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.

25 Nov, 2008

BCHR Lawyer subjected to search and interrogation at the Airport

Bahrain: Fear of breach of Clients as well as BCHR Privacy resulting from copying information from his laptop and cell phone:

Ref: 08110700 The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, is highly concerned about the new practice of targeting and harassing human Rights defenders, as the Bahrain Authorities apprehended Mr Mohammed Majeed Aljeshi at Bahrain International Airport during which his cell phone and laptop were confiscated in a clear intention of copying information. Mohammed Aljesshi is a lawyer who has been involved in defending many cases of detained human rights defenders during the last two years in cooperation with the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the relatives of detainees. Mohammed Aljeshi told BCHR that on Monday 3rd of November 2008, he was stopped at the immigration check point leaving Bahrain to Geneva to attend a special training on UN mechanism, and was surrounded by 5 security men in plain clothes. They took him by force to an isolated room, prevented him from using his mobile, and took away both his mobile and laptop for over an hour. The men, who ar suspected to be members of the National Security Apparatus, were observed to be taken instructions over the phone from a higher authority. During the interrogation, Mr Aljishi was asked about his work as a lawyer and who planned his trip to Geneva. In protest their unacceptable actions, Mr Aljishi refused to answer any question unless the security individuals reveal their identity and the reason behind what they did. They responed that they have instructions not to answer any questions and that he could ask the Public Relations at the Ministry of Interior when all of this had finished. One of them told Mr Aljishi that he is on a special security list. After the interrogation, Mr Aljishi was given back his mobile and laptop, and was allowed to continue his trip. He noticed that reports in his laptop related to the BCHR were opened as well as a video film presented as evidence to the court case of five Human rights defenders, appealing against their prison sentence . Mohammed told the BCHR that he had been under surveillance in the last few months and was once prevented from attending a court session, an incident strongly protested against by the Bahrain Bar Society. Mr Aljishi was never stopped or searched when leaving or coming back to the country. BCHR contemplates that it might be the information, the security Authority thought he might have in relation to court cases or human rights network and activities that may have instigated this search and interrogation. "It is also a strong message to me and to other human rights defenders", he said. The BCHR calls for addressing the Bahraini Authorities that they: 1. Put an end to the surveillance and the systematic harassment of Human Rights activists in Bahrain. 2. Insure the protection of the privacy of human right activists, whether related to their personal information or that of their work with human rights organization. 3. Introduce a legislation to protect all human rights defenders on the basis of the UN declaration of Human Rights defenders.

24 Nov, 2008

Arrest of Former Prisoner at Guantanamo by the Saudi authorities

Former Prisoner at Guantanamo Bay

The Saudi Security Arrest a Bahraini Citizen on King Fahad Causeway

Manama – 23 November/2008 The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is deeply concerned at information received about the arrest of Bahraini citizen Abdullah Majid Al-Nuaimi on October 29, 2008 by the Saudi authorities as he was entering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia via the King Fahad causeway which connects Bahrain with Saudi Arabia. Mr Al Nuaimi was then taken to an unknown destination. Since his arrest he has not been allowed to meet with any family members, nor allowed to hire or meet an attorney. The Saudi authorities have as yet failed to release charges against him. Abdullah Al-Nuaimi (age 26), a father of two and an electrical contractor, was held at Guantanamo Bay with 5 other Bahraini citizens for almost four years after being arrested at the Pakistan-Afghan border in November 2001. He was returned to Bahrain as a free man on November 5th 2008. Al Nuaimi has previously described how he was tortured by the American authorities at the maximum security prison in Cuba. Since his release, security authorities in Bahrain have called him in for questioning on several occasions and until very recently he was banned from travelling outside the country.

It is worth mentioning that the release of Mr Al Nuaimi from Guantanamo Bay came after a wide-scale local, regional and international campaign for the release of all detainees in Guantanamo and in the United States' secret prisons spearheaded by the BCHR.

The campaign was established by liasing with a large number of attorneys in the United States to represent Arab detainees in US Federal Courts and by working with international organizations in order to pressure the American government to close down the infamous prison.

Joshua Colangelo-Bryan who has been instrumental in representing the interests of the Bahraini nationals was locked up in Guantanamo Bay said ”Abdulla spent years in Guantanamo without any due process. As such, I can only hope that he is treated fairly by Saudi authorities and released immediately if - as news reports suggest - he was arrested simply because he drove from Bahrain to Saudi”.

Initially the Bahraini authorities failed to play their part in pushing for the release of their citizens. However, following public pressure from the American lawyers, NGOs, and support from members of the House of Representatives the government began diplomatic negotiations after two years of the detainees' imprisonment. It should be noted that the Bahraini government has pledged its support in assisting its citizens released from Guantanamo in re-establishing normal lives on their return through financial support and help with social integration. However, since the return of the detainees the government has failed to fulfill the promise of support and rehabilitation it previously stated in official releases and the local media.

Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights stated, "While we fully respect and appreciate our brothers in Saudi Arabia, we do not accept for any of our citizens to be arrested in this arbitrary manner, which violates the simplest international norms. Today there are international standards and charters that should be respected as part of every country's role in the international community."

The Saudi authorities, in their arbitrary arrest of Mr Al-Nuaimi violated the ninth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile," and the fourth article as well of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment which states that, "any form of detention or imprisonment and all measures affecting the human rights of a person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be ordered by, or be subject to the effective control of, a judicial or other authority." "We are also raising questions about the role of the Bahraini government in this arrest. We call on the government to take immediate diplomatic action on behalf of one of their citizens," Mr Rajab added.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls for: 1. The Saudi authorities to provide immediate legal guarantees for the detainee, including allowing him to hire an attorney and meet his family and to release the charges for his arrest. 2. The Bahraini authorities, as promised earlier, to provide financial and emotional support to all the Bahraini prisoners that were released from Guantanamo Bay in order to facilitate them in maintaining a normal life.