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CPJ: Attacks on media continue across Middle East

New York, February 16, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the continued assaults on journalists covering anti-government demonstrations in the Middle East. In recent days, journalists have been obstructed, assaulted, or detained in Libya, Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen. Authorities have also slowed down Internet connection and blocked websites, according to local journalists. "It's alarming to see Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, take a page from Egypt and Tunisia to use violence and censorship to stop coverage of political unrest," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "The international community must speak out against these deliberate acts of media obstruction."

Unrest in the region has been growing since late December when Tunisians began a revolt against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule and since the collapse of the Mubarak regime in Egypt in February.

In Bahrain, the government has selectively reduced the speed of Internet connections inside the country for the past two days, journalists and activists in the country told CPJ. Currently, the Internet is being slowed down selectively in newspaper offices, hotels, and homes but not in governmental institutions, local journalists told CPJ. Also, a number of accounts on the video-sharing website Bambuser were blocked according to CPJ's sources. On Tuesday, Hassan Jamali, a photojournalist working for The Associated Press was summoned for questioning by the Interior Ministry after taking pictures of people injured in anti-government demonstrations, a colleague speaking on condition of anonymity told CPJ. Authorities ordered him to not take additional pictures of the injured.

Read full release on cpj.org

CPJ: Attacks on the Press 2010: Bahrain

February 15, 2011


From Sudan to Bahrain, authorities have used harassment, threats, and restrictions on movements to limit independent coverage on sensitive issues. The effect has been to conceal controversial activities and flawed policies, suppress political opposition, and settle scores with critics. [..] Governments also exploit national security grounds to settle scores with critics and political opponents. In Iran since June 2009 and in Bahrain in the closing months of 2010, such grounds were used to eliminate coverage of the political opposition.

[..] In Bahrain, authorities said they were dismantling "a terrorist network" when they arrested hundreds of people beginning in August and continuing through parliamentary elections in October. Those detained included political activists, human rights defenders, and at least two journalistic bloggers who had been critical of government policies that marginalize the country's Shiite majority.

Independent scrutiny of the crackdown was made nearly impossible by the government's next action. Public Prosecutor Ali al-Buainain issued a gag order barring news media from reporting on the detentions. A defense lawyer noted one exception: The press could publish government statements on the case. The detainees, including bloggers Ali Abdel Imam and Abduljalil Alsingace, were charged with numerous crimes, including "inciting terrorist acts" and trying to "overthrow and change the political system of the country."

"Because of the publishing ban on this case, I can't even comment publicly," said a Bahraini journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Otherwise I'll be sucked into this vortex as well."

Country Summary

In May, the Ministry of Culture and Information ordered the Bahrain bureau of satellite news channel Al-Jazeera to halt operations "for having violated professional norms and for failing to observe laws and procedures regulating journalism, printing and publishing," according to the official Bahrain News Agency. The decision came a day after Al-Jazeera aired a program about poverty in Bahrain. The day the ban was announced, authorities denied entry to an Al-Jazeera crew that had traveled to Bahrain to interview a former U.N. official about poverty in the country, according to news reports. The ban on bureau operations remained in effect in late year.

On August 27, Public Prosecutor Ali al-Buainain banned journalists from reporting on the detentions of dozens of opposition activists in a series of arrests that month. Among those detained were at least two bloggers: Abduljalil Alsingace, who had tracked human rights issues for the opposition Haq Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, and Ali Abdel Imam, the founder of the news website BahrainOnline. Both were standing trial in late year on charges of forming an illegal organization, engaging in terrorism, and spreading false information. They remained in custody along with numerous opposition activists.

Read Full report on cpj.org

The police fires on protesters

15 February 2011

The FIDH strongly condemns the violent repression orchestrated by the Bahraini authorities on the peaceful demonstration held last Monday, February 14, 2011 and which is still continuing today in Bahrain, killing two people and wounding several others. These demonstrations that drew tens of thousands of people today February 15 according to FIDH member organizations in Bahrain , take place after the call “Day of Rage” inspired from the Egyptian and the Tunisian experience and launched via the social network Facebook.

