7 Mar, 2008

BAHRAIN SUMMARY PREPARED BY THE OFFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL- Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review - Geneva, 7-18 April 2008 25 February 2008 Bahrain This report is a summary of 12 stakeholders’ submissions1 to the universal periodic review. It follows the structure of the general guidelines adopted by the Human Rights Council. It does not contain any opinions, views or suggestions of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), nor any judgment or determination in relation to specific claims. Information included therein has been systematically referenced in endnotes and, to the extent possible, original text submitted has not been altered. Lack of information or focus on specific issues is due to the absence of submissions by stakeholders regarding these particular issues. All submissions received are available on OHCHR website. The periodicity of the review for the first cycle being of four years, information reflected in this report mostly relates to events occurred after 1 January 2004. I. BACKGROUND AND FRAMEWORK Institutional and human rights structure 1. On 11 November 2007, the Cabinet announced the creation of a Human Rights Commission in Bahrain but no appointments have been announced, as reported by the International Federation for Human Rights, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Human Rights Society (FIDH/BCHR/BHRS) in a joint submission. FIDH/BCHR/BHRS requested Bahrain to form a National Council for Human Rights based on the Paris Principles in consultation with civil society organizations pursuant to its pledge as a candidate to the HRC in 2006 and in application of the recommendations issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/BHR/CO/7) and the Committee against Torture (CAT/C/CR/34/BHR) in 2005.2 This is echoed by the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture (NCMVT).3 II. PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ON THE GROUND A. Implementation of international human rights obligations 1. Equality and non-discrimination 2. Bahrain has no codified personal status laws governing marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, as reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Family court judges, who are generally conservative religious scholars with limited formal legal training, render judgments according to their own reading of Islamic jurisprudence. They have consistently favored men in their rulings and are unapologetically adverse to women’s equality.4 Such concerns were echoed by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) and FIDH/BCHR/BHRS.5 In this regard, HRW recommended that Bahrain codify family laws and ensure that those laws do not discriminate on the basis of gender, that they afford women equality before the law, and are consistent with international human rights standards.6 3. ACHR reported that article 5(b) of the 2002 Constitution provides that in pursuit of seeking equality with men in political, social, cultural and economic spheres, women cannot break the provisions of Islamic Sharia laws.7 According to ACHR, gender discrimination in public life and employment is distinctively visible. Women receive significantly lower remuneration than their male counterparts and the average wage preference of men over women was 63 Bahraini Dinar (BD) in Government and 147 BD in the private sector. ACHR added that migrant workers, especially women domestic workers, are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude when faced with exorbitant recruitment and transportation fees, withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse.8 4. The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) noted that according to the Bahraini citizenship law of 1963, children of a Bahraini mother are deprived of Bahraini citizenship if their father is of a different nationality, violating article 9 CEDAW that “states parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.”9 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS made a similar observation.10 5. Despite the persistent demands by civil society organizations and some MPs to legislate against all types of discrimination, Parliament has also failed in such attempts, according to FIDH/BCHR/BHRS.11 The latter also noted that the Government continues to follow a de facto policy of discrimination on sectarian and political grounds and that there is discrimination against Shia’a in the Government administration. Shia'a represent 18% of high ranking jobs in all Ministries, though they make up two-thirds of the population.12 Interfaith noted that Shi’a Bahrainis, traditionally not allowed in the Defence and Security Ministries are now further disadvantaged in virtually all other ministries and functions of the state.13 ACHR added that strategic and important ministries in the Government continue to be held by Sunni royal family members.14 These issues were echoed by HAQ: Movement of Liberties and Democracy- Bahrain (HAQ).15 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS requested that the Government implement the recommendations issued by CERD in 2005 in this respect.16 6. ACHR noted that in the private sector, Shi'a tend to be employed in lower paid, less skilled jobs. Educational, social, and municipal services in most Shi'a neighborhoods are reported to be inferior to those found in Sunni communities. ACHR also noted that proposals to include the Ja'afari traditions of Shi'a Islam in school curricula continue to be rejected by the Bahraini Ministry of Education. ACHR added that Shi’a ar presented in a negative light in the Islamic curriculum of Bahrain. They are presented as non-believers. According to ACHR, Shi’a also face discrimination in matters of land allocation, provision of public funding, building permits and/orauthorizations for refurbishment in places of worship and mosques.17 HAQ and Interfaith raised these concerns as well.18 HAQ also underlined that additional discriminatory measures include harsh constraints on Shi’a marriages and reproduction, finding employment and settling, and encouraging Shi’a migration for employment purposes outside Bahrain (reference is made to Bahraini recruitment offices in Qatar and UAE).19 2. Right to life, liberty and security of the person 7. Amnesty International (AI) expressed concerns about the resumption of the use of the death penalty after more than ten years of de facto abolition, noting that Bahrain had not carried out any executions between 1996 and December 2006. According to AI and HRW, in November 2006 the King ratified the death sentences of three foreign nationals, a foreign national found guilty of murder and two other foreign nationals. All three were executed by firing squad in December 2006. At least two death sentences were passed during 2007.20 8. Concerns were also expressed by HRW regarding the enactment of new legislation encouraging the use of the death penalty in Bahrain. The 2006 counter-terrorism law as well as a new Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law, enacted in August 2007, prescribe the death penalty for certain offenses. The counter-terrorism law allows the death penalty for anyone convicted of committing or planning terrorist acts.21 9. By way of recommendations, HRW highlighted that Bahrain should resume its de facto moratorium on executions and restrict any application of capital punishment to the most serious crimes, and to consider removing capital punishment from all legislation where it is currently prescribed.22 AI advocated that the Government should repeal all provisions allowing for the death penalty and immediately declare a moratorium on all executions.23 10. AI continued to express concerns in relation to Bahraini legislation which does not explicitly prohibit the use of torture and ill-treatment by the police, and which does not give a clear and comprehensive definition of torture. Grave concerns have been expressed at Decree 56/2002 which contains a blanket amnesty for alleged perpetrators of torture. HRW highlighted that Bahrain should clarify publicly that Decree 56/2002 does not apply to grave crimes such as torture.24 Similarly, AI recommended that the government amend legislation to explicitly prohibit the use of torture and ill-treatment, and amend Decree 56/2002 to ensure it does not provide a blanket amnesty for alleged perpetrators of torture.25 Additionally, AI raised concerns about the lack of specific legislation making redress available to victims of torture and recommended the enactment of legislation in this regard.26 11. According to ACHR, security forces continue to practice torture as a part of law enforcement. Despite classifying torture as a penal offence, instances of torture have been noted. Security forces also indulge in unrestrained and indiscriminate use of force than is usually necessary to maintain law and order. ACHR added that victims of police beating reported that the Riot Fighting Forces (RFF) shot them with rubber bullets from a distance of only 3 meters although they could have been easily arrested.27 The NCMVT stressed the need to follow up on all recommendations adopted by United Nations Committee Against Torture in 2005.28 12. ACHR noted that arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions are in violation of the constitutional guarantees for personal freedom [Article 19 (a)] and