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URGENT ACTION

BANGLADESHI SENTENCED TO DEATH IN BAHRAIN A 26-year-old Bangladeshi man, Russell Mezan, was sentenced to death by the High Criminal Court of Bahrain on 23 March after being convicted of murdering a Kuwaiti man. Russell Mezan’s lawyer says he has appealed against the sentence. According to press reports from Bahrain, Russell Mezan was sentenced to death on 23 March by the High Criminal Court of Bahrain after he was convicted of murdering a Kuwaiti man in a hotel in Manama on 7 March 2009. Russell Mezan is alleged to have offered sexual services as an exchange for money to his victim on several occasions before and on the night of the murder. The press reports say that Russell Mezan has confessed to the murder. Russell Mezan’s lawyer has confirmed to Amnesty International on 25 March that he lodged an appeal against the sentence on the same day the sentence was issued, as Russell Mezan says that he and the Kuwaiti man were drunk and that he did not intend to kill him. The case will now be heard before the Supreme Appeal Court in the next few weeks. If the appeal fails and the death sentence is then ratified by the King, Russell Mezan will face execution. Executions are usually carried out by firing squad. The death penalty is rarely used in Bahrain. In the last five years, around six people have been sentenced to death Most of those sentenced to death in recent years have been foreign migrant workers, mostly from developing countries. Migrant workers make up a large proportion of Bahrain’s workforce. In December 2006, three Bangladeshi nationals were executed, the first people to be put to death in Bahrain since 1996. In December 2008, the Bahraini government abstained in the vote for a UN General Assembly resolution calling for moratorium on executions. The resolution was passed by a vote of 106 in favour to 46 against, with 34 abstentions. PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English, Arabic or your own language:  Expressing concern about the death sentence imposed on Russell Mezan, while making it clear that you recognize the seriousness of the crime of which he has been convicted.  Acknowledging that the government has the right and responsibility to bring to justice those responsible for criminal offences, but expressing unconditional opposition to the death penalty as it is the ultimate cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.  Urging that the death sentence on Russell Mezan should be commuted by the King if it is confirmed by the appeal court.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 07 MAY 2010 TO: The King His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa King of Bahrain Office of His Majesty the King P. O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, Kingdom of Bahrain Fax:+ 973 1766 8884 Salutation: Your Majesty

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs His Excellency Nizar al-Baharna Minister of State for Foreign Affairs P.O. Box 1000, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17212603 Email: mofa@batelco.com.bh Salutation: Your Excellency

The Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Shaikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry of Justice and Islamic affairs P.O. Box 450, al- Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17536343 Salutation: Your Excellency Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. UA: 71/10 Index: MDE 11/001/2010 Issue Date: 26 March 2010

Security Attempts to Drain the Medical and Nursing Humane Profession from its Ethics

Arrest of a Unionist and an X-ray Specialist for their Treatment of the Person Wounded with Shotgun Bullets without Security Consent

19 March 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its great concern for the serious escalation approached by the Bahraini authorities in dealing with the public protests witnessed in the villages and areas of Bahrain, in protest against the violations practiced by the Authority through the Special Forces' use of live ammunition against the protestors in these peaceful demonstrations, as well as arresting two nurses; one who is a human rights defeder, due to their contribution in treating one of the victims of these public protests.

On 14 March 2010, the Special Forces (forces made up of foreign mercenaries) suppressed one of the protests in the village of Karzakan by using live ammo and fission bullets known locally as the shotgun bullet – and which is usually used to hunt birds and small animals – and one of the victims of these protests was the young Hussein Al-Sahlawi, 25 years old, who was shot several times at a close distance when he was leaving his grandfather's house in the village of Karzakan – which left almost 70 splinters all over his body. Due to his poor condition and the many scattered wounds and his continuous bleeding due to those splinters, he turned to the house of the known unionist and vice-president of the Nursing Society Ibrahim Al-Dimistani, and who carried out an initial treatment and stopped the bleeding, and who told him to immediately head to the hospital to have the tests, necessary x-ray and required treatment taken, and this led to the arrest of Al-Dimistani and the x-ray specialist in Salmaniya Hospital Abdul-aziz Shabeeb on charges relating to nursing and hospitalizing an injured in security cases without a prior consent or informing the Ministry of Interior.

In a statement made by the General Director of the Police Directorate of the Northern Governorate on 15 March 2010, he admitted using live ammo by the Special Forces to suppress the protests, he even added that the people who break the administrative custom procedures when entering a patient and treating him in the hospital will be questioned, emphasizing that covering up for a wanted person is considered a crime. However, the injured person was not wanted for any security or judicial body when he turned for treatment; all the charges against him later were related to assembling and do not require such a violent reaction or firing shots at him. Instead of the security apparatuses being questioned for the crime of using live ammo against peaceful and innocent individuals, the accusation, conviction or questioning is pointed at the people who carried out their human obligation with ethical proficiency and professionalism required by their profession.

Individuals from the Bahrain Human Rights Society attempted to visit the injured; however they prevented them from doing so. Worthy of mentioning, the local hospitals have orders of the necessity of informing the security apparatuses before initiating any treatment in protest demonstrations, which is contrary to the requirement of their humane career. Due to the state of fear felt by the victims of violations practiced by the Special Forces, the majority of victims of those demonstrations and protests do not go to hospitals to receive the right treatment, and only satisfy themselves with house treatments or some folk remedies, which poses significant risk on their health condition.

The unionist, Al-Dimistani, is considered one of the known human rights defender of the rights of the nursing career in the country. He was previously brought forth for investigation in past periods due to his activity in the Bahrain Nursing Society and his hard work towards improving the conditions of nurses. He has also been harassed due to his union work, where the Public Prosecution had charged him with libel and insult of officials in the Ministry of Health, and he was released with ensuring the place of his residence until the court acquitted him from this charge later. The Ministry of Social Development dissolved the administrative board of the Nursing Society which he is active in, and appointed a president by the Ministry. However, the general assembly of the Nursing Society refused the decision and fired the president appointed by the Ministry. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the arrest of Al-Dimistani in this incident comes first among the sequential attempts to restrict him and his activity as a known unionist and to stop his work in the Society and to silence another voice of a known defender for human rights. Secondly, the aim of the arrest of his colleague and him is to threat and intimidate all the doctors and nurses from carrying out their humane role in nursing all the victims away from their political, ethnic, sectarian and religious background without turning to any security or intelligence apparatuses to take permission from them, because that does not fall into the range of the profession of doctors and nurses. The BCHR believes that this security scare against treating the victims and pressurizing the doctors and nurses to report them is a means of transform this humane career practiced by doctors and nurses to security men and informers of security state apparatuses and which is completely contradictory to this humanitarian profession and its ethics.

The villages and areas of Bahrain are witnessing escalating public protests similar to a public uprising due to the Authority's policy in the continuous arbitrary arrests; torture practiced in prisons; political naturalization to change the demographics; systematic discrimination against the Shiite; bringing mercenary individuals and recruiting them to raid the Bahraini Shiite villages; the increasing level of poverty; rampant corruption among government; the Authority entering as a party in instigating disputes between the Shiite and Sunni; marginalizing the role of the Parliament and further humiliating the loyal representatives of the people in it. Instead of it changing its policy in reforming those outstanding issues that are causing this crisis.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:

1. To immediately release the unionist and human rights activists Ibrahim Al-Dimistani and his colleague the x-ray specialist Mr. Abdul-aziz Shabeeb;

2. to provide all the required medical care to citizen victims of violations away from the prior security consents, and to maintain all the professional and humanitarian standards, and not to bow to any security pressures that could make this profession loose its humanity and ethics;

3. to lift the ban of visiting the victims in the hospital immediately;

4. to stop using firearms and fission bullets to suppress the peaceful protests;

5. to initiate a serious dialogue with the pillars of society and to seriously look into the causes leading to the youth's participation in those demonstrations instead of the security solutions.

__________________________________________________________ The news piece about the arrest of Aziz Shabeeb http://www.alwasatnews.com/2750/news/read/382549/1.html Statement of the Ministry of Interior on the Suppressing the protests in the village of Karzakan http://www.alayam.com/Articles.aspx?aid=10474 http://www.alwasatnews.com/2170/news/read/162480/1.html http://www.alwasatnews.com/2170/news/read/162480/1.html

The BCHR in the Human Rights Council Geneva

The BCHR in the Human Rights Council Geneva

11-03-2010 On the sidelines of the meetings of the Human Rights Council that are currently being held in Geneva, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights participated in two symposiums at the United Nations. One of them addressed the continuous violations, harassments, and smear campaigns which the defenders of human rights were facing in the world. Bahrain and the Republic of Colombia were the examples that were mentioned.

Besides the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, and Mr. Peter Splendor representative of Amnesty International in Geneva, Ms. Gail Imreani Representative of the Asian Forum, and Ms. Rosen Drury for the World Organization for Building Bridges all participated.

The second symposium was held on Friday, 12 March at the United Nations and it addressed the issue of the deterioration of human rights conditions in the Arab world. The president of the BCHR, Mr. Nabeel Rajab spoke in the symposium, and so did Mr. Nedhal Darweesh from the Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria, and Ayaz Al-Maleh from Syria, in addition to Rasha Al-Shahawi and Sami from Egypt.

Rajab spoke of the deteriorating conditions of human rights in Bahrain and which witnessed evident violations on several levels, among them the increase in the political naturalization process and discrimination against the Shiite sect, and a decline in Bahrain's level in freedom of opinion and expression, and the continued prosecution of human right defenders. In addition to the spread of corruption among the influential figures in the State apparatuses and the government's approach towards creating fake civil society institutions to discredit the activity of the just human rights institutions. The symposium also addressed the conditions of the migrant workers and the discrimination practiced against them.

The symposium was attended by the representatives of the diplomatic missions in Geneva or the participating countries in the meetings of the Human Rights Council, as well as a large number of delegates of international organizations, or their representatives in the Swiss capital, Geneva. The symposium was under the patronage of Amnesty International, the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition and the Forum of Asia.