To disperse the crowd, the police have not hesitated to fire from live ammunition on demonstrators killing Abdulhadi Ali Mushaima, a former member of the Committee of Unemployed who died last night at the hospital Salmaniya in Manama from his injuries. Today, at a gathering for the funeral of Ali Mushaima, Fadhel Ali Matrook 32 years old was also killed by live ammunition fired by police.

FIDH condemns in the strongest terms the disproportionate use of force against peaceful demonstrators and the use of live ammunition and calls on authorities to take all measures to establish responsibility for these crimes.


Bahrain: Front Line calls for investigation into killing of demonstrators, and restraint by police in dealing with demonstration

15 February 2011

Front Line wishes to express its deep concern at the reported fatalities when armed police violently broke up demonstrations in Bahrain during which two people were killed. Further Information

The deaths occurred in the context of a violent clampdown by armed police on demonstrations taking place across the country. While Front Line welcomes the commitment by the Prime Minister of Bahrain to carry out an investigation into the killings and acknowledges the expression of regret to the families by the King, the organisation calls on the Government of Bahrain to take urgent steps to ensure that demonstrators peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly are afforded the full protection of the law and that all policing is carried out according to international standards for best police practice.

"On the basis of video footage seen by Front Line, in which members of the security forces can be clearly seen filming the demonstrators, Front Line is particularly concerned that human rights defenders who have played a leading role in organising and/or monitoring the demonstrations may be at risk of arbitrary arrest or detention", said Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line in Dublin today.

For Further information please contact: Jim Loughran Head of Communications Front Line, Dublin Tel +353 1 212 37 50 Mob +353 1 (0)87 9377586


Bahrain protest deaths point to excessive police force

15 February 2011

Amnesty International has condemned the heavy-handed tactics used by Bahrain’s riot police earlier today after the second death in two days of protests calling for political reform in the tiny Gulf state.

Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook was among a crowd of people mourning the death yesterday of ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’, killed in clashes between protesters and police, when he was shot dead by police earlier today in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. Riot police are said to have opened fire on the crowd without warning during the funeral.

“This second killing within two days is both tragic and a very worrying development,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Bahrain authorities must thoroughly investigate what occurred, stand down the police involved in these shootings and make clear to the police that the use of excessive force will not be tolerated.”

“An independent investigation is also urgently required to establish the facts, particularly whether the level of force used by the police, both yesterday and today, can possibly be justified.”

“Eyewitness reports of today’s shooting received by Amnesty International suggest strongly that Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook’s death was caused by excessive force, in which case the police responsible must be brought to justice.”

Over 10,000 people reportedly joined today’s funeral procession for ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’, who died on Monday during clashes with riot police in the village of al-Daih, east of Manama.

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that police opened fired on the procession of mourners without warning, as they chanted slogans criticizing the government and calling for Bahrain to have a new constitution and a democratically elected government.

“Peaceful protesters were chanting ‘Khalifa leave’ and within minutes of the procession beginning, we got attacked by the riot police; bullets were showering the peaceful protesters and there was tear gas everywhere. Several wounded are being rushed to the hospital and many are screaming,” Maryam Al-Khawaja, from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Amnesty International.

Fadhel Ali Almatrook was shot dead close to al-Salmaniya hospital in Manama. According to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, more than 20 people required hospital treatment as a result of injuries caused by the riot police on Monday.

Monday’s “Day of Rage” protests in Bahrain, organized on Facebook and Twitter and apparently inspired by unrest in Egypt and Tunisia, took place mainly in Shia villages around Manama.

“Like many in the region, those in Bahrain who feel their dignity has been compromised are demanding change. The authorities must listen to these calls, rather than retaliating with violence,” said Malcolm Smart.

On Friday, Amnesty International highlighted the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain with its report Crackdown in Bahrain: human rights at the crossroads.

The organization called on the government to ensure proper investigations into allegations of torture and other serious abuses by the security forces.

In August-September 2010, the Bahrain authorities swooped on 23 opposition political activists, detaining them incommunicado for two weeks during which some allege they were tortured.

The authorities have also curtailed freedom of expression, closing critical websites and banning opposition publications. Hundreds of people have been arrested or imprisoned for participating in protests.


Document - Bahrain: Two die as protests are violently repressed: ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’, Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook

UA: 29/11 Index: MDE 11/004/2011 Bahrain Date: 15 February 2011



Two men have died in Bahrain after riot police shot at protesters peacefully demonstrating for more political rights and freedoms. Riot police have used tear gas, shotguns and reportedly live ammunition to contain the peaceful protests across Bahrain, which began on 14 February.

‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’ was shot, reportedly with live ammunition, at a demonstration on 14 February in al-Daih village, in the north of Bahrain. He was taken to al-Salmaniaya hospital in Manama, the capital, but died one hour later. On 15 February, a funeral procession was organized to take his body from the hospital to the cemetery for burial. According to eye witnesses, high numbers of people were gathering at the gates of the hospital to join the procession, when riot police used tear gas and shotguns to disperse the crowd. One man, Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook, was injured by shotgun pellets and later died in hospital.

Video footage taken by Bahraini human rights activists provides clear evidence of police brutality and excessive force in breach of international human rights law and standards. Article 3 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 34/169 of 17 December 1979, states: “… the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders, no force going beyond that may be used”.

The ‘Day of Rage’ protests were called for on several websites, Facebook and twitter. The protests were organized to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the endorsement of Bahrain’s National Action Charter. Inspired by the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, the protesters have been demanding more freedom, the release of all political prisoners, a new constitution and an elected government. The largest Shi’a political group, al-Wefaq, has reportedly suspended its participation in parliament in protest at the death of the two protestors and the methods used by the police.


* Urge the authorities to immediately stop using excessive force against the protesters;

* Urge the authorities to set up an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into the deaths of ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’ and Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook, and ensure that any police found to have used excessive force are brought to justice.

* Urge the authorities to respect and protect the right of freedom expression, movement and assembly in Bahrain


King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: 00973 17664587 Salutation: Your Highness

Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa Minister of Interior Ministry of Interior P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: 0097317232661 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.

Additional Information

The human rights situation in Bahrain has deteriorated markedly in the last 12 months. Amnesty International published a report on 11 February detailing human rights abuses in the country “Crackdown in Bahrain: human rights at the crossroads” (MDE 11/001/2011, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/001/2011/en)

The National Action Charter was put forward by Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s head of state, to end the political turbulence of the 1990s and to establish a constitutional monarchy. The Charter was overwhelmingly approved in a national referendum on 14 February 2001 and led in February 2002 to the adoption of a new and relatively progressive Constitution. The Constitution contains human rights guarantees and widened the suffrage to allow women to stand for public office and vote in elections. However, the Constitution was criticized in some quarters, especially among the Shi’a majority population, for having been promulgated without adequate consultation and for adopting a two-chamber legislative system – a lower house comprising 40 directly elected members; and an upper house, the Shura Council, whose members are appointed by the King and have the power to veto legislation proposed by the lower house.

UA: 29/11 Index: MDE 11/004/2011 Issue Date: 15 February 2011


Bahrain: Stop Attacks on Peaceful Protesters

Two Dead, Scores Wounded

February 15, 2011

(Washington DC) - Bahraini authorities should order security forces to halt attacks on peaceful protesters and investigate the shooting deaths of February 14 and 15, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Riot police reportedly used teargas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition rounds against pro-democracy demonstrators on February 14, causing numerous injuries and one death. On February 15 police reportedly shot to death a second protester when they fired on a burial procession for the protester killed on Monday.

Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima, 27, died on February 14 as a result of injuries medical personnel said were from live ammunition rounds. Riot police reportedly shot Mushaima during a protest in the village of Daih, near Manama. Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Human Rights Center, told Human Rights Watch that hospital officials said Mushaima was shot with live ammunition, not rubber bullets. Police shot to death Fadhel Ali Matrook, 31, who participated in a funeral procession for Mushaima, on February 15. The Associated Press reported that Matrook died of injuries from "birdshot" fired during a scuffle in the parking lot of Salmaniya hospital in Manama, but Human Rights Watch was not independently able to verify the circumstances of Mushaima or Matrook's deaths. Images from a video of the funeral procession viewed by Human Rights Watch show demonstrators gathering peacefully and chanting anti-government slogans when riot police fired teargas.

"All the reports from independent journalists and Bahraini human rights groups indicate that security forces used lethal force unlawfully against anti-government demonstrators," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Authorities should immediately rein in the riot police and conduct an independent investigation into the events of the past two days."