the right not to be arrested arbitrarily [Article (b)]. This would also apply to minor students according to ACHR. Victims were also held incommunicado.29 HRW highlighted that Bahrain should endorse the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, proposing amendments to the 2006 counterterrorism law in order to, inter alia, bring the period allowed for detention without charge or judicial review into line with international standards.30 13. According to FL, human rights defenders continue to face high levels of insecurity and are victims of various forms of repression, such as arbitrary arrest, judicial proceedings based on false or unfounded charges of ‘encouraging hatred of the state and distributing falsehoods and rumours, threats, physical assaults, ill-treatment, torture and numerous other acts of harassment by the authorities and government security forces.”31 ACHR and FIDH/BCHR/BHRS echoed similar concerns.32 According to FL, many human rights defenders are constantly under surveillance by the authorities.33 AI added that human rights defenders have also been charged in the past with crimes such as “insulting the judiciary”, “defamation and slander of a family court judge”, and other charges which are believed to be politically motivated.34 14. HRW, NCMVT and the AHRC noted some of the prominent human rights defenders who have been victimized.35 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS also noted cases of other activists being harassed by the police to the extent of being physically attacked during protests or while in custody. Others were prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment based on offences against the state security by the public prosecutor for criticising and publicising a public scandal known as the BandarGate report; one was prosecuted and sentenced to one year imprisonment for reprinting critical essays on the Government during the elections in November 2006.36 FL noted others who have faced acts of harassment and intimidation by the authorities and government security forces.37 15. FL urged the authorities to prioritize the protection of human rights defenders in Bahrain and to: conduct an independent inquiry into the source of threats, ill treatment, torture, and all forms of intimidation and harassment directed towards all those human rights defenders mentioned in its report; and ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are free to carry out their human rights activities free from persecution. FL also recommended that Bahrain invite the United Nations Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders to visit the country.38 16. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIECP) noted that corporal punishment is prohibited in schools under the Code of School Discipline, promulgated by the Ministry of Education in Ordinance No. 549/168-1/1992. However, corporal punishment is lawful in the home.39 In this regard, the GIECP recommended that Bahrain introduce legislation as a matter of urgency to prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings, including in the home.40 17. FIDH/BCHR/BHRS reported that sexual harassment and domestic abuse against women is commonplace, with very little institutional support for victims and that spousal rape is not considered a crime according to Bahraini law.41 3. Administration of justice and the rule of law 18. According to NCMVT, the Constitution provides for a nominally independent judiciary; however, they reported that the judiciary is not independent; courts are subject to Government pressure regarding verdicts, sentencing, and appeals, and there have been allegations of corruption in the judicial system.42 ACHR added that under Article 33 of the 2002 constitution, the King is the head of the Higher Judicial Council, the body responsible for nomination of judges and which also supervises the work of the courts and public prosecutors. ACHR concluded that, in practice, the King can hand pick the judges.43 19. During the year, NCMVT reported, there were no known instances of officials being punished for human rights abuses committed.44 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS added that the judiciary (both courts and public prosecution) has refused to examine cases lodged by victims of State abuses, thereby highlighting the need for securing the independence of the judiciary towards the ruling establishment.45 According to HRW, decree 56/2002 confers immunity from investigation or prosecution of individuals, including government officials, for offences committed prior to 2001 and the Government has cited this decree on several occasions as the basis for refusing to undertake criminal investigations against former officials who were the subject of complaints by citizens, alleging that those officials had subjected them to torture. HRW indicated that such use of Decree 56/2002 is inconsistent with Bahrain’s obligations as a State Party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 46 NCMVT also raised this issue. 47 20. As NCMVT noted, in 2006, it, in cooperation with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, other NGOs, and members of the national Assembly formed ‘The Coalition for Truth, Equity and Reconciliation’.48 However, despite the urgent need to form a national committee for truth and reconciliation as demanded by civil society organizations, FIDH/BCHR/BHRS reported that the Government claims that there is no need for such a committee because they have addressed the issue of the victims of the past.49 21. According to NCMVT, in late 2005, while the Government permitted limited visits to prisons, it did not allow visits to short-term detention facilities by independent human rights observers. 50 NCMVT reported that in late December 2005 the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) made two visits to Jaw prison, which houses 450 to 500 inmates. The authorities did not respond to the organization’s findings and recommendations. BHRS was also scheduled to visit the country's women's prison in Isa Town on February 25, but Interior Ministry officials postponed the visit indefinitely for administrative reasons and it has not been rescheduled. On 10 August, the quasi-governmental Supreme Council for Women (SCW) conducted a visit of the country's women's prison in Isa Town.51 Following the visit, NCMVT noted, General Secretary Lulwa Al Awadhi called publicly for the Supreme Judicial Council to look into sentences that were overly severe for the crimes committed. There was no publicly released SCW report on the visit. Juveniles are housed separately from adults until the age of 15. In 2004 the Ministry of Social Development announced plans to open a separate center for the care of juvenile delinquents, but had not done so by year's end. NCMVT added that although International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials visited the country during the year, they did not request prison visits; Bahrain Red Crescent Society officials confirmed that ICRC officials had not visited prisons for several years, since the release of all political prisoners in 2000.52 22. ACHR stated that Bahrain requires technical cooperation for the reform of the administration of justice sector.53 4. Right to privacy 23. The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), in a joint submission with others, noted that Bahrain maintains criminal sanctions against sexual activity between consenting adults. Bahrain’s Penal Code of 1976, Legislative Decree No. 15, provides: “Buggery is an illegal act punishable by 10 years of imprisonment maximum.”54 5. Freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and right to participate in public and political life 24. ACHR and FL reported that the 2002 Constitution of Bahrain provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but the Government limited the exercise of these rights.55 According to HRW and FL, the existing Press Law (47/2002) contains measures that unduly restrict press freedoms, such as prohibitions on insulting the King and on reports that “threaten national unity.”56 HRW specified that the country now has two independent daily newspapers, but other dailies as well as Bahrain’s radio and TV stations are state-run.57 According to HRW, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and FL, journalists exercise a considerable degree of self-censorship, particularly on issues such as corruption implicating the ruling family.58 HRW noted that the Shura Council passed draft legislation in May 2007 that removed criminal penalties for journalistic offenses, but as of November 2007 the Government had not forwarded the draft for consideration by the elected National Assembly. The authorities continue to use Law 47/2002 to restrict coverage of controversial matters, particularly issues such as official corruption.59 RSF called on the lower house of Parliament to pass the press law amendments proposed by the Upper House. These could have repercussions throughout the region.60 HRW highlighted that Bahrain should amend the Penal Code to remove all criminal penalties for alleged libel offences.61 25. In mid-November 2006, authorities arrested two individuals for attempting to distribute leaflets calling on Bahrainis to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, according to HRW. On 30 January 2007 a court sentenced them to respective prison terms of