Migrant Workers and the Death Penalty in Bahrain & Saudi Arabia

Race, Poverty, and Justice Nabeel Rajab- Bahrain Center for Human Right & CARAM Asia World Congress against the Death Penalty, Geneva – 24 February, 2010 Introduction The Gulf is a major destination for migrant workers, particularly those from Southern Asia and South East Asia. Gulf countries are also widely known for the consistent and endemic violations perpetrated against migrant workers. When it comes to the death penalty, the number of migrants who are killed by judicial execution is grossly disproportional to the size of their populations. Discrimination on the basis of religion, nationality and ethnicity are common human rights violations in most Gulf States. Migrants from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and numerous other countries travel to the Gulf States to work mainly in the domestic work or low-skilled labor sectors. These workers routinely experience restrictions on their freedom of expression, religion and religious practice, access to justice, access to healthcare, the withholding of passports, threats, physical, verbal or sexual abuse, non-payment of wages, as well as unsafe and unhygienic living and working conditions.

In countries with such systemic abuses and violations, migrant workers form an exceptionally vulnerable community. The legal system itself is skewed against migrants because of the restriction imposed by the kafala sponsorship system. In addition to this, low-income migrant workers have little or no access to legal aid, and in the vast majority of cases cannot afford to pay for legal representation or services. The legal systems in the Gulf can be described as “impossible to navigate” for non-Arabic speakers. Local laws are applied to migrants (including the government’s interpretation of Sharia law in Saudi Arabia) yet there are no provisions to ensure that migrants can understand the legal system or laws - even in cases where defendants could be given the death sentence. Built upon a system of bias towards nationals, the legal systems in the Gulf countries reviewed in this report are deeply flawed in terms of fair and independent trials, presumption of innocence, and the right to question witnesses. In addition to legal and procedural failings, there is also a problem of corruption, to use of personal connections to ensure favorable judgments by nationals, and questionable judgments issued in secret trials. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Gulf, It has an estimated population of 28 million, of which 5.6 million are migrants. Migrant workers represent almost 35% of Saudi Arabia’s workforce, and make up approximately 88% of the workforce in the private sector. There are approximately1.5 million foreign domestic workers in the country, most of whom are women. Saudi maintains a closed door policy towards human rights investigators. Requests to visit the country by five different UN human rights special rapporteurs or working groups dating from 2005 onwards remained unanswered at year's end. The Saudi Legal and Social Quandary 1. Legal & Procedural Problems The Saudi legal system is based on the government's interpretation of Shari'a (Islamic) law. Their jurisdiction extends to non Muslims for crimes committed in the country. In addition to this, according to the Criminal Procedure Law defendants do not enjoy a presumption of innocence. Saudi law provides persons under investigation the right to a lawyer to present defense before a criminal court. However, an attorney is not provided at public expense if the defendant cannot afford to hire one. The law also fails to protect the defendant's right to consult with the lawyer upon arrest, and defendants do not have the right to question witnesses brought before them. In general, witnesses are questioned before the initiation of a trial by the investigative authorities, and not by the defendant or their legal representative before court. Court proceedings in capital punishment cases are closed, making it impossible to determine whether the accused were allowed to present a defense or were denied basic due process. Many capital punishment cases proceed from trial to verdict and sentencing with no public notice, unless the verdict is reported in the media. 2. Lapses in Practice & implementation of Law It is widely accepted that the tribal, social, economic, and religious status of local employers can influence the judgment made in a court case. Government officials and institutions tend to favor local employers, and show a strong bias towards members of the ruling family, or well-connected persons. The judicial system is known to be unresponsive to requests made by migrant workers .

Victims of abused or “runaway” migrant female domestic workers (often escaping from abusive sponsors) are treated as criminals by law enforcement institutions; they are often punished without being offered any protection from or compensation for the situation from which they have escaped. Female migrant workers arrested on charges of prostitution are not asked by police if they were forced into prostitution or not, but instead subjected to hard physical punishment under Saudi law. In a number of cases female migrant workers who have been raped by their local sponsors have been imprisoned or sentenced to a physical punishment.

Saudi officials have in the past made claims stating that legal services are provided to migrant workers who have suffered abuse. In reality the lack of translation services as well as lengthy and costly delays in court proceedings has often discouraged victims from seeking legal redress .

From the highest institutions to the lowest officials, the legal systems of Saudi Arabia and most of Gulf States do not encourage victims to pursue investigations against their local abusers. In reality law can be used against migrant workers, but it cannot be used by them.

There are regular impositions of punishments for legal violations committed by migrant workers. In contrast, we do not see that the legal system providing protections or justice for migrant workers seeking redress for violations committed against them.

3. Questionable Judgments Another important issue is the reliability of judgments passed in judicial systems where torture and maltreatment have been identified as part of the interrogation process. In 2007 the Saudi National Society for Human Rights (a government-funded human rights organization) reported allegations of torture during the investigation process. A 2010 report issued by Human Rights Watch found that torture is again part of investigative proceedings in Bahrain. Additionally, in Saudi Arabia prisoners are routinely sentenced in secret and unfair trials. Defendants, particularly poor migrant workers from countries in Africa and Asia, often cannot afford or access a defense lawyers, and are unable to follow court proceedings in Arabic. Because of these of seriously flawed and unfair judicial practices, rulings made are unreliable.

4. Lack of Extra-Judicial Means of Support and Assistance Migrant Workers have little, if any access to support when it comes to navigating the legal system of their host countries. Government representatives of poor sending countries tend to show a reluctance to raise the issue of human rights violations faced by their own citizens in the wealthy Gulf countries. Either out of fear of angering host governments, or risk of jeopardizing the flow of remittances. Embassy and consular officials do not provide information, legal, translation, or advocacy services to the scope of which they are needed. “… right to Life, Liberty, and Security of Person” Courts in Saudi Arabia continue to impose physical punishment, including amputation of hands and feet, and flogging for "sexual deviance", and drunkenness. Capital punishment is also practiced, and executions are carried out in public. According to the Saudi interpretation and application of Islamic law, crimes of murder, rape, drug trafficking and armed robbery are punished with beheading.

Saudi Arabia is also one of the few remaining countries to execute people for crimes committed as legal minors (under the age of 18), in breach of international law. In June 2007 Sri Lankan domestic worker Rizana Nafeek faced execution after being found guilty of murder, in a case that highlights critical flaws in Saudi’s system of justice. Nafeek had no legal representation throughout the duration of the case. Because she was allegedly provided with false documentation in Sri Lanka, it is believed that she may have be 17 at the time of sentencing. An appeals hearing revealed that an interpreter used during the case may not have been qualified. Saudi Arabia remain one of the few countries with a high rate of executions for women

1. Disproportional Number of Death Sentences

This report has already outlined the way in which racial discrimination pervades the various levels in the decision-making process taken place prior to the death penalty. Sentencing and execution show further evidence of a racial bias in implementation of the death penalty.

In 2005 191 executions took place in Saudi Arabia. In 2006 there were 38, and in 2007 there were 153, and in 2008 there were 102 , with an average rate of more than two executions every week according to Amnesty International. Almost half of those executed in Saudi were migrant workers from poor countries. Amnesty International claims today, with a Saudi citizen up to eight times more likely to escape execution through a "blood money". Migrants, mostly Asians and Africans, who face capital trials in the kingdom, are frequently unable to understand court proceedings in Arabic, are often not represented by a lawyer, and are routinely held for long periods in harsh conditions and forced into false confessions. The number of migrant workers from poor sending countries killed under the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is disproportionally high in relation to the total number of migrants in the country. The death penalty is applied discriminately against poor foreign workers. The Saudi authorities do not provide statistics on the death penalty but Amnesty recorded at least 1,695 executions between 1985 and May 2008. Of these, 830 were foreign nationals and 809 Saudis (with the nationality of 56 unknown). Foreigners make up about a quarter of the 28 million populations.

In the last five years it is believed that six people have been sentenced to death in Bahrain, all of them migrant workers from poor countries. In December 2006 three Bangladeshi nationals were executed. On 16 November 2009, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain upheld the death penalty against Jassim Abdulmanan, a male Bangladeshi national. He is facing execution by firing squad at any time. Prior to this, for many years Bahrain had observed a de facto suspension on the death penalty. With three executions in 2006 and the pending sentence for Jassim Abdulmanan, Bahrain appears to be moving against the international trend away from capital punishment. Human rights groups have raised fears that the death penalty in Bahrain is discriminately used against migrant workers. In October 2009 a Bahraini national was given a life sentence for the attempted rape and murder of an Ethiopian domestic worker in his employ. This case raises serious questions about racial bias in judgments.

Such judgments can be seen as part of a wider practice of discrimination, exemplified by the Bahraini Parliament’s 2008 attempt to ban all Bangladeshi workers following an incident in which a Bangladeshi mechanic killed a Bahraini client in a dispute over payment. The Bahraini government temporarily froze visa issues to all Bangladeshi citizens in the wake of this incident. Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, in 2008 and 1999 respectively, also introduced bans on issuing work visas to Bangladeshi nationals, although Kuwait later retracted the ban. In both cases these bans were implemented based on similar prejudices – an entire people were criminalized based on the actions of certain individuals.

Such measures at the national level further perpetuate discriminatory conceptions and practices which play into the judicial process’ bias against migrant workers.

2. Poverty and the Death Penalty

Economic status is also an important factor in the likelihood of being sentenced to death, and its effect is the increased vulnerability of the vast majority of migrants, who work in low-paid jobs in the Gulf. Firstly, migrant workers have little or no access to influential figures such as Government authorities or tribal leaders, who could intercede in legal proceedings. Arbitration is an important judicial and social mechanism in Gulf States, and without a ‘wasta’ (connection), migrants have even less options when it comes to seeing justice.

Another important factor is migrant workers’ lack of access to money, which could be provided as ‘deya’ (blood money, agreed on by relatives of the deceased). Both access to influential figures and access to finances are crucial factors in securing clemency from execution, and the overwhelming majority of migrant workers have neither.

3. Current Status on Death Sentences

In both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, final judgment on the death penalty comes in the form of ratification from the head of state. No death sentence is executed without ratification by the Bahraini King. The unfortunate trends detailed above show a lack of political will to introduce a suspension on the death penalty.

In December last year the Bahraini government abstained in the vote for a United Nations resolution calling for a moratorium on executions globally. The resolution which was passed by a vote of 106 in favor to 46 against, with 34 abstentions.

