Human Rights Watch as a reaction to the recommendations, and in addition to remove all suspicions from those officials, or any possibility of prosecuting them locally or internationally. The conviction also comes as a preempt to the embarrassments that happened to many state officials, as well as those counted for them such as loyal MPs and societies and others, of drawing prior convictions against the defendants and before initiating the case, and away from the principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a fair trial.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the authorities the following:

1. Release all the ones arrested in this case, and consider all the defendants innocent of the charges against them and to compensate them for all the violations practiced against them;

2. Bring the perpetrators, officials and executors in the torture cases to neutral and impartial trails;

3. Reform the judicial institute, including the Public Prosecution, for it to become more neutral and fair, especially in the cases that have a political and human rights aspect.
References

[i][1] http://www.alwasatnews.com/2761/news/read/388376/1.html

[ii][2] http://www.alwasatnews.com/2595/news/read/323456/1.html

[iii][3] Samples of statements that were released by some societies and political blocs or members in the Councils of Shura and Representatives, or some commercial or foreign institutes, and which were characterized by an arbitrary prior conviction or sectarian incitement, or by inciting hatred towards the victims or individuals

1. The Salafi Al-Asala Bloc: the criminal act comes as a connected link to the terrorist acts, and the last which was 30 people burning down the farm of Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Atyat Allah and destroying its facilities. It is clear that the person behind it is one in all these incidents, and that the security men are targeted. This criminal group wants to weaken them so that Bahrain drowns in violence and chaos. This incident is a betrayal of the homeland and people, and of the values and morals and is a blatant transgression of the human self. How is the forbidden and pure blood being shed in this savage manner?! And how do these terrorists deal with security men as if they are occupation soldiers?! We call on everyone to deal with the security issues in honesty and patriotism, and to call things by their proper names, the defendant who has been charged with a clear charge by the Public Prosecution is not called a detainee as was mentioned by some to mislead the people with these titles, and which is something that makes the ones tampering the security indulge in their transgressions when they find some one to support them with such manipulations.

2. The independent MP, Al-Asoomi (a former secretary in the office of the Prime Minister) – this appalling crime led to the death of a security man, and which is a criminal act that aims in first place at intimidating the safe people, and its perpetrators did not target breaching public order, but yet tampering the social and civil peace and to split the joint national front.

3. Al-Wefaq Islamic Society (opposition which has 17 MPs in the Council of Representatives): what happened of burning the Karzakan car and the killing of an element belonging to the Ministry of Interior contradicts the requirements of political differences which pushes it outside this circle, to a circle of suspicion and mistrust, which could suggest that the person responsible for it is seeking purposes other than political and national work which everyone seeks through political difference, and which does not invoke these rejected and condemned methods.

4. The Charter Society (close to the authority) – we at the Society express our condemnation and denunciation of this vicious assault which killed the citizen policeman Maijd Asghar ali. The National Action Charter Society stresses the danger of resorting to the methods of violence, terrorism and vandalism that are strange to the manners of the people of Bahrain.

5. The MP Abdulrahman BuMajid: we greatly regret what he had heard and saw in the media of grave escalation of insecurity in the country of setting fire to a security patrol, including the ones in it, and which led to the death of one security men who died of his wounds, after a patrol was attacked with Molotov Cocktails.

6. Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry: what happened is considered a blatant transgression of the law, and an unjustified security escalation. These unfortunate events are harmful to the reform process witnessed by the Kingdom of Bahrain and damages the economic development and the business environment and investment… indicating that we all support the words of the Prime Minister that taking lives and attacking properties is a red line that should never be transgressed… the Chamber and the entire commercial and business sector stress the need to stand firm in the face of this indifference and abuse to the security and stability of the country.

7. The Secretary-General of the GCC, Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al-Atya: the committer of these heinous acts targeted the loyal security men and committed a crime in which he betrayed his country and religion and intimidated the secure people and killed an innocent life. Al-Atya expressed his support for all the measures taken by Bahrain to face these criminal and outlaw acts, hailing the efficiency of the security apparatuses… and emphasizing that such acts are met with rejection by the entire GCC, as the security and safety of a country and its people is indivisible.

8. Al-Salafi MP, Al-Saidi (close to the Royal Court) – to what extent do these intend to drag the Bahraini street to… do they want a civil war that starts with a sectarian spark??... Do they want a new Iraq in Bahrain??... If they wanted that and which is something we do not wish for, by God they will not be safe and they will burn with their same fire, be wiser and more rational. We do not want an escalation and we do not want violence, we are trying not to be involved in it, and this is not out of fear or negligence by us, it is out of love to this country an in maintenance of its system and in obedience to the governors in command. These youth have been deceived and they have become criminals and murderers and an instrument of destruction in the eyes of everyone, and this dear country's achievements have been destroyed and its properties have been damaged, so where are the people of reason and logic and nationalism, where are the lovers of Bahrain.