six months and one year for possession and dissemination of materials that could “damage the public interest.” The Government released them several weeks later, apparently following a pardon from the king.62 HRW added that in 2007 the Government intensified its harassment of a women’s rights activist following an April letter she addressed to Sheikh Hamad calling for the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Women (chaired by the King’s wife) for failing to do more to advance the status of women in the Kingdom.63 26. The Government tried to step up censorship of online publications in 2005 by requiring registration of Bahraini sites with the Information Ministry, but this has not yet been enforced, according to RSF.64 According to FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, the State has blocked several websites unfavourable to the Government such as Aldemokrati.com, Aloysif Bolger, Haq movement, Bahrain On Line and Bahrain Human Rights Center.65 HRW recommended that the Government halt the prosecution of journalists and other writers solely for expressing views critical of Government policies, and cease blocking Internet sites.66 27. FIDH/BCHR/BHRS reported that books and publications require pre-licensing from the Directorate of Printing and Publication, Ministry of Information and that several Bahraini authors have been denied the right to publish their books.67 28. FIDH/BCHR/BHRS highlighted that there are many restrictions on access to information of many aspects of state affairs and top-ranking officials. There is no law for the right and access to information. Some members of the previous Parliament initiated such a law, but the Government was against its introduction. Some current Members of Parliament asked the Government to provide them with relevant information on lands granted by the King to some top officials, but they were denied such information by the Ministry of Justice. Information on mass naturalization was also denied.68 29. According to AI, in October 2006, the High Criminal Court ordered a ban on the publishing of any information relating to a report issued the previous month by Salah al- Bandar, a UK national and adviser to the Bahraini government. The report alleged that officials had planned to manipulate the outcome of the November 2006 parliamentary elections at the expense of the majority Shi'a Muslim population. Salah al-Bandar was deported to the UK the same month and later charged in Bahrain with ‘illegally seizing government documents and stealing two cheques’. He denied the charges and is expected to be tried in absentia.69 30. AI recommended that any restrictive legislation on freedom of expression and association must be repealed and brought into line with international standards.70 31. AI reported that in 2005 Parliament approved a new law to regulate political associations and explained that this requires associations to be approved by the Minister of Justice, who can also request the Supreme Court to issue a ruling to have the association dissolved and to liquidate its finances. AI added that human rights and other groups criticized the new law as overly restrictive and called on the King to cancel it.71 32. FL noted that new counter-terrorism legislation, has contributed to further infringements on freedom of association. The Bill on 'Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts', which was signed into law by the King of Bahrain on 14 August 2006 has been criticized by Bahraini civil society and international organisations, who are concerned that it can be used to prevent civil society to associate and human rights defenders to operate free of all restrictions. Article 1 describes as terrorist any act that threatens national unity and, according to FL, the vagueness of this provision could lead to criminalisation of human rights defenders’ activities.72 33. The Government continued to deny legal status to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, which it ordered dissolved in 2004 after its President publicly criticized the Prime Minister, HRW reported.73 Several other groups attempted in 2005 to register with the Ministry of Social Development, as required by law, but as of November 2007 had received no response to their application. In 2007, the Ministry of Social Development drafted new legislation governing the regulation of civil society organizations, but at the time of the writing of the contribution by HRW, the Ministry had not submitted the draft to the Shura Council or the Chamber of Deputies, and refused to share the draft with affected organizations.74 According to FL, in May 2007, a number of non-registered human rights organisations received official letters from the Ministry of Social Development asking that they cease their activities or face legal persecution.75 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS regretted that the BCHR has remained officially closed since November 2004, despite express recommendations by CERD and CAT.76 34. Bahraini law prohibits unauthorised public gatherings of more than five persons and public gatherings need to be notified to the Ministry of Interior twenty four hours in advance, as noted by FL. Amendments to Decree no. 18 of 1973 on Public Meetings, Processions and Gatherings that were signed into law by the King on 20 July 2006 (Law 32/2006), further increased the number of legislative constraints. 77 For example, AI explained, the definition of “public gathering” is very broad and even meetings held in private and involving a small number of people are subject to prior official notification. Article 10(b) bans demonstrations for election purposes.78 Demonstrations organized in public places close to ‘sensitive’ places are strictly prohibited; any public meeting or demonstration has to be notified to the head of Public Security at least three days in advance; organizers and participants of prohibited demonstrations face prison sentences of up to six months and/or a minimum fine of 100 BD (approximately 200 Euros).79 HRW added that the law stipulates that meeting organizers are responsible for “forbidding any speech or discussion infringing on public order or morals,” but leaves “public order or morals” undefined.80 HRW highlighted that Bahrain should amend Law 32/2006 to bring its provisions into compliance with Article 21 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.81 35. HRW reported that during 2006 and 2007, Bahraini authorities, citing Law 32/2006, banned meetings and on several occasions forcibly prevented or dispersed unauthorized gatherings. 82 NCMVT reported that in many documented cases during the last four years, citizens arrested in relation to unauthorized gatherings or protests had complained of being severely assaulted during arrest, being placed in isolation for periods from three to fifteen days, being subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during interrogation and being kept in detention for a long period during interrogation or trial. In most cases the arrestees were accused by the police of using violence but eventually found guilty of participating in unregistered organizations. In all cases, following internal and external campaigns, the detainees were released without a trial or through royal amnesty. Detainee’s access to attorneys is often restricted in the early stages of detention; attorneys must seek a court order to confer with clients.83 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS added that the Ministry has never investigated such abuses or penalized the offenders and that it protects officials who abuse rights holders.84 36. HRW noted that on September 15, 2006 police prevented an NGO from holding a public seminar on the group’s petition calling for a new constitution, on the basis that the group had not sought permission from the Ministry of the Interior. On September 22, when the group tried a second time to hold the meeting, police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the gathering, reportedly wounding several people. In several instances the police used what appeared to be excessive force and inflicted severe beatings on persons they seized, sometimes amounting to torture..85 On May 20, 2007 police reportedly fired rubber bullets at a gathering at which opposition political figures, including members of Parliament, were speaking, injuring the leader of the opposition National Democratic Action Society. The next evening, in an incident that HRW investigated, riot police confronted a street demonstration protesting the May 20 incident and separately seized two individuals. The officers beat both of them severely, inflicting serious injuries on both, and authorities held one of them for more Than a week in undisclosed locations while refusing to acknowledge to his family that he was in the State custody.86 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS added that protests against the confiscation of the Almalkia Village sea shores were quelled by anti-riot police with many casualties.87 37. NCMVT stressed the urgent need for the Bahrain Government to halt restrictions on and harassment against, and to maintain cooperation with non-governmental organizations.88 ACHR stated that Bahrain requires technical cooperation for strengthening of civil society organizations.89 AI recommended that effective measures be taken to ensure that human rights defenders