Conclusion As this report shows, the weight of the executioner’s sword falls heaviest on those who are most vulnerable in Gulf societies. Legal and procedural problems, lapses in implementation of law, judgments of questionable validity, lack of access to support and assistance all contribute to the highly disproportional number of migrant’s killed using the death penalty by these states. Justice, as we have seen, is not blind – it knows nationality, race, language and money, and the harshest penalties in are reserved for those among the least able to defend themselves.

Recommendations To the governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; • To declare a suspension on judicial executions. • To uphold and ensure the implementation of the highest standards of judicial practice – including open, free and fair trials • To ensure access to legal representation for all defendants facing the death penalty • To provide access to information and translation services for migrants at all relevant legal and governmental institutions. To representatives of sending countries; • Sending countries should stop prioritizing remittances over the life, health, happiness, rights and safety of their nationals. • To establish consular or embassy level presence in Gulf states • To assign a legal envoy to deal with labour issues • To provide legal information, assistance and representation to nationals who cannot afford it themselves • To provide information to all migrants about their rights and the laws of the receiving country in own language

To Local NGO’s, social, and charitable organizations; • To provide assistance to embassy staff in producing and disseminating informational material for migrant workers • To provide assistance and follow-up support work to migrant workers involved in legal disputes

To media organizations in receiving countries; • To cease media campaigns inciting racial hatred against migrant workers • To provide consistent, fair and accurate coverage of migrant issues

From Guantanamo to Bahrain

By Joshua Colangelo-Bryan Published in The Huffington Post February 25, 2010

From 2004 through 2007, I represented six Bahraini detainees who were held at Guantanamo Bay. During that time, I informed the Bahraini government about abuses my clients said they suffered at the hands of the US government. Bahraini government officials, parliamentarians, and the media, rightly condemned this treatment outright. Not once was I ever asked for corroboration to show that abuses had actually occurred (even though there often was corroboration).

I was also the author of a Human Rights Watch report, released earlier this month, which concluded that Bahraini security officials engaged in torture and other abuses. To my surprise, many of the same Bahraini officials and parliamentarians who immediately condemned the US for its treatment of my Guantanamo clients, said just as quickly that the Human Rights Watch report should not be believed.

Why? Well, they claim the report is based solely on the accounts of political dissidents (suggesting that allegations by dissidents should automatically be discredited) and that nothing in the report corroborates the accounts.

It is disappointing, if sadly predictable, that those Bahrainis who were willing to accept the allegations of abuse made by their fellow citizens detained abroad, automatically reject the credibility of similar allegations made by their fellow citizens detained at home. Moreover, those who assert that the report lacks corroboration must not have read it. In addition to victim testimonies, the report, "Torture Redux: The Revival of Physical Coercion during Interrogations in Bahrain," cites numerous documents created by Bahraini-government personnel, including medical examiners, that substantiate the accounts of torture we heard.

By way of just one example, a report by Ministry of Health doctors regarding detainees in the Karzakan case (one of those discussed in the report) found so many injuries consistent with allegations of abuse that the judge - a member of the ruling family - dismissed all charges against all defendants. By itself this is far more corroboration than anyone in Bahrain ever asked for in connection with my Guantanamo clients, and there are many similar examples in the report.

On the issue of corroboration, I often said that even if people thought all detainees were liars, US government documents proved that abuses occurred. Well, the same is true here. Even if you suspect that all of the individuals we interviewed offered false testimony - and we explained why we don't believe this was the case - Bahraini government documents leave little doubt that abuses occurred.

Officials also complain that we did not address the Bahraini government's responses to the allegations of torture. That complaint is false. We devoted an entire section in the report to oral statements made to us by Bahraini government officials who denied that anyone had been abused. The fact that the report included no additional responses was because government officials ignored letters we wrote in October and December 2009 requesting more detailed information.

In fact, it was only a day before we released the report that the Ministry of Interior provided a written response. What did it say? Mostly that Bahraini law prohibits torture (a point we don't dispute) and that Bahrain is committed to ensuring that torture does not occur (we can only hope). It also spoke generally about the cases from which the accounts of torture that we heard arose. Strangely, the response said that one of the three cases we investigated, the al-Hujaira case, concerned two individuals with al Qaeda connections; in actuality, the case involved dozens of detainees supposedly sent to Syria for terrorist training by Bahraini opposition figures. This obvious mistake suggests that someone was asked to draft a response at the last minute.

The response also made several specific points that were demonstrably false. For example, it claimed that the decision of the court in the Karzakan case to dismiss all charges had nothing to do with physical abuse. Anyone who reads the court's decision will see that issues of abuse were crucial. The response also said that doctors in the Jidhafs case (the third case discussed in the report) testified that certain injuries they found on detainees could have resulted from the normal use of handcuffs. Court minutes reflect that the doctors said the injuries they found would not have been so caused.

We recognize that others in the Bahraini government indicated that our report raised issues requiring additional attention and investigation. We hope that an impartial investigation is conducted and that its findings are shared with the Bahraini people. As for me, I will continue to advocate for those who have been abused, regardless of race or religion, and regardless of whether the abuses occur in Guantanamo or Bahrain.

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/02/05/bahrain-end-torture-security-suspects

2009 Human Rights Report: Bahrain

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices March 11, 2010

Bahrain is a monarchy with a population of approximately 1,050,000, including approximately 530,000 who are citizens. King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa is the head of state and all branches of government. The king appoints a cabinet of ministers; approximately half are members of the minority Sunni Al-Khalifa ruling family. The 2002 constitution reinstated a legislative body with one elected chamber, the Council of Deputies, and one appointed chamber, the Shura Council. All registered political societies participated in the 2006 parliamentary and municipal elections, which were marred by allegations of gerrymandering and vote rigging in some races. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.

Citizens did not have the right to change their government. The government restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. Domestic violence against women and children persisted, as did discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, nationality, and sect, especially against the Shia majority population. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of foreign resident workers remained problems.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings during the year.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits such practices; however, there were allegations during the year that security forces employed them. Local human rights observers were critical of the tactics used by specialized police units responding to tire burnings and other such disturbances; in some cases, rioters threw Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at police.

On several occasions, police detained dozens of young men in connection with small but frequent skirmishes between police and youths throwing rocks and, at times, Molotov cocktails. These youths routinely alleged that security forces beat them in custody. Security forces denied the accusations, and some opposition political activists expressed doubt about some of the allegations.

On October 13, a judge acquitted 19 defendants of charges relating to the 2008 death of a police officer in Karzakan. According to local media sources, the presiding judge said that the defendants' claims that they confessed under duress had influenced his verdict. On November 11, the public prosecutor's office appealed the verdict, and at year's end a date for the hearing had not been set.

Following December 2007 protests, security forces arrested and detained dozens of protestors in the Adliya jail. Some detainees reported that judicial interrogators beat and electrocuted them in prison; officials denied the allegations of abuse. A court-appointed medical team examined the detainees, subsequently testifying that they could neither prove nor disprove the defendants' accusations of abuse. In July 2008, the High Criminal Court sentenced 11 of the 15 defendants to between one and seven years' imprisonment; King Hamad subsequently pardoned them on April 11.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons and detention center conditions generally met international standards, although the government did not permit any independent inspections by human rights observers. Throughout the year some detainees alleged that pretrial detention facility guards physically abused them, a charge the government denied. Court-ordered medical examinations in 2008 of those alleging abuse were inconclusive. There were no similar reports of abuse from prison detainees.

According to the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), as of May 9 there were more than 500 prisoners in the system, including 57 women. Total prison capacity is unknown. Men were held in separate facilities from women, and juveniles were held separately from adults.

On May 9, the BHRS inspected the women's prison in Isa Town. The BHRS reported no major problems, although the report indicated the cells were not designed for their current occupancy of eight to 10 women.

On June 3, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials provided training to managers of detention facilities and human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on prison management, health and safety at detention centers, medical ethics, and treatment of prisoners. ICRC officials did not visit prisons during the trip. The country's Red Crescent Society officials reported that ICRC officials had not visited prisons since the release of all political prisoners in 2000.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions, although there were some allegations to the contrary.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) is responsible for public security. The MOI controls the public security force and other specialized security units that are responsible for maintaining internal order. The Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) is responsible for defending against external threats and provides internal security. The security forces were generally effective in maintaining internal order.

A widespread lack of transparency made corruption in the security services difficult to assess. The press reported that in a number of cases, authorities jailed or fined law enforcement officials for misconduct, most often for accepting bribes.

In November 2008, the MOI announced that it disciplined 23 police officers during the year for committing human rights abuses. They received prison time and/or fines. The MOI maintained a hotline for citizens to report police abuses; however, many in the Shia community believed the MOI condoned police misconduct and therefore did not report allegations of abuse. In practice the MOI responded to allegations of abuse and public complaints by establishing temporary investigation committees. These committees did not issue public reports of their findings.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

To apprehend a felon suspect, police must present evidence to a judge who will decide whether to issue an arrest warrant. Police and security forces must transfer suspects to the public prosecutor's office within 48 hours, and they generally respected that requirement in practice. Within seven days of arrest, a detainee must appear before a judge in the public prosecutor's office. Judges may grant bail to a suspect and regularly did so. If the judge decides the suspect is a flight risk or a danger to society, they may allow up to an additional 45 days of detention while the public prosecutor conducts an investigation. This process may continue through subsequent reviews by different judges, but pretrial detention may not exceed six months.

The 2006 counterterrorism law allows the public prosecutor to detain a terrorism suspect for five days. Upon request the public prosecutor may extend this period based on the needs of the investigation for up to 10 more days. At the end of this period, the detainee must be transferred to the public prosecutor and questioned within three days. The public prosecutor must then decide to issue a detention order or to release the detainee. The detention order may not exceed 60 days.

Detainee access to attorneys was often restricted in the early stages of detention; attorneys must seek a court order to confer with clients and then coordinate with officials at the detention facility for access. The state provided counsel to indigent detainees. Detainees were generally allowed prompt access to visiting family members.

Amnesty

On April 11, the king announced amnesty for 178 persons, including many charged for rioting. After some initial confusion, the government determined that the defendants in the Ma'ameer attack and the killing of a police officer in Karzakan in 2008 were not covered by the amnesty, and their trials would continue.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice.