Thousands of demonstrators marched in Manama, Daih, Diraz, Nuweidrat, and Beni Jamar to protest the ruling Al Khalifa family's tight grip on power, alleged discrimination against the country's majority Shi'a population, and the continued detention of political prisoners. The February 14 demonstrations marked the ninth anniversary of the 2002 referendum in which voters approved the National Action Charter, which included ruling family commitments to democratic reforms.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bahrain must protect and promote freedom of expression and association, and the right to assemble peacefully. Bahrain should also abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which state that lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality. The Principles also require governments to "ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law."


An open letter to the King of Bahrain to avoid the worst case scenario

BCHR reports a widespread and fast going call on Facebook and other internet mediums for wide protests on Monday 14 February 2011 as a “Day of Rage” in Bahrain

BCHR calls on the King of Bahrain to ease tensions by: releasing detainees, dissolving the National Security Apparatus and engaging in serious dialogue on disputed issues

BCHR calls to avoid the use of force against peaceful protests and to guarantee basic rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of opinion including the free use of social networking

12th February, 2011

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has sent today an open letter to the King of Bahrain to avoid the worst case scenario, by releasing more than 450 detainees including human rights defenders, religious figures and more than 110 children, dissolving the Security apparatus and prosecute its official responsible of violations and to start serious dialogue with civil society and opposition groups on disputed issues such as political participation, corruption by high officials, housing and low income problems and discrimination and naturalization on sectarian basis.

The BCHR has also called on the King to take measures to insure avoiding the use of force by security forces against peaceful protests which might take place in the very near future and to guarantee basic rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of opinion including the free use of social networking. The letter from the BCHR to the King of Bahrain comes in the wake of a widespread call on Facebook and other internet mediums for wide protests on Monday 14th February 2011 as a “Day of Rage” in Bahrain. Up to the time of issuing this release, one of the many pages engaged in this campaign has attracted more than 11.000 fans. (The page name is “ثورة 14 فبراير في البحرين” which means “the revolution of 14th February in Bahrain”).

The president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, has warned from the capital Manama about the mounting tension which has been building up for the last few years but has been sharply escalated as a result of inspiration by the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt.

“The release of all the detainees in Bahrain will not solve the main highly disputed issues between the ruling family and the majority of the people. However, it could help to ease the tension and pave the way for a serious, instant and constrictive dialogue on issues such as; political participation, corruption by high officials, housing and low income problems and discrimination and naturalization on sectarian basis” said Mr. Rajab. “The dissolving of the security apparatus and the prosecution of its officials will not only distance the King from the crimes committed by this apparatus especially since 2005, such as systemic torture and the use of excessive force against peaceful protests, but will avoid the fatal mistake committed by similar apparatuses in Tunisia and Egypt which lead to the loss of lives and hundreds of casualties and eventually resulted in the fall of the regimes who created these “double edged swords”, added Mr. Rajab.

Mr. Rajab clarified further that the BCHR warned during 2005-2007 against the amounting use of excessive force by the security apparatus against peaceful protests by disadvantaged groups such as the unemployed, which eventually lead to more violent trends by angry youths especially in predominantly Shia’a populated areas and villages. Then, since December 2007, the BCHR warned against using these violent atrocities as pretexts to wage waves of crackdown on human rights defenders and political activists accusing them, without profound evidence, of “instigating hatred or violence” against the regime. The last and most atrocious crackdown started in mid-August 2010 resulting in the high restriction of basic freedoms, the surrounding and harassing of Shia’a villages around the clock, arbitrary detention and systematic torture of hundreds of people who are still in prisons being subjected to unfair trials and harsh punishments. All these violations which have been widely documented and condemned by various national and international human rights organizations, widened and escalated the outrage in Bahrain.

“Now that different groups of youths have taken the initiative to call for a wide protest starting on Monday 14 February, no one is completely sure what is going to happen on February 14th, if it is going to be “The Day of Rage” in Bahrain or if it is going to be just the start of series of events that we hope will end in enhancing rights and freedoms and an escalation into chaos or bloodshed” concluded Mr. Rajab.