are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, including carrying out their peaceful activities, and be protected from harassment by law enforcement authorities.90 38. For the first time since 1975, Bahrainis were allowed to exercise some of their rights in political life, in municipal and parliamentary elections, in May and October 2002, respectively, as reported by HAQ. It noted, however, that elections, though in appearance a democratic process, have been the subject of different State-coordinated and guided measures.91 39. According to IHRC, election constituencies are State-controlled and are drawn on sectarian as well as tribal bases to ensure the ruling family’s primacy, maximize state allegiance and create an environment of sectarian tension. The composition of some districts has resulted in largest district in the northern area, mainly Shiite, containing over 12,000 citizens, while the smallest have not more than 500 voters in the southern Sunni area.92 40. Furthermore, IHRC was concerned that in addition to Bahrain's 700,000 citizens, of which those aged 20 or over can vote, resident citizens of other Gulf states are also allowed tovote, including several thousand foreign Sunni Muslims serving in the Bahraini military and security services.93 ACHR added that the Government is reportedly pursuing policies to alter the island's demographic balance through granting citizenship to non-Bahrainis - mainly Sunni Arabs from around the region – to mitigate Shiite dominance;94 and through manipulating and controlling the output of any suffrage process, ensuring a winning majority by the ruling Authorities, thereby breaching the basic rights of Bahrainis to freely participate in public affairs, as stated by HAQ.95 41. IHRC recommended that, given the discrepancy allegations surrounding the 2006 elections of unfairness and fraud, international monitoring bodies be present at the next elections in Bahrain. 96 HAQ called on the Bahraini authorities to respect citizens’ political rights and consider their desire to manage their own life and wealth through a democratic constitution of their product; and calls upon the authorities to remove gerrymandering and politically motivated voting constituencies and enforcing equal representation, by one-manone- vote concept. On this issue, HAQ urged the UN to urge the authorities to refrain from using the newly naturalized, including those whose residence in the neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia, to manipulate and influence the outcome of any political process.97 HAQ also urged the UN to intervene for the protection of Bahraini citizens, in particular the Shi’a, from plans of elimination and dilution of identity and loss of culture and historical heritage. This would be initiated by setting up an international tribunal commission on the scheme adopted by the Authorities to change population demography to achieve political agenda.98 6. Right to an adequate standard of living 42. FIDH/BCHR/BHRS noted that wide sectors of the population are suffering from poverty. This is highlighted by a higher number of families seeking aid from the Ministry of Social Development and Charity Funds (estimated 10,000 families in a population of around 450,000). Though the national economy is generating tens of thousands of jobs each year, unemployment is estimated at around 15% of the population due to the fact that only 11% of newly generated jobs go to Bahraini citizens. 99 According to FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, this is because of severe exploitation and low wages of domestic and foreign workers in the private sector. Independent research indicated that a minimum income of BD350 per month for a family of 5 with home ownership is a minimum; tens of thousands of Bahrainis earn less than BD 150per month. The observed minimum wage in the Government sector is BD 200, whereas there is no minimum wage in the private sector.100 43. FIDH/BCHR/BHRS added that mass naturalization motivated by securing a support base for the regime, has adversely reflected itself on the well being of the citizens relevant to state-supported job opportunities, housing, education, medication, etc.101 44. According to HAQ, Bahrain is on the verge of a housing crisis because of corruption and unjust distribution of wealth and land,102 An official from the Ministry of Housing stated this year that 90% of lands are privately owned.103 HAQ recommends that the UN enforce the provision of an adequate standard of living by retrieving public lands (islands) from private hands, to enable fair distribution of wealth among citizens and respect their right to own property.104 45. FIDH/BCHR/BHRS added that there is an estimated waiting list of 55,000 applications for Government-supported services (housing units, housing loans) with increasing nondelivery of such service which has created a housing crisis within the society.105 46. State policy has been to encourage foreign investment, with permissive conditions on environmental criteria, in a country of only 700 sq.kms, FIDH/BCHR/BHRS reported. Highly polluting industries have caused a sharp increase in cancer and pollution-related diseases among the population, which is estimated as the highest in the Gulf region. 106 III. ACHIEVEMENTS, BEST PRACTICES, CHALLENGES AND CONSTRAINTS [n/a] IV. KEY NATIONAL PRIORITIES, INITIATIVES AND COMMITMENTS [n/a] V. CAPACITY BUILDING AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE [n/a] Notes 1 The following stakeholders have made a submission (all original submissions are available in full text on: www.ohchr.org): Civil Society: AI: Amnesty International* ACHR: Asian Centre for Human Rights* FL: Frontline Defenders of Human Rights Defenders* GIECP: Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children HAQ: HAQ: Movement of Liberties and Democracy – Bahrain HRW: Human Rights Watch* ILGA: International Lesbian and Gay Association- Europe*, Helem, International Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission, ARC International, joint submission. Interfaith: Interfaith International* FIDH/BCHR/BHRS: International Federation for Human Rights* - Bahrain Centre for Human Rights – Bahrain Human Rights Society, joint submission IHRC: Islamic Human Rights Commission NCMVT: National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture RSF: Reports without Borders* NOTE: * NGOs with ECOSOC status. 2 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.1 3 NCMVT, p.5. 4 HRW, p. 4-5 5 ACHR, p.3; FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.4-5. 6 HRW, p.5-6. 7 ACHR, p.2 8 ACHR, p.2 9 IHRC, p.1; 10 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5. 11 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.4. 12 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5 13 Interfaith, p. 1 14 ACHR, p.5 15; HAQ, p.7 16 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p. 4. 17 ACHR, p.5 18 HAQ, p.5-6; Interfaith, p.1-2 19 HAQ, p.4-6. 20 AI, p.1; see also HRW, p.1. 21 HRW, p.1; AI, p.1. 22 HRW, p.5. 23 AI, p.3. 24 HRW, p.5-6. 25 AI, p. 3. 26 AI, p.1, 3. 27 ACHR, p.1-2. 28 NCMVT, p.5. 29 ACHR, p.1. 30 HRW, p.5. 31 FL, p. 1. 32 ACHR, p.3, FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2. 33 FL p.1. 34 AI, p.2. 35 HRW, p.3; NCMVT, p.4; ACHR, p.3. 36 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p. 3. 37 See FL, p.1-4. 38 FL, p. 5. 39 GIECP, p.2. 40 GIECP, p.1. 41 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5. 42 NCMVT, p.2-3. 43 ACHR, p.3. 44 NCMVT, p.4. 45 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.3. 46 HRW, p.5 47 NCMVT, p.4. 48 NCMVT, p.5. 49 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p. 3. 50 NCMVT, p. 3. 51 Ibid. 52 NCMVT, p.3. 53 ACHR, p.5. 54 ILGA, p.1. 55 ACHR, p.3-4; FL, p.5. 56 HRW, p. 2; FL, p..5. 57 HRW, p. 2. 58 HRW, p.2, see also RSF, p.1; FL, p.5; FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2. 59 HRW, p.2; see also RSF, p.1. 60 RSF, p.2. 61 HRW, p. 5-6 62 HRW, p.2. 63 HRW, p.3. 64 RSF, p.1. 65 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2. 66 HRW, p.5-6. 67 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2; see also Interfaith, p.2. 68 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2. 69 AI, p.2; see also FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2. 70 AI, p.3. 71 AI, p.2. 72 FL, p.4-5. 73 HRW, p. 4. 74 HRW, p.4. 75 FL, p.4-5. 76 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.3. 77 FL, p. 4; FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.1-2. 78 AI, p.2. 79 FL, p.4. 80 HRW, p.3; see also FL, p.4. 81 HRW, p.5-6. 82 HRW, p.3. 83 NCMVT, p.3. 84 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2. 85 HRW, p. 3. 86 HRW, p.4; see also FL, p.4. 87 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.2. 88 NCMVT, p.5. 89 ACHR, p.5. 90 AI, p.3. 91 HAQ, p.1-2. 92 IHRC, p.1. 93 IHRC, p.1. 94 ACHR, p.5 ; see also HAQ, p.4-7 95 HAQ, p.6. 96 IHRC, p.1. 97 HAQ, p.6. 98 Ibid. 99 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5. 100 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5. 101 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5. 102 HAQ, p.3-4. See also FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p. 5. 103 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p. 5. 104 HAQ, p. 6. 105 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5. For additional information see HAQ, p. 3. 106 FIDH/BCHR/BHRS, p.5.