According to the constitution, the king appoints all judges by royal decree. The king also serves as chairman of the supreme judicial council, the body responsible for supervising the work of the courts and the public prosecutor.

The legal system is based on a mix of British civil law, common law, Shari'a, and traditional laws. The judiciary consists of civil law courts and Shari'a courts.

The civil law courts adjudicate all civil and commercial cases, criminal cases, and personal status cases among non–Muslims. The courts of minor cases (the lower courts and the Court of Execution) have one judge, and the high courts have three judges with jurisdiction over felonies, personal status cases, and appeals.

Shari'a courts have jurisdiction over personal status cases involving citizen and noncitizen Muslims. There are separate courts for Sunni and Shia Muslims, each of which has three levels: the Shari'a court, the High Shari'a Court, and the High Shari'a Court of Appeal. The High Shari'a Court of Appeal is composed of a minimum of two judges. In the event of a disagreement, the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs (MOJIA) provides a third judge, and the decision is based on a majority vote. There are 13 judges in the Sunni Maliki Shari'a courts and 14 judges in the Shia Ja'afari Shari'a courts.

The Constitutional Court provides final and binding ruling on the constitutionality of laws and statutes. The court's membership consists of a president and six members, all appointed by the king to nine-year terms that may not be abridged.

The BDF maintains a separate court system that tries only military personnel accused of offenses under the military code of justice. The MOI has a similar system for trying police officers.

Trial Procedures

According to the constitution, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Civil and criminal trial procedures provide for an open trial. There are no jury trials. By law and in practice, defendants have the right to prompt consultation with an attorney of their choice within 48 hours, and the government provided counsel to indigent defendants. Defendants are present during trial proceedings, and have the right to present witnesses and evidence on their behalf and question witnesses against them. No law governs defendants' access to government-held evidence, and the government often reviewed evidence prior to defendants' access to it. Defendants have the right to appeal. Women's legal rights varied according to Shia or Sunni interpretations of Islamic law.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Citizens may bring civil suits before the court seeking cessation of, or damages for, human rights violations; however, the government maintained that the 2001 general amnesty granted immunity for alleged human rights violations committed before 2001.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice except under the provisions of the law and under judicial supervision. The government is required to obtain a court order before monitoring telephone calls, e-mail, and personal correspondence. Many Shia believed there were extensive and sophisticated police informer networks, but they were unable to provide concrete evidence.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press "provided that the fundamenatal beliefs of Islamic doctrine are not infringed, the unity of the people is not prejudiced, and discord or sectarianism is not aroused." Freedom of press is also subject to applicable press laws. Both censorship and self-censorship took place.

The law forbids any speech or discussion infringing on public order or morals. In private settings, individuals openly expressed critical opinions regarding domestic political and social issues. There was also considerable freedom of expression on the Internet, in letters to the editor, and occasionally on state-run television call-in shows.

The government did not own any print media, but the Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI) exercised considerable control over local privately owned print media. The government owned and operated all radio and television stations and vetted the selection of the country's Al—Jazeera correspondent. Radio and television broadcasts in Arabic, Farsi, and English from countries in the region, including by satellite, were received without interference.

The government enforced, at its discretion, the press law to restrict freedom of speech and press. The law provides for fines of as much as 10,000 dinars ($26,500) and prison sentences of at least six months for criticizing Islam or the king or inciting actions that undermine state security, as well as fines of up to 2,000 dinars ($5,300) for 14 other offenses. These offenses include publicizing statements issued by a foreign state or organization before obtaining the consent of the minister of information, publishing any reports that may adversely affect the dinar's value, reporting any offense against the head of a state that maintains diplomatic relations with the country, or publishing offensive remarks toward an accredited representative of a foreign country because of acts connected with the person's position.

Government censorship occurred. MOCI representatives actively monitored and blocked local stories on sensitive matters, especially those related to sectarianism and national security or criticism of the royal family, the Saudi royal family, and judges. Journalists also practiced widespread self-censorship. According to some members of the media, government officials contacted editors directly and asked them to stop writing about certain subjects or asked them not to publish a press release or a story. There were reports that the government paid journalists to represent the 2006 parliamentary elections favorably. In addition the MOCI Press and Publications Directorate reviewed all books and publications prior to issuing printing licenses. The MOJIA reviewed books that discussed religion.

On April 11, the Constitutional Court overturned an article of the press and publication law that held publishing companies and publishers responsible for the content of the publications they distributed. Because of the ruling, the government may only punish publishers if they defy a judicial decision to revoke a publication's license. However, on June 22, the MOCI suspended the publication of Arabic daily Akhbar Al Khaleej for one day after the newspaper published an editorial by a Shura Council member criticizing Iranian political and religious leadership.

Internet Freedom

The government restricted use of the Internet, which residents accessed in their home, workplace, or Internet cafes. The number of Internet users more than doubled from 2004 to 2008, rising from 202,000 to 435,000 users.

The government was a major shareholder in the Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco), the country's principal telecommunications company, which prohibited user access to Internet sites considered antigovernment or anti-Islamic. Reportedly, the government did not monitor e-mail use. The government continued to invoke the press code to justify the questioning of some journalists and bloggers. By law Web site administrators face the same libel laws that apply to print journalists, and Web masters are held jointly responsible for all content posted on their Web sites or chat rooms.

The government regularly monitored and attempted to block local access to numerous Web sites, including local blogs and chat sites, human rights Web sites, Web sites containing information about Arab Christians, and the Wa'ad political society's Web site. Public discussion of blocked Web sites was widespread, and many users were able to access blocked sites through alternate servers.

On January 14, the minister of culture and information ordered all telecommunications companies and Internet service providers to block a number of political, human rights, commercial, and pornographic Web sites for violating the press and publication law, transgressing local values, and impairing national unity. According to an October 18 article in Alwasat newspaper, the government blocked approximately 100 Web sites during the year. The MOCI decree also ordered that proxy servers be blocked, prohibiting their use to bypass the decree. On January 24, the telecommunications regulatory authority threatened to revoke the license of any operator violating the decree. On February 19, Wa'ad filed a civil lawsuit against MOCI for blocking its Web site, and MOCI ordered the block removed. On April 19, MOCI announced that the government had decided to unblock a number of the Web sites; however, some remained blocked at year's end.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. Some academics self-censored, avoiding contentious political issues.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The constitution provides for the right of free assembly, but the law restricts the exercise of this right, and security forces intervened in some demonstrations during the year. Organizers must submit requests for public gatherings or demonstrations to the MOI at least 72 hours in advance. Three citizens from the proposed demonstration area must sign the application. If there is no response to the request, the gathering may proceed. The law prohibits public gatherings near hospitals, airports, commercial centers, designated security-related facilities, or funeral processions. The law prohibits gatherings between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., unless the chief of public security or his deputy gives written permission. The law states that funeral processions may not be turned into political rallies and that security officials may be present at any public gathering. The head of public security must notify the organizers about any official changes to the request (such as location, time, or route) at least 48 hours prior to the event. Organizers of an unauthorized gathering face prison sentences of three to six months.

The government specifically limited and controlled political gatherings. The law regulates election campaigns and prohibits political activities at worship centers, universities, schools, government buildings, and public institutions. The government did not allow ma'tams (Shia religious community centers) or other religious sites to be used for political gatherings without permission.

Antigovernment demonstrations occurred regularly in numerous Shia villages around the country. Bands of Shia youth, allegedly instigated by members of the unregistered Haq Movement and the newly organized al-Waf'a Islamic Movement, regularly appeared at both registered and unregistered demonstrations where, according to Shia community members and MOI officials, they burned tires and trash and threw Molotov cocktails and stones at riot police.

Police often dispersed demonstrations with tear gas. Local human rights NGOs alleged that riot police used tear gas against peaceful demonstrators; however, the MOI countered that it used tear gas in response to attacks by demonstrators. Periodically security forces fired rubber baton rounds at the ground to disperse demonstrations, and on a number of occasions, security forces allegedly ricocheted shotgun pellets from the ground to disperse rioters as a last resort.

Freedom of Association

The constitution provides for the right to freedom of association; however, the government limited this right in practice. Although the government does not allow the formation of political parties, it authorized registered political societies to run candidates and participate in other political activities.

The government required all groups to register: civil society groups with the Ministry of Social Development (MOSD), political societies with the MOJIA, and labor unions with the Ministry of Labor (MOL). The government decided whether the group was social or political in nature based on its proposed bylaws. The law prohibits any activity by an unlicensed society and any political activity by a licensed civil society group.

To apply for registration, a political society must submit its bylaws signed by all founding members, a list of all members and copies of their residency cards, and a financial statement identifying the society's sources of funding and bank information. The society's principles, goals, and programs must not run counter to Shari'a law or the national interest, as interpreted by the judiciary, nor may the society be based on sectarian, geographic, or class identity.

A civil society group applying for registration must submit its bylaws signed by all founding members and minutes of the founding committee's meetings, containing the names of founding members, their professions, their places of residence, and their signatures. The law grants the MOSD the right to reject the registration of any civil society group if it finds the society's services unnecessary, already provided by another society, contrary to state security, or aimed at reviving a previously dissolved society. Associations whose applications are rejected or ignored may appeal to the High Civil Court, which may annul the MOSD's decision or refuse the complaint.

The MOSD continued to deny the National Committee for the Unemployed registration as a civil society group because of the political nature of its activities. The MOSD also rejected the Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society's (BYHRS) application, allegedly because of its ties to the dissolved Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and because some of its members were younger than 18. The November 2008 legal proceedings filed by the MOSD against the BYHRS president, Mohammed Al-Maskati, who was accused of running an unlicensed NGO, remained pending.

c. Freedom of Religion

The constitution states that Islam is the official religion and that Shari'a is a principal source for legislation. The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, the inviolability of worship, and the freedom to perform religious rites and hold religious parades and meetings, in accordance with the customs and laws of the country; however, the government placed some limits on the exercise of these rights. The law requires all religious groups to obtain a permit from the MOJIA to operate and hold religious meetings. Depending on a group's activities, it may also need approval from the MOSD, the MOCI, and the Ministry of Education. The constitution prohibits speech considered blasphemous or anti-Islamic.