Al-Saidi said that dragging the policeman from the car and being killed in cold-blood murder with stones… the blood of this poor fellow is hung in the neck of the ones that directed those murderers and terrorists… to become organized murder gangs, yes organized gangs that target each safe citizen in his country… do you accept that oh people of Bahrain? Where are the honorable of the country? Where are the defenders of the country? Have you nothing to say? Didn't God say in the Holy Koran: ((You are the best nation [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong)) Isn't this the vice? Wake up oh lovers of this country… we are questioned before our God and we are questioned also by our country.

[iv][4] From the criminal investigations: Colonel Yousif Al-Arabi, Major Fahad Al-Fadhala, Major Bassam Al-Miraj, Lieutenant Isa Al-Majali and from the National Security Apparatus Bader Al-Ghaith

Banning one of the Most Significant Historic Book in the History of Bahrain

The Ministry of Information Bans the Entry of the Belgrave Diary

25 May 2010

The Bahraini authorities, represented in the Ministry of Culture and Information banned the import and sale of the diary of the British adviser of the Government of Bahrain, Charles Belgrave (1926 – 1957), which is considered one of the most significant historical books that document a major stage of the history of Bahrain for the information included in it and which is published for the first time.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights had translated selections from the diary and which cover the period since his arrival to Bahrain in 1926 until he left Bahrain in 1957. One of the Lebanese publishing houses printed it in Lebanon almost a month ago, and a small quantity of it was imported by the Bahraini Al-Isma House, the quantity however was later confiscated by the Ministry of Information. The owner of the publishing house was informed by Mr. Jamal Dawood, Director of the Department of Publications, that the government decided to ban the book and confiscate the existing quantity.

The book, which is made up of more than 600 pages, is a historical narration of events and details of a diary written by the former adviser, on a daily basis, during his work as an adviser of Bahrain's ruler at that time, and then as an adviser of Bahrain's government. He lists important details about the country's development on all administrative, educational, health-wise and judicial levels; as well as his relation with the governor and his role in running the country's affairs. The BCHR believes that the causes for banning is due to two main reasons, the first is that the Minister herself had translated and published selections of the diary in accordance to the authority's approach and concealed anything that criticizes the ruling authority at that time, and which is something the book avoided by conveying all significant historical, political and legal events indicated by the adviser in his diary. The other reason of banning the book is due to some precise details and testimonies which the authority is working on absenting from the people, especially those related to the distribution of wealth and the historical context of taking over lands and the practiced sectarian discrimination, as well as talking about the political opposition movements and the methods of dealing with them. It must be noted that the majority of these historical events stated by the adviser in his diary were re-written by the authority in a different manner than its origin, and away from historical integrity and honesty that is required by the process of codification and documentation. It is believed that the government of Bahrain is keeping the original copy of this diary; however it refrains from publishing it. The diary was later leaked and published in several electronic websites by anonymous institutes or people. The selections are considered to be some of the major documents in the modern history of Bahrain, and which have never been published before. They are only a sample of the selections of his diary, and not the entire diary[1] he wrote.

Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave was born in 1894, and he held the position of a private adviser and adviser of financial affairs of the ruler of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa in 1926. He learned Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and he arrived in Bahrain in March 1926 as an adviser to the governor of Bahrain, with an annual salary of £720, and he became an adviser to the Bahraini government in 1933, and which is a position he held until he left. He had vast contributions in the administrative reforms of the government, as he worked in organizing the health, education, customs, police and judiciary sectors; as well as the infrastructure of the country. The book is selections of his diary, and which cover the period from his arrival to Bahrain in 1926 until he left in 1957. These selections are considered some of the most significant documents in the modern history of Bahrain, and which have never been published before.

The BCHR also expressed it concern last February due to the Bahraini authority's banning 25 of the known Lebanese publishing houses from displaying their books in the annual book exhibition which was held on 17 March 2010, and this is something that has been repeated in the last years.

Based on all the above, the BCHR demands the Bahraini authorities to lift the ban imposed on the diary of Charles Belgrave, due to its importance and value in documenting the history of Bahrain, and to lift the ban imposed on the rest of the prohibited books and to stop the practiced restriction against publishing houses and libraries from importing books that do not correspond with the views of the authority.

Check the Arabic-English Belgrave Diary (PDF)

To Conceal its Failure in Putting an End to the Spread of Poverty in Bahrain

The Ministry of Information Freezes the Activity of Al-Jazeera Channel until Further Notice

23 May 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its great concern regarding the extreme deterioration in freedom of opinion and expression, and which was lately represented in the Ministry of Culture and Information suspending the activities of Al-Jazeera Channel in Bahrain. The Ministry of Culture and Information justified this decision that the Qatari channel did not respect the professional rules and did not conform to laws governing the press sector, explaining that this decision will remain in force until a memorandum of understanding is reached that shall define the relation between the government of Bahrain and Al-Jazeera Channel.

A statement released by the Bahrain News Agency[i][1] on Tuesday 18 May 2010, confirmed that the Ministry of Culture and Information made a decision to temporarily freeze the activity of the office of the Qatari Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel in Bahrain, for the Channel's breach of the professional norm and not adhering to the laws and procedures governing the press, printing and publishing, and that suspending the activity of the Channel will continue until an agreement is reached on a memorandum of understanding defining the relation between the Ministry and the Channel, which maintains the rights of both parties according to the principle of reciprocity in the practice of journalism and media in two countries.