6 Mar, 2008

Reporters Without Borders: Bahrain -Turning promises into reality

Bahrain is at a crossroads.This small island state of less that 700 sq km has seen significant progress in respect for human rights, including press freedom, since Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa took over as emir on his father’s death in 1999, but a lot remains to be done. At the same time, the regional environment is fraught.The war in Iraq and the heightened violence between Shiites and Sunnis have had an impact on the emirate, which became a kingdom in 2001. Saudi Arabia, which allows Bahrain to pump oil from a field yielding around 140,000 barrels a day, is a powerful neighbour that could prove touchy.And the demographic balance between the state’s two largest communities, the majority Shiites and the minority Sunnis, who are in power, leads to tension. A Reporters Without Borders delegation visited Bahrain from 9 to 13 February after the authorities voiced concern about the country’s fall in the organisation’s annual press freedom index. The delegation was able to meet with everyone it wanted to see, including government officials, opposition politicians, members of both houses of parliament, journalists and civil society representatives. The delegation saw the progress that has been made in respect for free expression – no journalist has been imprisoned since 1999 – but it also heard the concerns expressed by many journalists. Seven years after Bahrainis voted massively (by more than 98 per cent) for a National Action Charter, a vast programme of social and political reforms meant to “establish the bases of a true democracy,” several independent journalists and NGO representatives spoke to Reporters Without Borders of their disappointment, referring to a “honeymoon that had ended.” The situation is also contradictory for the media themselves. There are six privately-owned dailies, several of which are critical of the government, but the state maintains its monopoly of broadcasting. The adoption of a press and publications law in October 2002 was a step forward, although journalists were disappointed that it did not take account of all their recommendations. The Internet has taken off but many sites are banned – some because they are pornographic but others for political reasons. In another paradox, the Reporters Without Borders delegation found that the source of obstacles in the path of progress towards a freer society is not necessarily to be found in the legislature’s upper house, known as the Consultative Council, whose 40 members are appointed by the king, but in the elected lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, which is largely controlled by religious groups. Plans are under way to amend the press law, under which journalists can still be imprisoned, and to open up broadcasting to the private sector.When Reporters Without Borders met the attorney general, he supported the idea that any censorship of the Internet should be a matter for the courts rather than the government, as things now stand. These were all signs that the situation is not blocked. But it is up to the authorities to turn the promises into reality. Long-awaited law Bahraini journalists were surprised and somewhat embittered by the adoption of the Press and Publications Act – Law No. 47 – in October 2002 as it did not take account of their recommendations. It included many restrictions on journalists, who are not allowed to question the official religion, Islam, the head of state or the monarchy.And they are exposed to the possibility of sentences ranging from six months to five years in prison for “inciting division, sectarianism and violence and attacking national unity.” Foreign heads of state and parliaments are also protected by the press law. The regime makes its harder for its media to criticize developments in neighbouring countries to avoid upsetting key economic partners. Journalists regard this law as a violation of the principles of the National Action Charter they supported a year earlier. No fewer than 18 press offences are punishable under this law, and are defined in terms that allow a very broad interpretation. “This law does not give our work the necessary guarantees,” journalist Sawsan Al-Shaer told Reporters Without Borders.“As well as providing for prison sentences, the law allows recourse to criminal law and any other law to prosecute journalists,” she said. “What is the point of drafting a special law for our profession if the judges can use other laws to convict journalists.” After the law took effect, the authorities agree to create a committee including journalists, representatives of the Bahrain Journalists Association and information ministry representatives in order to recommend amendments to the law.Al-Shaer, who was a member of the committee, said she did not know what had become of the recommendations. King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa has on several occasions expressed a desire to decriminalize press offences. What the king says does not have the force of law but it has reined in prosecutors. Attorney general Ali Fadhul Al Buainain said most of the complaints against journalists were brought by private individuals. And most cases are settled out of court. A total of 47 complaints were 1 Bahrain : Turning promises into reality brought before the prosecutor’s office in 2007. “We have very strong ties with the Journalists Association,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “When a complaint is filed against a journalist, we notify the association’s liaison officers, who then have two weeks to try to find a solution.” He added that he thought “attacking religion and the king” should continue to be punishable by imprisonment. The government submitted some amendments to Law No. 47 to the Chamber of Deputies in 2004, but they still have not been examined. Decriminalization is among them, but prison sentences for press offences are maintained for second and subsequent offences. The ministry suggests that the broadcast media should be included in the current press law.The proposed reform envisages keeping prior censorship for foreign publications, based on the Kuwaiti and Jordanian models. The Consultative Council has meanwhile submitted two draft laws to the information ministry, the most recent one in May 2007. But Consultative Council deputy vice-president Jamal Fakhro said: “There is no desire on the part of the government or the deputies to attach any importance to this bill.The Chamber of Deputies is controlled by religious groups who want to keep prison sentences. If the law on the criminalization of press offences did not exist, they would have invented it.” Ebrahim Mohammed Bashemi, a member of the Consultative Council and editor of the daily Al- Waqt (Time), said the bill would decriminalize press offences and keep fines. It would also protect the confidentiality of sources, ensure access to official information and end criminal responsibility for publishers. When Reporters Without Borders met the new information minister, Jehad bin Hassan Bukamal, he insisted that he intended to press ahead with the proposed reform of the press law that is currently with the cabinet.“We hope to submit the amendments to parliament in the course of the next two months,” he said. “But how is the state at fault if the king and government want to amend the law but the deputies are opposed?” Latifa Mohammed Al-Qaud, a deputy who represents a coalition of independent parties, and Ebrahim Mohammed Bosandal, a deputy from the Salafist movement Al-Assala, told Reporters Without Borders they did not oppose the decriminalization of press offences but Bosandal insisted that prison sentences would have to be kept for any “insult to religion.” Self-censorship and broadcasting monopoly The Bahraini journalists that Reporters Without Borders met continue to be sceptical about the timetable and content of reforms. Some do not hesitate to talk of a “reduction in freedoms” since 2001, the year that the National Action Charter was adopted. Few of them hope for a complete decriminalization of press offences. And even if they recognise that they can be a bit more outspoken that their colleagues in other countries in the region, they say the state has other means than the law to put pressure on the media. As in neighbouring countries, Bahrain’s media owners and journalists censor themselves heavily. Mansoor Al-Jamri, the editor of Al-Wasat, a daily that supports the Shiite political movement Al- Wifaq, said the number of complaints brought against the media by the state would be much greater if journalists did not avoid certain subjects. The most recent example was the media’s very restrained coverage of demonstrations that shook the country in December and left one person dead. “There were further clashes between the security forces and the dead man’s relatives on the day of the burial,” Ahmed Al-Aradi of Al-Waqt told Reporters Without Borders. “Many people were wounded and several photographers, including myself, provided our newspapers with photos. But the next day, I did not see any of the photos in the newspapers.” The state maintains a monopoly on broadcasting despite the interest that several media owners have shown in getting broadcast licences. Foreign satellite TV stations such as Al-Jazeera and Al- Arabiya are the public’s main source of political news.The information minister says he is ready to open up broadcasting to the private sector after first establishing a legislative framework for the new industry. He voiced concern that these new media could be “manipulated at the expense of social peace.” The prime minister’s cultural affairs adviser, Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Mutawa, said care was needed. “When I ran the information ministry, I envisaged granting a licence for a privately-owned TV station but I changed my mind when I realised that this Islamist station would be financed by a foreign country,” he said, adding, “but the king has no objection to opening up broadcasting.” This fear that the broadcast media could be manipulated is shared by deputy Latifa Mohammed Al-Qaud. So far, the Bahraini authorities have only allowed a few international radio stations – Radio Sawa, BBC and RMC-MO – to broadcast on FM frequencies. Bahraini journalists complain of the difficulty of 2 Bahrain : Turning promises into reality getting access to official information. The census office, for example, refuses to provide them with social and economic statistics. Tension between the Shiite and Sunni communities underlies the lack of transparency on the part of the government, which is accused of carrying out a policy of naturalising Sunni Arabs in order to bring about a proportional increase in the size of the Sunni community. A report by a British adviser to the government, Salah Al-Bandar, about alleged secret plans to marginalise the Shiite community before the 2006 legislative elections caused a great stir. Shortly thereafter, the judicial authorities banned publication of any of the information in the report. An Internet censorship bureau The Internet then replaced the traditional media in disseminating information about this alleged conspiracy, called “Bandargate.” Journalists with privately-owned dailies told Reporters Without Borders that they turned to the Internet to publish the articles they wrote that were censored by their editors. Several sites were blocked by the information ministry’s censorship bureau. The ministry says the censorship bureau does not touch political or human rights websites and that only porn sites, sites that incite violence or sectarian hatred, or sites used for recruitment by terrorist groups are subject to administrative censorship orders. But Reporters Without Borders identified 22 discussion forums and political websites in October 2007 that had been censored by the information ministry. The site operated by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (www.bahrainrights.org) has not been accessible since October 2006. BCHR vicepresident Nabeel Rajab said this censorship was linked to their Bandargate coverage and their statements on other sensitive issues such as conditions for immigrant workers in Bahrain. Asked about this, the information ministry said the BCHR’s site was closed down because the organisation had “lost its licence.” The website of the Egypt-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, which posts the BCHR’s releases, is also inaccessible in Bahrain. Rajab estimates that access to around 500 websites and blogs is currently blocked. The Consultative Council supports the adoption of an Internet law. Fakhro, its first deputy vice-president, says Internet users are not really free to post what they want online. “Right now, many websites are closed, some of them porn sites, others political or opinion sites,” he said. “We think there should be an Internet law, but in the meantime we urge everyone to be responsible.We do not accept administrative censorship.” Conclusions and recommendations The coming parliamentary debate on the reform of the press law will be decisive for Bahrain’s journalists. If the amendments are adopted, Bahrain will become the second country in the Gulf, after Kuwait, to decriminalize press offences. It seems that other legislative reforms are also essential to limit the abuses to which journalists and website editors are exposed in Bahrain. Using judges specialised in press cases and familiar with the way journalists work would help to ensure appropriate and fair sentences. Similarly, the courts, and not an information ministry official, should be in charge of regulating the Internet. Reporters Without Borders suggested this during its meeting with the attorney general, who supported the idea. Finally, the new information law must guarantee better access to government information and protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. An improvement in the press freedom situation in Bahrain requires not only concrete legislative progress but also an end to the state’s monopoly of broadcasting and an end to censorship of news websites. The adoption of a code of journalism ethics and the creation of a self-regulatory body to ensure that it is respected would be useful accompaniments to the decriminalization of press offences and the opening-up of broadcasting.

28 Feb, 2008

URGENT APPEAL Bahrain: Arbitrary detention / Judicial proceedings / Ill-treatments / Tortur

Bahrain ,February 28, 2008 The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about new developments concerning the trial of 18 persons in Bahrain, including Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Naji Al-Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed Abdullah Al-Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee.

According to the information received, on February 24, 2008, a new hearing took place regarding 18 persons involved in the December demonstration, including the above-mentioned defenders. The latter were only given 15 minutes to talk to their lawyers before the hearing. Although the hearing was due to be open, the police only allowed a few people to get into the judicial “complex”[1].

In the course of the session, Messrs. Al-Sheikh, Abdelnabi, Abdulah Saleh, Mohammed Ali, Al-Fateel, Al-Sengais and Al-Arab pleaded not guilty on charges of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission” that had been brought against them in relation to the demonstration held on December 17, 2007 (See background information). The defendants further complained about the acts of torture and ill-treatment they have been enduring while in detention, such as being prevented from sleeping, tied up for long periods and refusal of medical attention. Some of them reiterated that they have been sexually abused.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the men urged the court to release them on bail or at least to grant them access to a doctor and medical check-up, but Judge Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali Al Khalifa dismissed these requests.