The Baha'i congregation, repeatedly denied registration in previous years, continued to gather and worship freely without government interference. Numerous Christian churches operated freely, although several could not successfully register and were ordered to close. Most of these cases related to zoning concerns and neighbors' complaints about parking near houses used as unregistered churches. Other religious minorities, including Sikhs and Hindus, practiced freely.

The government controlled and provided funding to official religious institutions, including Shia and Sunni mosques, Shia ma'tams, Shia and Sunni waqfs (religious endowments), and the religious courts. New mosques depended on the government's nontransparent land allocation process. Allocation reportedly was not proportionate to the Shia community's relative population in the country.

Islamic studies are mandatory for all public school students; however, curriculum in the public schools is broadly based on the Sunni Maliki school.

Although the law prohibits proselytizing by non-Muslims, it does allow for distribution of religious publications and other religious media in general, so long as the material is not anti-Islamic.

The government scrutinized carefully those who chose to pursue religious study in Iran.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

Government and societal discrimination against the majority Shia population remained a problem. Sunnis received preference for employment in sensitive government positions and in the managerial ranks of the civil service. The defense and internal security forces were also predominantly Sunni, and few Shia members attained high-ranking positions. During the year fewer than one percent of new recruits in the armed forces were Shia; however, the MOI increased efforts to recruit Shia into unarmed security agencies such as traffic and community police. In the private sector, Shia tended to work in lower-paid, less-skilled jobs. Educational, social, and municipal services in most Shia neighborhoods were inferior to those in Sunni communities. Unlike previous years, there were no reports of religious discrimination in university faculty employment.

The Jewish community had approximately 36 members, one of whom serves as the country's ambassador to the United States. Jews practiced their faith privately without government interference; due to the small size of the Jewish community, the country's sole synagogue remained closed. Some anti-Jewish political commentary and editorial cartoons appeared, usually linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without government response.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other personsof concern.

The law provides that the government may reject applications to obtain or renew passports for "reasonable cause," but the applicant has the right to appeal such decisions before the High Civil Court. In practice authorities relied on determinations of national security when adjudicating passport applications.

The constitution prohibits forced exile, and there were no reports of forced exile or return from exile during the year. Some political oppositionists who refused the 2001 amnesty remained in self-imposed exile.

Protection of Refugees

The country is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice, the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Such individuals generally had access to certain social services, education, and employment.

Stateless Persons

In past years, the government offered citizenship to several thousand stateless "Bidoon" persons, mostly Shia of Persian origin. However, according to Freedom House, Bidoon and citizens who spoke Farsi as their first language continued to encounter discrimination in society and the work force. On October 11, the minister of interior stated that more than 68,000 persons were granted citizenship since 2002 in an effort to resolve the problem of stateless individuals.

Citizenship is derived from one's parents. By law foreign women who marry citizens are eligible for citizenship after five years of marriage; however, foreign men who marry citizens are not entitled to citizenship, and women cannot transmit their nationality to their children. The Bahrain Women Association (BWA) reported that as of September, the organization was aware of 175 women with stateless children. In 2006 King Hamad issued a decree granting citizenship to some children of citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers; however, children born to such families since the decree are stateless.

The law clearly defines naturalization requirements, but the adjudication process for naturalization applications was not transparent. Opposition groups claimed the government regularly ignored naturalization rules to manipulate demographics for voting and to maintain Sunni domination of police and defense forces. According to these opposition groups, the government was more lenient with naturalization requests from foreign residents in the security forces, while Shia and other applicants experienced delays in processing of their cases. The government occasionally granted citizenship to Sunni residents from neighboring countries. The government stated that some Saudis who had received citizenship were the grandchildren of Bahraini citizens who had emigrated to Saudi Arabia and had a legal right to citizenship. Accurate figures for the number of foreigners naturalized in recent years were not readily available. Stateless persons had access to certain social services, education, and employment. Stateless persons were eligible to receive housing and other government services; however, they were excluded from receiving scholarships.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have the right to change their government or their political system; however, the constitution provides for a democratically elected Council of Deputies, the lower house of parliament. The king appoints the prime minister, who then proposes cabinet ministers. Members of the ruling Al-Khalifa family held all strategic cabinet ministry positions and approximately half of ministerial slots. The bicameral national assembly consists of the 40-member popularly elected Council of Deputies and the 40-member appointed Shura (Consultative) Council. The king may dissolve the Council of Deputies at his discretion; he also has the power to amend the constitution and to propose, ratify, and promulgate laws. Both councils may question government ministers (except the prime minister), and the Council of Deputies may require a minister's resignation with a two-thirds majority vote of no confidence. The Council of Deputies may introduce a resolution indicating it cannot cooperate with the prime minister, in which case the joint national assembly would have the option to pass the resolution by a two-thirds majority, requiring the king to dismiss the prime minister or to dissolve the Council of Deputies. A no-confidence vote has never arisen.

Elections and Political Participation

All registered political societies, including the four that boycotted the 2002 elections, participated in the 2006 Council of Deputies elections. Although no international observers participated, the government permitted nine local civil society groups, including the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) and the Bahrain Society for Public Freedoms, access to poll stations to observe voting. The Bahrain Transparency Society and the BHRS joined efforts to form the Election Monitoring Joint Committee (EMJC) and trained more than 200 local observers. The government asked a foreign organization involved in political party training and election observation to leave the country during the campaign process and elections.

In its February 2007 report, the EMJC stated there were no widespread attempts to influence the outcome of the elections, although it noted that candidates did not cease campaign activities 24 hours before voting opened, as the law required. Official polling station observers did not report significant problems during the voting process, although there were allegations that the government manipulated general poll center vote counts against opposition candidates in several close races. Many opposition figures, including Shia activists, alleged that the government gerrymandered the districts to protect Sunni interests.

The government did not allow the formation of political parties, but 15 political societies, which received some government funding and operated like political parties, chose candidates for parliamentary and municipal elections, campaigned for political office, developed political platforms, held internal elections, and hosted political gatherings. Political societies were highly critical of provisions in the law requiring them to notify the MOJIA before contacting political groups abroad.

The law prohibits civil society groups from engaging in political matters; however, the government permitted such activity at its discretion.

There were 10 women in the Shura Council and one in the Council of Deputies. Two women served as cabinet ministers, three women sat as judges in the criminal courts, and one was a judge in the Constitutional Court.

Shia and Sunni citizens have equal rights before the law; however, Sunnis dominated political life although Shia comprised the majority of the citizen population. Twenty Shura Council members were Shia Muslims, 19 were Sunni, and one was Christian. Four of the 23 cabinet ministers were Shia, including a deputy prime minister.

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not always implement the law effectively, and some officials reportedly engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Significant areas of government activity continued to lack transparency. As in previous years, there was no government agency respobsible for combating official corruption. On December 8, the minister of the interior announced plans to establish an anticorruption unit within his ministry's Criminal Investigation Directorate. The law does not require government officials to provide financial disclosures, nor does it provide citizens access to government-held information.

The annual National Audit Bureau report released on November 5 detailed financial irregularities affecting a number of ministries and agencies. The report did not state whether government employees would be prosecuted for corruption.

On June 8, the high criminal court found the former CEO of the quasi-governmental housing bank for trade and finance guilty of embezzling 1.5 million dinars ($4 million) and sentenced him to 10 years' imprisonment. The ruling was the first guilty verdict in a major corruption case in many years.

On June 21, authorities charged the executive director of the Bahrain Institute for Political Development (BIPD) and two other BIPD officials with fraud and embezzlement. The case remained pending at year's end.

The corruption case against two former managers at the state-owned aluminum firm, Alba, continued. Media reports and information from NGOs indicated that the corruption probe might involve former top executives at the firm, as well as former government officials.

In November 2008, the Lower Criminal Court sentenced the manager of a cleaning company to three years' imprisonment and a 5,000 dinar ($13,250) fine for attempting to bribe the new minister of municipalities. His lawyer appealed the case, and the appeal process remained pending at year's end.

In 2007 the Ministry of Industry and Commerce filed a complaint with the public prosecutor accusing nine employees of embezzlement. On January 20, the court found four innocent and sentenced the other five to between one and five years' imprisonment. The five appealed the case. The case remained pending at year's end.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Restrictions on freedom of association and expression hindered investigation and public criticism of the government's human rights policies; however, local and international NGOs published reports on human rights during the year. There were three major human rights groups that reported on issues of concern: the BHRS, which, while independent, was widely viewed as allied with the socialist legacy party Wa'ad; the BHRWS, which considered itself independent, although some of its leaders were also members of the royally appointed Shura Council, and its former president serves as an ambassador; and the unregistered BCHR which, although the government dissolved it in 2004, it continued to issue reports and often coordinated its activities with the unregistered oppositionist Haq Movement. Senior government officials met with civil society organizations to discuss human rights, transparency, and the organizations' reports.

On November 11, the king issued a decree establishing a national institution for human rights. The government-funded entity's stated purposes include protecting human rights in accordance with international commitments, receiving complaints pertaining to human rights, and preparing regular human rights reports. The government planned to announce the composition of the national institution in 2010.

In recent years, the government has allowed increased interaction between local civil society groups and international human rights organizations. During the year, citizen members of Amnesty International carried out several activities without government interference.

Although the law prohibits foreign NGOs from registering with the government, the government generally did not interfere with such NGOs' activities provided it did not perceive these activities as interfering in the political system. In previous years, the government provided written warning to foreign NGOs it believed had interfered in internal political matters.

On April 11, the International Federation of Journalists established its first Middle East regional hub in the country.

On June 3, the ICRC visited the country for the first time since 2002 to conduct training on prison and detention facility management for government officials and local NGOs.

In April 2008, the UN Human Rights Council held a session on the country's human rights practices as part of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. Some human rights NGOs, including the BHRS, BHRWS, the Bahrain Transparency Society, and BCHR, alleged that the government did not inform them of the deadline for submission of concurrent reports. The NGOs attended the review and submitted their own reports.

The UN Development Program maintained an office in the country, and it advised the government to develop mechanisms to encourage respect for human rights.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The constitution provides for equality, equal opportunity, and the right to medical care, welfare, education, property, capital, and work for all citizens. These rights were protected unevenly, depending on an individual's social status, sect, or gender.

Women

Rape is illegal; however, the law does not address spousal rape. Rape was not a major problem in the country. The press reported cases of men arrested for the crime, including a few cases in which fathers of rape victims sought lighter sentences for perpetrators.