Fore more information please contact: Bahrain Centre for Human rights Nabeel Rajab Email: info@bahrainrights.org Mobile: 0097339633399 Twitter: Bahrain Rights | Nabeel rajab

Bahrain: Crackdown in Bahrain: Human Rights at the crossroads

Index Number: MDE 11/001/2011 Date Published: 11 February 2011 Categories: Bahrain

Human rights have come under increasing pressure and rising tension between the government and its critics. Hundreds of people have been arrested or imprisoned for participating in protests. In August-September 2010, the authorities swooped on 23 opposition political activists, detaining them incommunicado for two weeks during which some allege they were tortured. Meanwhile, the authorities have curtailed freedom of expression, closing critical websites and banning opposition publications. Years of progress and achievement could be erased unless urgent measures are taken to reverse the downward trend.

Read the full report (PDF)


HRW World Report 2011 - Bahrain

Events of 2010

Human rights conditions in Bahrain deteriorated sharply in the latter half of 2010. Starting in mid-August authorities detained an estimated 250 persons, including nonviolent critics of the government, and shut down websites and publications of legal opposition political societies.

Authorities detained 25 of the most prominent opposition activists and accused many of them of "spreading false information" and "meeting with outside organizations." Some rights activists were among those held and allegedly tortured. Authorities prevented detainees from meeting with their lawyers prior to the first session of their trial, and allowed only extremely brief meetings with some family members.

This crackdown came after months of street protests, which often involved burning tires and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. Among the first people arrested were activists who had just participated in a public meeting in London where they criticized Bahrain's human rights record.

The main exception to these dismal human rights developments involved improved protections for migrant workers.

Torture and Ill-Treatment

Almost all of the 25 prominent activists-whose trial began on October 28-told the court, some in considerable detail, that they had been subjected to torture. Lawyers able to attend the public prosecutor's pretrial interrogations of clients said that in some cases they observed marks and wounds that appeared consistent with the allegations.

A Human Rights Watch report released in February 2010 concluded that in the 2007-2009 period, the authorities regularly resorted to torture and ill-treatment when interrogating security suspects. Officials denied these findings, but apparently conducted no criminal investigations and ordered no disciplinary measures against alleged perpetrators.

On March 28 an appellate court convicted 19 men of the murder of a security officer, overturning their acquittal by a lower court in October 2009. The lower court judge determined that there was no evidence linking them to the crimes other than confessions that appeared to have been coerced.

Counterterrorism Measures

The government charged at least 23 of those detained in August and September under Law 58/2006, Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts, which allows for extended periods of detention without charge or judicial review. The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism has criticized the law's broad definitions of terrorism.

Freedom of Expression

In September the Information Affairs Authority blocked websites and blogs associated with the opposition. On state-run Bahrain TV on September 20 Abdullah Yateem, the general director of press and publications at the authority, said that websites and bloggers had committed 12 crimes, and he specifically mentioned: offending the person of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, incitement to overthrow the government, publishing information about bomb-making, and slander and defamation. Yateem also banned publication of the newsletters of several opposition political societies, which are political groups the government allows, unlike other opposition groups that have no legal status.

On September 4 Ali Abdelemam, whose popular Bahrain online blog carried information about human rights developments, responded to a summons to appear at the headquarters of the National Security Agency, a body that operates outside the criminal justice system and reports directly to King Hamad. Authorities refused his request to contact a lawyer, even at his formal interrogation. At the opening session of the October 28 trial of 25 prominent activists, Abdulemam said he was subjected to torture and degrading treatment.

Municipal officials ordered one Waad Party candidate in the National Assembly election scheduled for October 23 to remove billboards with the slogan "Enough to Corruption," saying it was "a breach of the law" but not indicating which law. A court ruled on October 4 that the banners did not violate the law, but the government appealed.

The Ministry of Information suspended the satellite station Al Jazeera on May 18, the day after the channel broadcast a feature about poverty in Bahrain. On July 2, police summoned for questioning two volunteers with the Bahrain Women's Association who had spoken with Al Jazeera about challenges they face being married to non-Bahrainis.

On August 16, 2010, Al-Wasat, Bahrain's one independent newspaper, reported that the minister of information suspended its online audio reports. The suspension came after several of the reports featured persons alleging mistreatment of inmates in Jaw prison.

Freedom of Association

In April the minister of social development denied the request of the Bahrain Human Rights Society to hold a monitoring workshop for human rights defenders in the Gulf region, saying it would violate the association law, which prohibits organizations from involvement in political activities. The ministry subsequently allowed the workshop to take place in late May.