A new hearing was set to March 17, 2008 to allow defence lawyers time to get prepared. After the hearing, the defendants were allowed to meet their relatives briefly, before being transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Centre, in Muharraq.

The Observatory is highly preoccupied with these allegations of torture and ill-treatments, which seem to aim at discouraging the Bahraini society to get involved in human rights activities, and urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these human rights defenders and release them immediately as their detention is arbitrary.

The Observatory further deplores the decision of the Judge to refuse them access to medical examination or to release them on bail, and recalls that despite several denunciations of these arbitrary detentions and allegations of torture and ill-treatments, the situation of the above-mentioned human rights defenders has not improved. The Observatory will continue to follow-up the situation closely, and particularly the recent commitment made by Bahrain to allow a United Nations visit to review the record of the country on torture, as well as to train official to human rights standards.

Background information:

On December 17, 2007, a peaceful demonstration at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day, in the Sanabis area, aiming at paying tribute to victims of torture in the past, was violently dispersed by members of the riot police and of the special security force, who heavily resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets. Mr. Ali Jassim Meki, a human rights defender close to the HAQ Movement of Liberties and Democracy, who participated in the demonstration, died a few hours later.

Between December 21 and 28, 2007, members of the Special Security Forces began a wave of arrests that targeted more than 60 activists. As of January 8, 2008, 28 remained in detention, including 11 human rights defenders. Allegedly, all human rights defenders who were arrested had been involved in public protests during the last few years that related to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms. As of January 9, some of these human rights defenders have had access to their lawyers and family, but none of the lawyers were given access to their clients’ files.

The trial of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab was scheduled to start before the High Criminal Court on February 3, 2008, and later adjourned to February 24, 2008.

On February 3 and 11, the prisoners were allowed to talk briefly to their families, and reported that they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including sexual assault, in the framework of their detention.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to :

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab;

ii. Release them immediately and unconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee unconditional access to their lawyers, families and any medical treatment they may require;

iv. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

v. Put an end to all forms of harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain;

vi. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 11, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession”, as well as Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA , King of Bahrain, Fax : +973 176 64 587

· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel : +973 172 27 555; fax : +973 172 12 6032

· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, tél : +973 175 31 333; fax : +973 175 31 284

· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

***

Paris-Geneva, February 28, 2008

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

25 Feb, 2008

55 organizations join call for end to jailing and torture of demonstrators and human raightsactivists in Bahrain

55 Local, regional and international organizations join call for end to jailing and torture of demonstrators and human rights activists in Bahrain

SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama The following is a joint appeal to the King of Bahrain from BCHR and 54 other rights groups:

Sheikh Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa , King of Bahrain, Riffa, Bahrain Fax : +973 176 64 587

Your Royal Highness,

We the undersigned national and international human rights organisations and other groups defending freedom of expression urge the Bahraini authorities to immediately release those human rights activists and demonstrators who were unjustly detained following protests in December, and to immediately desist from torturing the detainees. We believe the charges against the activists, for violent actions which they did not commit, are a pretext to silence them as a reprisal for their outspoken and peaceful human rights work. As in past years, on 17 December 2007, the Bahraini National Committee for Victims of Torture (NCVT) organised its annual march. On that day in 1994 two young Bahrainis were killed by Special Forces snipers from a helicopter shooting with live ammunition on a peaceful demonstration in Sanabis village calling for political reforms and democratisation.

On 17 December 2007, heavily armed members of the Bahraini Special Security Forces (SSF) were deployed to head off the march, which was prevented from kicking off in Manama. Confrontations quickly spread to nearby villages. In Sanabis village, some protestors were attacked by the SSF and armed militia who besieged the area and showered it with tear gas and rubber bullets. Ali Jassem Makki was allegedly attacked and fatally beaten by the SSF. Protests erupted in many other villages, resulting in many wounded.

Protests were waged in Jidhafs on the days surrounding Ali Jassem's funeral, resulting in fierce confrontations with the heavily armed Special Forces who used tear gas and rubber bullets on the protestors. Protestors responded by hurling stones and setting ablaze rubber tires and trash containers. One patrol vehicle was set afire by the protestors and a weapon inside it was allegedly reported to be missing, resulting in a series of arrests a few days later of well known activists and human rights defenders.

The Bahraini security authorities detained up to 50 people, some of them leaders of popular human rights and civil society such as the Unemployed Committee, Committee to Combat High Prices, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR). Local human rights groups claim that the crackdown was used as a pretext to clamp down on these organisations and round up these activists, who were then unjustly blamed for the incidents during the protests. They have since been subjected to all forms of ill-treatment and torture.

The Security Authorities ransacked houses and carried out dawn raids on those detainees, and confiscated their computers and some of their personal belongings. Out of those detained in the aftermath of the death of Ali Jassem, 14 detainees were falsely charged with rioting, illegal assembly, illegal possession of a weapon and ammunition as well as setting afire a patrol vehicle. Ibrahim Ameen Al Arab, a member of NCVT was also later arrested and charged with possession of the allegedly missing weapon. These 15 people were summoned to court on 3 February 2008, but because of the sudden change made by the judge to hold the hearing after official hours, the defendants’ lawyers decided to boycott that session. The court session was postponed until 24 February.

These 15 detainees include the well-known activists Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Naji Al-Fateel, member of the BYSHR, Mohammed Abdullah Al-Singace, head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee. They have been subjected to severe torture and ill-treatment which has included being held incommunicado, beatings, electrocution, malnutrition, deprivation from sleep, being held in unclean conditions, and sexual assault. The latest form of torture was to put the most prominent of those activists in cells with prisoners apparently suffering from communicable diseases.

Popular protests calling for the release of those detainees have been taking place in Bahrain on a daily basis, with some resulting in collective punishment such as showering the areas where these protests emanate with tear gas and rubber bullets as well as beatings of residents by SSF. This has lead to widening unrest.

We, the undersigned, express our deep concerns about the deterioration of the situation and the endangerment of the life of the human rights defenders in Bahrain. The initial incident and its repercussions could have been avoided should the Bahraini authorities have respected and protected the right of the individuals and groups for freedom of expression and assembly. An attack on freedom of expression has repeatedly proven to be a trigger for confrontation between people and local authorities.

We call on the Bahraini Authorities to immediately and unconditionally release of all the political, human rights and other activists unjustly detained in the aftermath of events on 17 December 2007. Releasing all the aforementioned detainees would help suppress the unrest situation in Bahrain, and restore tranquility.

We also take this opportunity to remind the local authorities to reconsider legislation and other practices which threaten all forms of freedom of expression and ensure conformance with international standards and covenants.

Signed by the following organisations:

1. Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS-HK), Hong Kong 2. Africa Free Media Foundation (AFMF), Kenya 3. Alliance of Filipino Migrants Communities and Association in Korea (KASAMMAKO), Korea 4. Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia 5. Arab Archives Institute, Jordan 6. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo), Egypt 7. Armanshahr Foundation, Afghanistan 8. Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Hong Kong 9. Association of Filipino Migrant Workers, Korea 10. Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers (AIMW)- Hong Kong 11. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) 12. Bahrain Society of Human Rights (BSHR), Bahrain 13. Bahrain Youth Society of Human Rights (BYSHR), Bahrain 14. Bicol Association, Korea 15. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Egypt 16. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada 17. CARAM ASIA, Malaysia 18. Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) 19. Centre algérien pour la défense et la promotion de la liberté de la presse (CALP), 20. Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Philippines 21. Conseil National pour les Libertés en Tunisie (CNLT), Tunisia 22. Cordillera Alliance (CORALL-HK), Hong Kong 23. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt 24. Federation of Filipino of Workers in Korea 25. Filipino Migrant Workers' Union (FMWU-HK), Hong Kong 26. Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec (PINAY), Canada 27. Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka 28. Freedom House, United States 29. Front Line International, Ireland 30. Gabriela Australia, Australia 31. Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova 32. Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan 33. International Justice Network, United States 34. Maharat Foundation, Lebanon 35. Media Rights Agenda, Nigeria 36. Media Watch, Bangladesh 37. Migrant Forum of Asia, Philippines 38. MIGRANTE International, Philippines 39. Migrante Melbourne, Australia 40. Movement of Liberties and Democracy (HAQ), Bahrain 41. National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Somalia 42. New Era Foundation, Korea 43. Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de creation (OLPEC) Tunisia 44. OPEN ASIA, France 45. Palestinian Women's Committees, Palestine 46. Philippine Australia Solidarity Association (PASA), Australia 47. Philippine Caucus for Peace, Australia 48. Society of Supporting Freedoms and Democracy, Bahrain 49. Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Thailand 50. Thai Regional Alliance in Hong Kong 51. United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) 52. United Pangasinan Hong Kong (UPHK) 53. Women on the Move (WEMOVE), Korea 54. Women Petition Committee, Bahrain 55. World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), United States

16 Feb, 2008

Human Rights Watch: Bahrain: New Allegations of Detainee Abuse

Rights Group Denied Permission to Visit Detainees with Independent Doctors (New York, February 16, 2008) – Bahrain should investigate allegations that security personnel have repeatedly abused detained opposition political activists, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to allow independent physicians to examine detainees who have alleged abuse including torture and sexual assault.