No government policies or laws explicitly addressed domestic violence. Spousal abuse of women was widespread, particularly in poorer communities. Women rarely sought legal redress for violence, and there was little public attention devoted to the problem. The Batelco Care Center for Family Violence continued to offer free medical, psychological, legal, and social assistance to victims of violence, primarily women and children. It also operated an abuse hotline that recorded 421 cases (154 men, 352 women, 75 children) involving domestic abuse during the year. According to the center's chairwoman, the center received 491 cases from January through August. According to the Bahrain Women's Union, an independent women's NGO, 72 female citizens reported domestic abuse at the hands of their husbands between September 2008 and this past September.

Prostitution is illegal, although it did occur. Most prostitutes were foreign women, and some were victims of trafficking. Customers were primarily foreign residents and tourists.

Sexual harassment is prohibited by law but remained a widespread problem for women, especially foreigners working as domestics and in other low-level service jobs. The press reported a number of cases of men arrested for sexually harassing women. Article 350 stipulates penalties of imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of 100 dinars ($265) for committing an "act of indecency with a female."

Reproductive health services, including birth control and maternity care, were available free of charge to all women. Health centers required women to obtain spousal consent in order to undergo sterilization; however, this consent requirement did not apply to provisions of other family planning services.

On January 13, the government asked parliament to enact a bill that would codify and standardize personal status law, or family law, for both Sunni and Shia residents, who have traditionally administered parallel court systems. In response to Shia opposition to the proposed changes in the Shia system, the government withdrew the original bill and sent parliament a new bill that addressed Sunni personal status law only. Parliament passed, and on May 27 the king ratified, the Sunni personal status law. At year's end, the government continued to work with the Shia community toward a new Shia law.

Women faced discrimination under the law. A woman cannot transmit nationality to her spouse or children. Women have the right to initiate divorce; however, religious courts may refuse the request. In divorce cases, the courts routinely granted mothers custody of daughters younger than age nine and sons younger than age seven. Custody usually reverted to the father once the children reached those ages. Regardless of custody decisions, the father retained guardianship, or the right to make all legal decisions for the child, until the child reached the age of 21. A noncitizen woman automatically loses custody of her children if she divorces their citizen father without just cause.

Women may own and inherit property and represent themselves in all public and legal matters. In the absence of a direct male heir, Shia women may inherit all property; however, Sunni women without a direct male heir inherit only a portion as governed by Shari'a, and the brothers or male relatives of the deceased divide the balance. In practice better-educated families used wills and other legal maneuvers to mitigate the negative effects of these rules.

Labor laws prohibit discrimination against women; however, discrimination against women was systemic in the country, especially in the workplace. There were numerous reports of employers mistreating noncitizen women working as domestic servants. The influence of religious traditionalists sometimes hampered women's rights. On December 2008, the central bank stated that women constituted 17 percent of the private sector workforce and 48 percent of the government workforce.

Children

Citizenship is derived from one's parents. Women cannot transmit their nationality to their children; therefore, children of some citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers are born stateless.

Primary education is compulsory for citizens and is provided free of charge to citizens and legal residents. Government-run primary schools are segregated by sex, though children are subject to the same curricula and textbooks. Schooling is compulsory for children through the age of 14, and is provided free of charge to citizens and legal residents through grade 12.

NGOs reported they have observed an increase in the number of child abuse cases in recent years, but it is not clear whether abuse cases have increased or there is greater willingness to report abuse. Shari'a courts, not civil courts, deal with crimes involving child abuse, including violence against children. NGOs expressed concern over the lack of consistent, written guidelines for prosecuting and punishing offenders and over the leniency of penalties involving child abuse cases. The Be Free Center, an offshoot of the BWA that focuses on child abuse awareness and prevention, received 300 to 400 e-mails each month from child abuse victims.

The government generally honored its commitment to children's welfare through enforcement of related civil and criminal laws and an extensive social welfare network. On June 30, a new law went into effect granting resident children born to citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers free access to some social services, including health care and education, although at year's end some NGOs reported the law was not yet fully implemented.

Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits trafficking in persons for all purposes, in line with the 2000 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which the country ratified in 2004. However, trafficking in persons continued to be a significant problem.

The country was a destination for persons trafficked from Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and East European and Central Asian states. Reports also indicated the country was a transit point for workers from these regions to Europe. Some victims were trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, but victims were most commonly trafficked for unskilled construction and domestic labor.

According to the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS), the principal traffickers were illegitimate recruiting companies in source countries. Traffickers used debt bondage, contract substitution, and threats of legal action against their victims. The MWPS reported that victims often recruited additional victims from their home regions in an attempt to pay off debt. Under the law, traffickers face fines of 2,000 to 10,000 dinars ($5,300 to $26,500) and mandatory prison sentences of as long as 10 years for each offense, with anyone trafficking a person on behalf of a corporation facing a fine of up to 100,000 dinars ($265,000) and the same mandatory prison sentences. "Aggravating circumstances," including trafficking of a woman or a child younger than 15, double the fine and prison sentence. However, since the promulgation of the January 2008 antitrafficking statute, there has only been one prosecution: a Thai woman was convicted in December 2008 of trafficking three compatriots into commercial sexual exploitation. No Bahraini citizens were charged in this case.

The government established a 10-person unit within the MOI's Criminal Investigation Directorate focused on trafficking in persons. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) headed a committee that set trafficking policy and included representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Justice, Information, and Social Development, as well as the Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and three NGOs. The MOSD headed another committee charged with evaluating and determining the status of victims that included representatives from the MOFA, MOI, and the LMRA. During the year, the government's Dar Al-Aman shelter for abused and migrant women housed women who fled from employers, although NGOs indicated that only a fraction of trafficked or runaway women used this facility.

On July 1, to eliminate some of the practices involved in labor trafficking, the LMRA implemented new visa rules for migrant workers in the public and private sectors to reduce the incidence of employers holding workers' passports or otherwise restricting their movement. The new rules also targeted the illegal practice known as "free visas," whereby an employment sponsor enabled a laborer to enter the country under the cover of working for the sponsor and then allowed the worker to find other work, at an often exorbitant fee payable to the sponsor. On August 1, new rules went into effect that allow foreign workers to change jobs without employers' permission, subject to certain time limits. In practice, however, some employers continued to hold foreign workers' passports and used other such coercive measures to prevent mobility. Moreover, these reforms did not cover the country's approximately 70,000 migrant domestic workers, the group that was most vulnerable to trafficking.

The Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

The law protects the rights of persons with disabilities, and a variety of governmental, quasi-governmental, and religious institutions are mandated to support and protect persons with disabilities. New public buildings in the central municipality must include facilities for persons with disabilities. The law does not mandate access to nonresidential buildings for persons with disabilities.

There were no reports of discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or access to health care. Children with learning disabilities, physical handicaps, speech impediments, and Down syndrome were enrolled in specialized education programs in public schools. The government did not fund private programs for children with disabilities who could not find appropriate programs in public schools.

The law requires the government to provide vocational training for persons with disabilities who wish to work. The law also requires any employer of more than 100 persons to hire at least 2 percent of its employees from the government's list of workers with disabilities; however, the government did not monitor compliance. The government placed persons with disabilities in some public sector jobs.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law grants citizenship to Arab applicants who have resided in the country for 15 years and non-Arab applicants who have resided in the country for 25 years. There was a lack of transparency in the naturalization process, and there were numerous reports that the citizenship law was not applied uniformly. For example, there were allegations that the government allowed foreign Sunni employees in the security services that had lived in the country for less than 15 years to apply for citizenship. There were also reports of Arab Shia that had resided in the country for more than 15 years and non-Arab foreign residents that had resided more than 25 years who had not been granted citizenship.

Although the government asserts that the labor code for the private sector applies to all workers, the International Labor Organization has noted that, in practice, non-national migrant workers faced discrimination in the workplace.

On March 21, a Sunni Pakistani civilian, Mohammed Riyadh, died of burns he suffered after Shia rioters firebombed his vehicle on March 7. Due to his ethnicity, attackers assumed the victim was an undercover police officer monitoring activity in the village. Ten Shia men were subsequently arrested and charged with murder. At year's end, the trial remained ongoing.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law does not criminalize homosexual relationships between consenting adults at least 21 years of age; however, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activities were not socially accepted, and discrimination was common. There were no reports of violence specifically targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination

The media reported on few cases of HIV/AIDS. There were no reports of societal violence or discrimination based on persons with HIV/AIDS. The government mandated screening of newly arrived migrant workers for infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS; migrant workers found to be HIV-positive faced deportation.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law grants workers, including noncitizens, a limited right to form and join unions. Members of the military are prohibited from joining unions. In the private sector, workers may form unions without prior authorization. Public sector workers may join private sector trade unions and professional societies, but trade unions are prohibited in the public sector. All unions must join the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU). The law allows for the establishment of additional federations; however, at year's end, there were none. According to the GFBTU, approximately 18 percent of the labor force was unionized, with employees from the six major state-owned firms making up 52 percent of total trade union membership.

The law prohibits unions from engaging in political activities, although union officials participated in public forums regarding workers' rights. The GFBTU did not report any government interference in its activities.

The law states that the right to strike is a legitimate means for workers to defend their rights and interests; however, this right was restricted. The law prohibits strikes in certain sectors the government deemed essential. They included the oil, gas, education, telecommunication, transportation, and health sectors, as well as pharmacies and bakeries. For workers permitted to strike, the law requires a lengthy process of conciliation followed by mandatory arbitration. Workers must approve a strike with a two-thirds majority in a secret ballot and provide two weeks' notification to the MOL before conducting a strike. There were four legal strikes and no illegal strikes during the year. Although government sources held that the arbitration provision did not preempt the right to strike, the law does not specify that a union may proceed to a strike vote if it disagrees with the arbitrator's decision.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively. Employers and the government are required to treat unions as independent judicial entities. In the private sector, the law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions. The government generally protected this right. The law also provides protection to workers who are terminated for their union activities.

There are no special laws or exemptions from regular labor laws in export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred, particularly among domestic workers and those working in the informal sector. There were no reports of forced or compulsory child labor.