In August the ministry wrote to the Migrant Workers' Protection Society saying that the society's shelter was not legally registered and would have to close. This followed an incident in which a migrant domestic worker fled to the shelter from the home of a high ministry official, claiming she had been abused. The society responded by providing a copy of the government's 2005 authorization of the shelter, noting that in previous years the ministry had donated funds to support the shelter.

The government continues to deny legal status to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), which it ordered dissolved in 2004 after the group's then-president criticized the prime minister for corruption and human rights violations.

On April 5 Bahrain's Lower Criminal Court fined Mohammad al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society (BYHRS), BD500 (US$ 1,325) for operating an unregistered NGO. The BYHRS attempted in 2005 to register with the Ministry of Social Development, as required by law, but received no response to its application.

Human Rights Defenders

Those detained in the wave of arrests in August and September and allegedly tortured included Abd al-Ghani al-Khanjar, spokesperson for the National Committee for the Victims of Torture, and Muhammad Saeed al-Sahlawi, a BCHR board member.

On September 1 the pro-government daily Al Watan featured a front-page article alleging that BCHR president Nabeel Rajab and former president Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja were linked to a "terrorist network" responsible for arson attacks and plotting sabotage. A similar article appeared on the official Bahrain News Agency website on September 4, but was removed the following day.

On September 6 Salman Kamaleddin resigned as the head of the newly established official National Institution for Human Rights to protest the institution's failure to criticize the recent arrests.

On September 8-after the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) criticized the widespread arrests and alleged torture of detainees-the Ministry of Social Development dismissed Abdullah al-Dirazi, the group's secretary general, dissolved the group's board of directors, and appointed a ministry official as "interim director." The minister accused the organization of "only serving one segment of society," communicating with illegal organizations, and conducting "secret training" of regional rights defenders, referring to the May workshops that the ministry expressly approved and that were well publicized at the time. The BHRS had been the main Bahraini organization permitted to monitor parliamentary elections scheduled for October 23; the government refused to allow international observers.

Migrant Worker Rights

Over 460,000 migrant workers, primarily from South Asia, work in Bahrain. Many experience prolonged periods of withheld wages, passport confiscation, unsafe housing, excessive work hours and physical abuse. Government redress mechanisms remained largely ineffective.

In August 2009 Bahrain adopted Decision 79/2009 allowing workers to change jobs more freely. The reform does not apply to domestic workers and many workers remain unaware that they have the right to change employment freely.

A draft labor law circulated in May 2010 extends some rights to domestic workers, including annual vacation and end-of-term pay, but still excludes them from provisions mandating maximum work hours and days off. The law also creates a new "case management" mechanism to ensure the adjudication of labor complaints within two months, potentially making litigation a more viable option for migrant workers seeking redress for abuses.

Women's Rights

Bahrain's first written personal status law (Law 19/2009), adopted in 2009, applies only to Sunnis. Shia religious leaders demand a constitutional guarantee that, should a separate personal status law be passed for Shias, parliament will not be able to amend any provision of the law. Women's groups favor a unified law for all citizens in part because Sharia court judges-generally conservative religious scholars with limited formal legal training-decide marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance cases according to their own individual readings of Islamic jurisprudence, which consistently favor men. It remains unclear to what extent codification has alleviated these problems for Sunni women.

Key International Actors

Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet and provides logistical support for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the US provides military aid to Bahrain. The US initially did not publicly criticize the government's crackdown on civil society or other serious abuses; on October 31 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement congratulating Bahrain for its recent parliamentary election, but also expressing concern about "efforts in the lead-up to the elections to restrict freedom of expression and association targeted at civil society."

British officials expressed little concern publicly about the sharp deterioration of human rights conditions. One of the activists arrested in August, Jaffar al-Hasabi, is a dual national, and it reportedly took a phone call from British Foreign Secretary William Hague to Bahrain's crown prince before a British consular visit to al-Hasabi was permitted, about a month after his arrest. Bahrain publicly called on the United Kingdom to investigate and prosecute or extradite two of those indicted in the alleged terrorism case whom reside in London. The UK responded that it would investigate if Bahrain provided evidence of criminal activity. At this writing, Bahrain has provided no such evidence.