The detained activists were among dozens arrested following clashes between protesters and security forces in and around the capital, Manama, in December. In one incident, protesters set fire to a police vehicle. Several detainees now face charges including possession of weapons allegedly stolen from the vehicle. In January, relatives of detainees – and also men who had been detained in connection with the clashes and then released – said that interrogators had tortured several detainees and sexually assaulted at least one.

“The silence of Bahraini authorities in the face of multiple complaints of detainee abuse casts doubt on their commitment to the rule of law,” said Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Bahrain should immediately allow independent physicians to examine detainees who are alleging abuse.”

The Bahrain Human Rights Society, an independent group which has official permission to operate, said on January 27 that it had asked the public prosecutor for permission to visit the detainees but the authorities refused to allow physicians to take part in the visits.

A relative of detainee Mohammed Singace told Human Rights Watch that during a February 11 family visit to the Adliyeh detention facility, Singace recounted a beating that he had received the previous day from two guards at the facility after he had requested to be taken to a hospital for treatment of back injuries.

“He had new bruises and cuts on his face,” Singace’s relative said. “He said he had been handcuffed, dragged out of his cell and beaten with a metal rod.”

Relatives of Singace and of two other detainees, Naji al-Fateel and Hasan Abdelnabi, told Human Rights Watch that these detainees had reported being placed in cells with prisoners suffering from contagious diseases. Relatives of Naji al-Fateel and Hasan Abdelnabi said that these two detainees had recounted, during a family visit on February 11, that guards had beaten them when they protested after hearing Singace scream from a nearby cell.

A relative of Hasan Abdelnabi said he had stated he had been put in a cell with another prisoner who was spitting blood. Abdelnabi said the other prisoner told him, “Stay back and don’t touch any of my things, I have hepatitis.” A relative of one of the detainees told Human Rights Watch that interrogators threatened him that his wife might be assaulted if he refused to confess to involvement in burning the police vehicle.

The three detainees visited by family members on February 11 are affiliated with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) aligned with opposition political movements.

A senior interior ministry official said on January 17 that all those alleging abuse had been examined by a forensic physician who found no evidence of mistreatment. On January 21, Human Rights Watch urged the authorities to allow independent physicians to investigate allegations that several detainees had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings, and in one case sexual assault by interrogators and jailers.

Lawyers representing several of the detainees told Human Rights Watch that they received no response to requests to provide their clients with medical examinations. A lawyer coordinating the defense of several detainees said he had filed a new request for independent medical examinations ahead of meetings between detainees and their lawyers scheduled to take place next week. Lawyers representing the detainees say they have faced lengthy delays in gaining access to their clients.

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Related Material

Bahrain: Investigate Alleged Torture of Activists Press Release, January 21, 2008

14 Feb, 2008

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY: Arbitrary detention / Ill-treatments / Torture

February 13, 2008 The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Naji Al-Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed Abdullah Al-Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee and acts of torture and ill-treatments.

According to the information received, on February 3, 2008, the trial of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab was scheduled to start before the High Criminal Court. Nevertheless, on the morning of that day, while the defendants were not present, the presiding judge informed their lawyers that the session would be postponed to the afternoon. At 3 p.m., without the presence of the defendants’ lawyers, the session was adjourned to February 24, 2008. The judge also indicated that the trial could be held any time. They had been charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”, after a demonstration held on December 17, 2007, at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day[1].

On February 3, after the Court session, the prisoners were allowed to talk to their families for a few minutes. Some of them, including Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, informed them that they had been victims of sexual assaults by investigators of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), where they were being detained.

On February 6, 2008, Mr. Al-Sheikh was taken from the CIB to the Dry Dock Detention Centre (DDDC), where the legal general attorney doctor visited him and confirmed that he showed clear signs of sexual assault. However, the general attorney office later denied in a press statement that abuses had been observed on the detainees.

As of February 13, 2008, Mr. Al-Sheikh was still detained at the DDDC, while Messrs. Mohammed Al Sengais, Naji Al Fateel, Hasan Abdelnabi and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali remained detained in the premises of the CIB. Messrs. Al Sengais, Abdelnabi and Ali are presently held in solitary confinement, in a 1x2 meter filthy dark cells filled with insects with their eyes-blinded and hands-cuffed. No further information could be obtained regarding the place of detention of Messrs. Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh et Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab.

On February 11, 2008, the relatives of Messrs. Al-Sengais, Al-Fateel and Abdelnabi were able to visit them. Mr. Al Sengais’ relatives reported that he was bearing signs of a scar on the head and that he was complaining of strong headache. They further asserted that on February 10, Mr. Al-Sengais had been dragged, handcuffed behind his back, to the outside of his cell, beaten in the yard by a metallic piece and further tortured by two men. On February 7, 2008, he had been taken to Bahrain Defence Force Hospital for treatment, where the physician had recommended that he be taken to psychiatric hospital for treatment due to the abuse he was enduring. An appointment was set with the psychiatrist for February 24, but later postponed to February 28 because of the adjourned court session.

On the same day, Messrs. Fateel and Abdelnabi told their family members that they were subjected to beatings when they protested against what happened to Mohammed Al-Sengais and demanded that he be transferred to the hospital. Mr. Al-Fateel further asserted that he was increasingly suffering from the consequences of the ill-treatment he had been subjected to, and that he had been placed with other detainees charged with criminal offences and infected with communicable diseases.

Mr. Abdelnabi told his family members that he has been under pressure and threats of sexual abuse aiming at pushing him to reveal plans and future activities of the Detainees’ Committee in which his wife is involved.

The Observatory is highly preoccupied with these allegations of torture and ill-treatment, which seem to aim at discouraging the Bahraini society to get involved in human rights activities, and urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these human rights defenders and release them immediately, as their detention is arbitrary.

The Observatory also recalls that despite that it has already denounced on several occasions these arbitrary detentions and allegations of torture and ill-treatments, the situation of the above-mentioned human rights defenders has not improved.

Background information:

On December 17, 2007, a peaceful demonstration at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day, in the Sanabis area, aiming at paying tribute to victims of torture in the past, was violently dispersed by members of the riot police and of the special security force, who heavily resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets. Mr. Ali Jassim Meki, a human rights defender close to the HAQ Movement of Liberties and Democracy, who participated in the demonstration, died a few hours later[2].

Between December 21 and 28, 2007, members of the Special Security Forces began a wave of arrests that targeted more than 60 activists. As of January 8, 2007, 28 remained in detention, including 11 human rights defenders. Allegedly, all human rights defenders who were arrested had been involved in public protests during the last few years that related to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms. As of January 9, some of these human rights defenders have had access to their lawyers and family, but none of the lawyers were given access to their clients’ files.

Messrs. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Al, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad and Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna were released on January 10, 2008 and have since then reported that they had been submitted to acts of torture and ill-treatments (beatings, verbal abuse, threats sleep and food deprivation as well as solitary confinement and prolonged use of handcuffs and eye blindfolds). The three men were released with no explanation and they remain charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”.