Foreign workers, who made up 56 percent of the workforce (76 percent of the private sector workforce), were particularly vulnerable to forced labor. In some cases, foreign workers arrived in the country under the sponsorship of an employer and then switched jobs, while continuing to pay a fee to their original sponsor, which made it difficult to monitor and control their employment.

In numerous instances, employers withheld salaries from foreign workers for months or years and refused to grant them permission to leave the country. The government and the courts generally worked to rectify abuses that were brought to their attention. The fear of deportation or employer retaliation prevented many foreign workers from making complaints to authorities.

The government conducted an extensive awareness campaign, yet many foreign workers were unaware of their rights under the law. The government published pamphlets on foreign resident workers' rights in several languages, provided manuals on these rights to local diplomatic missions, and operated a telephone hotline for victims.

On August 1, new rules went into effect to allow migrant foreign workers (excluding domestic workers) to change jobs without employers' permission, subject to certain restrictions. LMRA officials report that some workers have changed employers under the new rules, although local NGOs asserted that many in the construction industry are unaware of this change.

Labor laws do not fully cover domestic workers. There were numerous credible reports that domestic workers, especially women, were forced to work 12-to 16-hour days, had to give up their identity documents to employers, had little time off, were malnourished, and were subject to verbal and physical abuse, including sexual molestation and rape. Between 30 and 40 percent of attempted suicide cases in the government's psychiatric hospitals were foreign domestic workers.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits child labor and establishes protections for children from workplace exploitation, and the government effectively enforced these laws. Some children were believed to work in family-run businesses, but the practice was not widespread.

The minimum age for employment is 16 years. The MOL makes rare exceptions on a case-by-case basis for juveniles between the ages of 14 and 16 who have an urgent need to assist in providing financial support for their families. Minors may not work in industries the Ministry of Health deems hazardous or unhealthy, including construction, mining, and oil refining. Minors may work no more than six hours a day and may be present on the employment premises no more than seven hours a day. These regulations do not apply to family-operated businesses in which the only other employees are family members.

According to NGOs, MOL inspectors enforced child labor laws effectively in the industrial sector; child labor outside that sector was monitored less effectively. During the year, the ministry employed 43 labor inspectors. In March the MOL organized a workshop for law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutor, lawyers, NGOs, and employers to discuss child labor.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage. Unskilled foreign laborers in particular did not earn as much as their home countries' guidelines suggested. For example, the Philippines imposed a minimum wage of 80 dinars ($212) for domestic workers and required a contract signed by the two parties and approved by the Philippines Embassy. The law allows employers to consider benefits for foreign workers such as annual trips home, housing, and education bonuses as part of the salary.

The MOL enforced the labor law and mandated acceptable conditions of work for all adult workers except domestic workers, including a maximum workweek of 48 hours, with special permission required by MOL for work in excess of 60 hours per week. By law Muslims may not be required to work more than six hours per day and 36 hours per week during Ramadan. Workers are entitled to one day of rest after six consecutive days of work and to annual paid vacations of 21 days after one year of service. Work in excess of 48 hours per week is to be paid at a rate of 25 percent above the normal wage if conducted during the day and 50 percent if completed at night. In practice many foreign domestic workers worked more than 60 hours per week and did not receive overtime. The labor inspectorate conducted periodic comprehensive inspections of private sector enterprises, including verification of employee hours and wages.

According to NGOs, workplace safety standards were adequate, but inspection and compliance were substandard. The MOL set occupational safety and health standards and sporadically enforced them with a team of eight engineers from multiple specialties. Inspectors had the authority to levy fines and close worksites if employers did not improve conditions by specified deadlines. During the year, the media reported several workplace deaths owing to a combination of inadequate safety procedures, worker ignorance of those procedures, and inadequate safety standards for equipment. Exact figures were not available. Particularly hazardous sectors included construction and automotive repair.

In 2008 trained inspectors visited labor camps to verify whether workers' accommodations met required safety and hygiene standards. During the year, inspectors visited 1,316 labor camps, of which 113 failed the inspection because of safety issues such as gas and electricity problems, overcrowding, poor hygiene, and general disrepair. Inspectors cited poor hygiene in warnings issued to 138 camps, as well as part of their rationale for the closure of 28 camps. The inspectors were authorized to inspect only premises that had a commercial registration, not private homes where most domestic workers resided and worked, or unregistered "private" camps where many unskilled laborers lived.

Reports of employers and recruiting agencies beating or sexually abusing foreign women working in domestic positions were common. Numerous cases were reported to local embassies, the press, and police; most victims were too intimidated to sue their employers, although they had the right to do so. If the victim brings a suit against the employer, the plaintiff cannot leave the country for the duration of the case. The MWPS continued to support several victims who took their cases to court, but compensation to victims was reportedly low.

When a worker lodges a complaint, the MOL opens an investigation and often takes remedial action. The MOL reportedly received 4,216 complaints during the year, including complaints from domestic workers. On average there were 11 complaints from domestic workers per month. Ministry officials stated that they were able to resolve most of these cases through mediation in the ministry. The public prosecutor took up the remaining cases for investigation. Complaints brought before the MOL that cannot be settled through arbitration must be referred to the court within 15 days.

On January 4, the government delayed until May 1 implementation of a 2008 decree requiring companies to transport workers in buses as of January 1. A few companies continued to transport foreign resident workers in open trucks on benches, and accidents, sometimes fatal, resulted. Authorities issued 213 citations for violating the ban during May and June. Penalties ranged from 40 to 120 dinars ($106 to $318).

A ministerial decree prohibits outdoor work between the hours of noon and 4 p.m. during July and August. Health officials reported a decrease in the number of heatstroke cases from 1,154 cases in 2007, prior to the decree, to 814 during the year. According to the MOL, it fined 29 companies 50 to 300 dinars ($132 to $792) per worker for allegedly violating the ban during the year, an increase from 21 in 2007.

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/nea/136066.htm

In a Violation to Freedom of Opinion and Expression – A Threat to the Largest Political Society in Bahrain

In a Violation to Freedom of Opinion and Expression – A Threat to the Largest Political Society in Bahrain For its Demand to Guarantee the Rights of Citizens in Choosing their Government and Equal Access to Public Office

February 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its great concern regarding the increasingly deteriorating situation of freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain, represented this time in the attack and constant threats of senior government officials, on top of them the Crown Prince, Prime Minister and Minister of Justice – who are all from the King's family – against the Wefaq Political Opposition Society which is considered the largest political society in the country, and which has 17 of a total of 40 MPs, due to the statement of its Secretary-General, Sheikh Ali Salman, and his demand in the latest General Assembly of the Society of the necessity of the circulation of power and to put an end to the privileges enjoyed by the members of the King's family in the senior positions in the country. This case clearly reveals the Bahraini citizens deprivation of their right to form their government, and the discrimination between the citizens in holding public posts, and utilizing the Bahraini authorities for the political society's law in limiting freedom of opinion and expression, and restricting peaceful political activity. The BCHR had been subjected to a similar campaign in 2003 by senior governing officials and was threatened with closure due to publishing a documented report about more than 100 individuals from the King's family holding the most important political, military, security, judicial and financial posts in the country, and which demanded to put an end to the privileges enjoyed by the members of the King's family, and the sectarian discrimination in holding senior posts in the State.

Sheikh Ali Salman – Secretary-General of Wefaq Society – had spoke of in his speech he gave in the conference of the Society, held on 18th and 19th February 2010, of the necessity of reforming the political regime in Bahrain in order to reach an actual constitutional monarchy where the King is for the current ruling family – Al-Khalifa – and where the governance is for the people, by forming an elected government and having a peaceful circulation of the executive power, while stressing the importance of choosing a prime minister that does not necessarily belong to the ruling family, and is from the people. It also addresses discrimination practiced by the state institutions and which is evident in monopolizing the presidency of ministries, and the presidency of the large bodies and corporations for the benefit of the members of the ruling family. It also indicated the necessity of the presence of a modern constitution that legislates an actual separation of powers by means of free and integral elections and evenhanded distribution of electoral districts.

The Council of Ministers suggested its intention of using the political society's law – which the Wefaq Society is subjected to – to legally pursue the Society. The Council of Ministers and the Shura Council – appointed by the King – and some MPs, newspapers and article writers affiliated with the Authority condemned what was said in the speech of the Secretary-General of the Islamic National Accord Association (Wefaq), Sheikh Ali Salman, in the general conference of the Society without referring to its content. This intensified campaign was coincided with threats by the Minister of Justice to pursue the Society; and the Minister of Culture and Information, Sheikha Mai Al-Khalifa, member of the ruling family, contacted the editors of newspapers and some correspondents of news agencies and asked them not to publish any responds of Wefaq Society to this continuous campaign against it, so there does not seem to be any disagreement or conflict between Wefaq Society which represents 62% of the electoral bloc on one hand and the King and his family on the other hand.

This process of restriction happens despite the fact that the Islamic National Accord Association (Wefaq) had received overwhelming support in the results of the 2006 elections, representing the largest parliamentary bloc, made up of 17 MP who represent 62% of the elector's votes – in the Bahraini Council of Representatives, after the Society accepted to enter the political process in October 2005 by reregistering the Society under the umbrella of the Society's law, which led to a split in the Society at that time. However, all that was no excuse for the Authority who is still indulged in humiliating and pursuing its members and ruining the reputation and challenging its movements, and stigmatizing it as sectarian through the media which it controls. On 30 March 2004, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs threatened to close down the Society if it continues in its campaign in demanding constitutional reform, and in the subsequent month, several members of the Society were arrested for initiating a petition for the same abovementioned aim. During 2008, two of the Society's representatives in the Council of Representatives were subjected to the threat of imprisonment by the Minister of Interior – who is a member of the ruling family – due to their participation in the conference against discrimination in Geneva and a press conference in the U.S Congress in Washington D.C. Some of the Society's members, every now and then, are also subjected to being banned from entering neighbouring countries, which is stirred by the Bahraini Security Apparatuses.