Al-Jazeera Channel had broadcasted at 5:30 pm on Monday 17 May 2010 an episode among the "economy and people" weekly program about poverty in the GCC countries and amid it a short documentary film about Bahrain, where the Minister of Social Development and a number of poor families in Bahrain were interviewed[ii][2]. The film shows the great inequality between the rich minority and poor majority.

While a large portion of Bahrain's population lives at or below poverty level, the topic of poverty is one of the matters that are considered forbidden to address, and the Bahraini authorities attempt to conceal it from the outside world, it is quite sensitive towards even mentioning it and refuses that any TV channel or civil institute discusses it. Bahrain had already expressed its resentment towards the American channel CNN due to it broadcasting a film about poverty in Bahrain[iii][3] in June 2007. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights was also closed down in September 2004 and its executive director was imprisoned as a result of holding a public symposium at Al-Aruba Club, where BCHR released a report and documentary about poverty in Bahrain[iv][4]. Bahrain's population is divided between an extremely rich minority and who are members of the ruling family or the ones surrounding them and between a poor majority which can hardly get food for a day from the assistance provided by the charitable funds or Ministry of Social Development.

The Bahraini authorities practice restricting the foreign channels and news agency and its correspondents in Bahrain through the Department of Foreign Media, and which is part of the Ministry of Information in terms of form only, while it really operates as part of the National Security Apparatus (Intelligence). This department is currently headed by Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, the former vice-president of this security apparatus, while its former president is Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa, the current president of the National Security Apparatus, both being from the ruling family.

The BCHR considers this ban decision or demanding Al-Jazeera Channel to discuss the memorandum of understanding with the government of Bahrain as lying down more stringent restrictions on this Channel just like the rest of the channels and agencies and their correspondents working in Bahrain, and which lead to the dominance of the Bahraini security authorities and maintaining its control over the media sector and excluding all the programs that do not coincide with its policy.

It is noted that while Bahrain is going through politically, economically and security-wise tense circumstances between the ruling regime and a wide spectrum of the Bahraini citizens and opposition forces, marked by human rights violations referred to by most news agencies or foreign channels and international organizations Al-Jazeera Channel, on the other hand rarely transmits any news about these tensions or human rights violations which are taking place on a daily basis in Bahrain and it has avoided mentioning it. It is believed, that this is due to the Channel's precautions from negatively affecting the relation of Qatar which is the host country of this channel with its neighbour, Bahrain. Whilst this Channel fails to convey issues of Bahrain, it has gained wide popularity among the citizens of Bahrain which exceeds the viewers of the national television of Bahrain, which has become a place of contempt and regret of people in the local newspapers.

The Bahraini authorities' persistence of restricting the media institutions contradicts its commitments as a member in the Human Rights Council and a party in numerous international conventions and covenants, on top of them the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights especially Article 19, which states, "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice".

The BCHR recommends:

- Lifting the imposed ban from the activity of Al-Jazeera Channel and permit the channel's staff to enter Bahrain

- Adjust the laws regulating these foreign channels and news agencies in such manner that guarantees its neutrality and independence.

[i][1] Bahrain News Agency BNA [ii][2] Alwasat news [iii][3] Poverty in Bahrain on CNN [Video] [iv][4] Poverty in Bahrain documentary (BCHR) [Video]

CPJ: Bahrain suspends Al-Jazeera operations indefinitely

New York, May 19, 2010—

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the decision by the Bahraini government to indefinitely suspend Al-Jazeera from reporting from the Gulf kingdom

On Tuesday, Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture and Information decided to “temporarily freeze the activities of the Bahrain bureau of the Qatari satellite news channel Al-Jazeera for having violated professional norms and for failing to observe laws and procedures regulating journalism, printing and publishing,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency. The statement went on to say that the suspension would remain in place until a decision is reached that would ensure that Bahraini media can operate in Qatar.

The ministry’s decision comes just one day after Al-Jazeera aired a program about poverty in Bahrain. On Tuesday, the same day the ban was announced, Bahraini authorities denied entry into the country to an Al-Jazeera crew who had come to interview a former United Nations official who was visiting, the news channel reported. Al-Jazeera noted that the freeze includes both the station’s Arabic- and English-language channels as well as the activities of the station’s Bahrain-based online correspondent.

“We are dismayed to see Bahrain attempt to muzzle the media simply because it does not like what is being reported,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program ‎coordinator. “Citing a lack of reciprocity from Qatari authorities for Bahraini media is not justification for these disturbing actions.”

Bahrain has banned Al-Jazeera from reporting from the island kingdom in the past. In May 2002, Bahrain’s then-minister of information accused Al-Jazeera of “deliberately seeking to harm Bahrain” and banned it from reporting. The ban lasted for five years, until it was lifted in 2007.

Source: The Committee to Protect Journalists