Indeed, some of the detainees claimed that they were handcuffed for one or two weeks and beaten and kicked in order to prevent them from sleeping. They were also prevented to speak with each other, although being detained in the same room, and were blindfolded most of the time. Some detainees were forced to stand up for more than three days. They were submitted to psychological torture, being insulted verbally and threatened, in one case with a gun. Some of the detainees were taken out of their cell at night for interrogation ; meanwhile the other detainees could hear cries and screams.

Furthermore, Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh was visited by his father and told him that he had been subjected to sexual abuse, including rectal penetration with a stick.

The Bahrain Human Rights Society has written twice to the Public Prosecutor requesting authorisation to visit the detainees but so far they received only negative responses.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to :

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab;

ii. Release them immediately and unconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee unconditional access to their lawyers, families and any medical treatment they may require;

iv. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

v. Put an end to all forms of harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain;

vi. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 11, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession”, as well as Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA , King of Bahrain, Fax : +973 176 64 587

· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel : +973 172 27 555; fax : +973 172 12 6032

· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, tél : +973 175 31 333; fax : +973 175 31 284

· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

***

Paris-Geneva, February 13, 2008

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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

[1] See Background information as well as Observatory Open Letter to the authorities of January 10, 2008 and Observatory Press Releases of December 21, 2007 and January 18, 2008.

[2] Mr. Meki had actively taken part in human rights protests over the past years. He had been arbitrarily detained in 1996, in the framework of protests calling for the restoration of democracy and the release of detainees. He had also been briefly detained in 2005, for taking part in a demonstration to protest against sexual and physical assaults that had been perpetrated against Mr. Mussa Abd-Ali, an activist from the Committee of Unemployed People.

13 Feb, 2008

Female Postal Unionist Suspended for Voicing out Official Harassments

Female Postal Unionist Suspended for Voicing out Official Harassments

Date: 13 February 2008

Person(s): Najeya Abdulghaffar Target(s): human rights worker(s) The latest episode of punishing unionists for expressing themselves was two days ago by the Bahraini Postal Directorate of the Ministry of Transport which suspended postal unionist Mrs Najeya Abdulghaffar for ten days without pay, on the allegations that she disclosed "job secrets". Mrs Abdulghaffar, vice- president of the "unauthorized" Postal Union (PU), approached the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain (GFWTUB) and made an official complaint regarding "harassing her, marginalizing her duties and set-up plots to dismiss her on the grounds that she disclosed Governmental Secrets". The Postal Directorate considers the communication of Mrs Abdulghaffar with the media as being disclosure, without permission, of official secret information. This is not the first suspension for Mrs Abdulghaffar or other public sector unionists. In January 2007, she was suspended for similar charges. Mr Jamal Ateeq, President of PU, was suspended last December for five days, while in 2005, he was suspended for three days, for the same reason; communicating with media. Other unionists, Kathom Ebrahim Al-Mushkab and Juma Abdulla Abdul-latif, were exposed to similar treatment by the Postal Directorate Authorities in the past period. Making statements to media about violations of labour rights was considered defaming to the employer and its officials, as stated in the penalty measure statement issued by the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) to Mr Ateeq. The punishment considered against Mrs Abdulghaffar is based on administrative order by the CSB banning the formation of Governmental unions, in direct violation to Decree Code no 33 of 2002, and thus considering PU unauthorized and illegal. The BCHR expresses its concern about the suspension of Mrs Najeya Abdulghaffar which appears to be to silence her and daunt other unionist and rights activists. Penalizing Mrs Abdulghaffar and other unionists for expressing themselves violates Article 19 of ICCPR as well as to local legislatures, and affirms the systematic attack on all forms of expression in Bahrain. RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to the Bahraini Authorities: - calling for an end to Mrs Najeya Abdulghaffar's suspension - urging that no further measures be taken against her in reprisal for expressing her views - requesting legislative changes to guarantee the right of public employees to freely express their views APPEAL and TAKE ACTION TO: · His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa- King of Bahrain Riffa – Bahrain · His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Manama- Bahrain

Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363 Please copy appeals to the source if possible. MORE INFORMATION:

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

12 Feb, 2008

More reports of physical and sexual abuses against detained activists

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) – 12 February 2008

Three detainees held in the Criminal Investigation Bureau told family members who visited them yesterday that they had been subjected to beating on February 10, as a punishment for protesting against ill-treatment and prison conditions. These detainees were

Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Aged 40, the head of the Committee to Combat High Prices Naji Ali Hassan Fateel, aged 31, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) Hassan Abdulnabi Hassan, aged 26, member of the Unemployment Committee The BCHR has no recent reports from Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, aged 28 who is the fourth detainee at the same detention centre.

The Bahrain Centre for Human rights was informed by Family members of Mohamed Alsingace, that they met him yesterday at 12:30pm local time. They reported that signs of fresh scars were visible on his head. He told his family (Mother, wife and two sisters) that on February 10, he was handcuffed form the back and dragged outside of his cell and was beaten using a metallic piece in the yard by a two security men called Moftah (a Bahraini) and Parvis (a non-Bahraini) in front of Sergrent Adnan Bahar. The more he screamed he was beaten more and verbally insulted. The two police figures further molested him sexually in front of Sergent Bahar.

Prior to this event, Mohamed Al-Singace was complaining of severe headache. The physician of the military hospital recommended that Mohamed is to be taken to psychiatric hospital for treatment. An appointment was set for the psychiatrist on 24th February, but later postponed to 28th because of the adjourned court session. Physically, he is suffering from backache due to earlier beating by the security members. Last Thursday, he was taken to Bahrain Defence Force Hospital for treatment. He had been kept hand-cuffed and left incommunicado in a dark filthy 1x2 meter room.

Both Naji Fateel and Hassan Abdelnabi told visiting family members yesterday that they were subjected to beating when they protested against what happened to Mohamed Al-Singace demanding that he should be transferred to the hospital.

On the other hand, Naji Al Fateel said that his suffering of ill-treatment had increased as he had been placed with arrestees charged with criminal offences who are infected with communicable diseases such as hepatitis. According to Mr. Fateel, the administration of the detention centre took that measure as a reaction against the detainees who complained to the judge at the court session on February 3, that they are in solitary cell.

Hassan Abdelnabi, told family members that he has been under pressure and threats of sexual abuse in order to use his wife as source of information about plans and future activities of the Detainees’ Committee in which his wife is involved.

Furthermore, the BCHR has been informed about sexual abuse against two more of the detainees namely Mahmood Hassan Saleh and Mohemmed Makki Ahmed. Both detainees are held in Dry-Dock detention centre together with Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh who had been subjected to sexual abuse according to earlier reports.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) urges all concerned to do what ever possible to secure the rights and safety of the aforementioned detainees.

3 Feb, 2008

AP: Bahrainis demonstrate in front of the Manama police headquarters,

Bahrainis demonstrate in front of the Manama police headquarters, Bahrain, Friday, Feb. 1, 2008, for the release of detained activists they allege have been tortured. A new Human Rights Watch report puts Bahrain among nations getting away with human rights violations due to alleged manipulation of elections. The Bahraini government is to submit a human rights report to the U.N. in Geneva later this month.

, Bahrain, Friday, Feb. 1, 2008, for the release of detained activists they allege have been tortured. A new Human Rights Watch report puts Bahrain among nations getting away with human rights violations due to alleged manipulation of elections. The Bahraini government is to submit a human rights report to the U.N. in Geneva later this month.

29 Jan, 2008

BCHR: Labour Minister using migrant workers as scapegoat for government's economic failures

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns recent comments made by the Labour Minister(http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/gulfimmigrationlabour), in which he warns that Gulf countries face danger of an "Asian tsunami" because of the high numbers of migrant workers upon which Gulf countries are reliant. Minister Majid al-Alawi allegedly said the migrant workers presented "a danger worse than the atomic bomb or an Israeli attack". "It is an irresponsible statement to suggest that migrant workers, who leave their families and homes behind to work and provide us essential services, and build our countries, are a danger to the citizens here," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said.

"This kind of statement promotes racial hatred - and puts the blame for the government's own failure to deal with unemployment on the shoulders of the most vulnerable community in our country.

"We call on the Minister to retract this statement. We would hope a member of a government which sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council would demonstrate greater respect towards the dignity and rights of migrant workers to live and work among us in peace."