The BCHR believes that the attack faced by Wefaq and the supporting societies as a national action society, in addition to preventing local newspapers from publishing statements issued by political societies opposing the Authority, reflects the restlessness of the Authority and its inability to receive criticism which is also a clear violation of Article (19) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – endorsed by Bahrain – which recommends, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice." Stressing the importance of the government's adherence to the international covenants it endorsed in the field of human rights.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the Bahraini Authorities:

1. To put an end to the attack against Al Wefaq and the supporting societies, and to allow freedom of opinion and expression as a fundamental right of human rights to individuals and groups;

2. To abolish the restricted political society's law and to launch the freedom of political party work as a prerequisite to political rights work, as mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

3. To guarantee the rights of citizens in choosing their government, and to guarantee the equal access to public office as stated in the international covenants adhere to by Bahrain.

Authorities suspend permits of two foreign correspondents

25 February 2010 Alert Authorities suspend permits of two foreign correspondents

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its great concern regarding the persistance of the authorities in their campaign to restrict journalists and correspondents of the foreign press and international news agencies. The Bahraini authorities recently suspended the activity of correspondents from certain French and German news agencies.

A news piece published by one of the daily newspapers stated that officials from the Department of Foreign Media at the Bahraini Ministry of Culture and Information held individual meetings on 29 January 2010 with a correspondent of the French news agency, Mr. Mohammed Fadhel, and a correspondent of the German news agency, Mr. Mazin Mahdi, to verbally notify them of the decision to suspend their engagement in the activities represented in providing the abovementioned news agencies with local news related to the Kingdom of Bahrain. The correspondents were not given a formal letter regarding this decision or the reasons behind it.

Government sources that refused to be named informed the BCHR that the reason behind the ban is that both journalists cited a news piece that Bahraini citizens were sentenced to five years in prison on the charge of weapon possession, joining Al-Qaeda and plotting to attack the U.S base in Bahrain.

The Department of Foreign Media of the Ministry of Culture and Information had earlier issued strict verbal instructions for all the correspondents of the foreign press and news agencies to not address any news related to Al-Qaeda or any groups allied with them in Bahrain, but it seems that those instructions did not reach these journalists. The BCHR learned later that the journalists were permitted to engage in their work after publishing the news of their suspension in one of the local newspapers.

The Department of Foreign Media follows the Ministry of Culture and Information administratively, however it overlaps and is linked with the National Security Apparatus (Intelligence) in terms of functions entrusted to it, and it is the organization that issues approvals to the correspondents of foreign press and news agencies. It is currently headed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, the former vice-president of the National Security Apparatus, and it was previously headed by the current president of the same Apparatus, Sheikh Khalifa Abdullah Al-Khalifa, and they are both members of the ruling family.

This department exercised a lot of pressure in the last few years on correspondents of the foreign press and news agencies. They refrained from issuing permits to some of them, and attempted to impose correspondents, who are closely associated with the authorities on some foreign channels and international news agencies. It has become rather difficult for any reporter to keep his or her job without having the satisfaction of the authorities.

These restrictive approaches of the government of Bahrain contradict its position as a member in the Human Rights Council and as party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 19 of the UDHR, which states, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

Based on the above, the BCHR demands that the Bahraini authorities do the following:

- Allow journalists, correspondents and reporters to engage in their activities freely without, obstructions or restrictions;

- Separate the Ministry of Information from the security apparatuses and allow the foreign press and news agencies to choose their correspondents freely without imposing anyone on them;

- Stop using permits as a way to make journalists and correspondents adjust or submit to pressure.

Source Bahrain Center for Human Rights Manama Bahrain info (@) bahrainrights.org Phone: +97 33 9633399 Fax: +97 31 7795170

Slandering media campaign launched against Messrs. Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar - BHR

18 February 2010 The Observatory has been informed by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) about the slandering media campaign launched against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Mr. Mohamed Al-Maskati, BYSHR President, and Mr. Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar, Spokesperson of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture (NCMVT). 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), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

According to the information received, on February 16, 2010, Mr. Faisal Fulath, member of the Shura Council, Mr. Adel Al Mghwdah, member of the Parliament, and Mr. Mohammed Al-Shooruqi, broadcaster, accused the three human rights defenders in a live program on the Bahrain Radio Station of having links with foreign governments, of having committed acts of violence using Molotov cocktails as well as of betraying the country. They also accused them of inciting young people to violence against the State, and defaming the State before international organisations.

These false statements concerning the three human rights defenders were also published in a series of articles in the local on-line newspapers The Gulf News (http://www.akhbar-alkhaleej.com), Al-Watan News (http://www.alwatannews.net) and Bahrain Voice (http://www.moltaqabh.org/vb/) since February 9, 2010.

This defamation campaign started after Human Rights Watch (HRW) has launched a report on Torture in Bahrain entitled Torture Redux on February 8, 2010, which contains testimonies of recent victims, among them human rights defenders and political activists. In the report, HRW expressed its thanks to the several human rights defenders who assisted in the preparation of the report including Messrs. Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar.

The Observatory condemns this media slandering campaign and considers that the above-mentioned statements manifestly aim at discrediting Messrs. Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar’s human rights activities. In particular, the Observatory is deeply concerned that such statements are fuelling, among the public opinion, a feeling of hostility against human rights defenders and organisations working on denouncing human rights violations.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to :

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar and all human rights defenders in Bahrain ;

ii. Put an end to all acts harassment against Messrs. Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar as well as all human rights defenders in Bahrain ;

iii. Order an immediate, effective, thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned campaign and identify all those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

iv. 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”, 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”, as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. 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, Tel : +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

Increasing Alleges of Torture against the Detainees on Criminal Charges

Increasing Alleges of Torture against the Detainees on Criminal Charges

February 2010 The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is following up with great concern the continuing systematic torture crimes targeted the detainees and those arrested for criminal charges or those detained for the constant protests against the deteriorating political and economic status. While the Human Rights Watch was releasing its report on the return of torture in Bahrain, the officers and officials in the Criminal Investigations Department were subjecting more victims to systematic torture.

The citizen (A.H.) filed a complaint to the BCHR, alleging that he was subjected to severe torture by the officers at the Criminal Investigations Department at Adlyia. Mr. (A.H.) spoke to the BCHR, and after four days of releasing the Human Rights Watch report, about his suffering which lasted for almost four days, where he was arrested while heading back to his residence, and as soon as he descended from his vehicle he was taken aback by several people surrounding him to arrest him for criminal charges.

Torture Scars on the Victim's Feet Due Tying his Feet

He was taken to the Criminal Investigations Bureau, and which is the place he claimed to be tortured and severely beaten in. On the next day of being arrested, he was held in custody for long hours, then he was returned to the office where his feet and hands were tied together in a sitting position, then a rod was inserted between them and then he was hung up in the "Falqa" way, and which is one of the infamous ways of torture of the security apparatuses in Bahrain, and then they beat him with a plastic hose on the sole of his feet until his feet blackened and got swollen. They then brought an arm length black device with two prominent indicators in the front, which was used to stun the victim with electricity several times, until he fell to the floor from exhaustion, however his torturers continued to beat and kick him and stun him in all parts of his body to force him to stand up again. There were clear and visible marks and bruises of torture on different parts of his body backed up with three medical reports from various sources which he had carried with him to prove the wounds and bruises he suffered from in different parts of his body[ ]. The victim claims that the torture he was subjected to was under the direct supervision of two people and they are Lieutenant Ali and Lieutenant Fahad Al-Fadhala[ ].

Copy of the Medical Report from the Police Station Clarifying the Effects of Bruising and Wounds in Different Parts of his Body

The prisoners and detainees on criminal charges are usually met with torture whose severity exceeds the magnitude of torture subjected by the regular detainees, their torturers are even creative in hurting them because of their confidence in that the members of society and civil society institutions do not usually sympathize with detainees pending on criminal cases, and also because those victims or the members of their families are usually reluctant in filing complaints against the torturers to the human rights institutions so as not to embarrass themselves due to the charges against them. In mysterious circumstances, several detainees on criminal and other charges have died in the Bahraini investigation cells in the last months and years[ ]. Each case of death had an explanation by the security authorities; however the BCHR believes hat some of those victims died as a result of severe torture or ill-treatment that was practiced against them while they were held in custody.

The BCHR fears that the systematic torture has become a reality that many detainees on criminal charges are suffering from, and the most recent of them is what was indicated recently by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights about one of the Saudi citizens being subjected to torture in Bahrain[ ].

Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR, stated, "The prisoners and detainees on criminal charges or the convicted ones are human beings just like us, they are entitled to their full Human rights like other human beings, and they must be treated on this bases, and their humanity must be respected, abusing or torturing them is a crime against humanity punished by law, the perpetrators of those crimes must be pursued and presented to justice", adding, "If the human rights institutions had not addressed those victims in the previous era due to the abovementioned reasons, this situation should not last long, and the BCHR will soon instigate a monitoring process of what the criminal detainees are subjected to, and it will work on pursuing and exposing the perpetrators of torture against them and will present them to justice.

Bahrain is a State Party to three treaties that prohibit torture and cruel treatment, and they are: The Convention against Torture, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and The Arab Charter of Human Rights. Torture is also banned by the Bahraini Constitution and the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure which altogether prohibit the use of torture or any other act that violates human dignity, however all these charters, and covenants, constitutional and legal articles were not a deterrent for the criminals of torture as they remained a dead letter far from being applied.

The BCHR demands the government of Bahrain to:

 Stop the systematic torture against all prisoners immediately.

 Arrest and trial the ones responsible, and pursue the ones involved in torture crimes, on top of them those whose names were mentioned in the Human Rights Watch Report, and the rest of the reports issued by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

 The government of Bahrain to adhere to the international commitments, treaties and recommendations which it signed, and among them the recommendations issued by the Committee against Torture of the UN.

_____________________________________________________ [ ] Attached: The medical report of the police hospital as well as one of the public health centers, and Salmanyia Medical Hospital.

[ ] Fahad Al-Fadhala is considered one of the known members in the security apparatuses and who was indicated in the report "Torture Resurrected" by the Human Rights Watch.

[ ] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeFTWVY0p3U

Al-Waqt Newspaper http://www.alwaqt.com/art.php?aid=17734

Al-Waqt Newspaper http://www.alwaqt.com/art.php?aid=181511

Al-Wasat Newspaper http://www.alwasatnews.com/2534/news/read/227845/1.html

[ ] Refer to the link of the torture case of the Saudi citizen documented by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights http://www.anhri.net/bahrain/byshr/2010/pr0212.shtml