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Amnesty Int'l: Bahraini officials couldn't silence activists on the streets, so they'll try to do it in the courtroom

Hi [[Firstname|Supporter]],

Emergency rule was lifted in Bahrain last week.

While the harsh laws responsible for the widespread government crackdowns against civilians are no longer being enforced, the injustice remains.

The long (and growing) list of people being paraded in front of military courts is simply appalling!

This week, nearly 50 of the brave doctors and nurses who treated protestors during the months of bitter and bloody street violence are being called into court.1

Furthermore a total of 21 opposition figures, including seven in absentia, who led and participated in the demonstrations, are being tried in military court without proper access to lawyers, their families, or foreign media coverage. Several of these individuals are likely prisoners of conscience.

The people of Bahrain were too powerful to be finished off in the streets. Stop Bahraini officials from trying to silence them behind the closed doors of military courts!

In May, President Obama had called on Bahraini authorities to respect their citizens' human rights. Since then, the U.S. has done little to follow through with diplomatic pressure.

President Obama said that "the only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can't have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail."

We couldn't agree with you more, Mr. President. That's why we're encouraging the U.S. to turn up the volume on its calls to Bahraini authorities. Demand that all opposition figures currently on trial be: 1) granted regular access to their lawyers and families and 2) released immediately and unconditionally, if held solely for criticizing the authorities.

Far too many civilians have already lost their lives on the streets of Bahrain. Taking action now could mean protecting others from losing their freedom in court.

In Solidarity,

Christoph Koettl Crisis Campaigner, Middle East and North Africa Amnesty International USA

Take Action

amnestyusa.org

Bahrain: Protests, Abuses Continue

Sporadic protests continue to break out in Shia neighborhoods in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, as more developed neighborhoods are claiming security has been restored. Sheikh Abdul-Aziz of Bahrain’s Information Affairs said the protesters are not representative of the Shi’a majority. Prominent Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab said, “I think we’ll remain in this unstable situation until there is some kind of political solution. It’s not going back to normal.” Bahraini clerics are condemning police crackdowns on the Shi’a festival of Azza, which authorities say have been characterized by calls for regime change. Al Wefaq, the leading opposition party, was prevented from holding a presentation detailing abuses by the regime, officially due to lack of a permit. Former al Wefaq MP Hadi al-Moussawi said that permits were never required in the past.

Roy Gutman argues that the lifting of the emergency law on June 1st was meant simply to reassure Formula One race organizers and led to little change on the ground. He adds that the king’s call for dialogue without conditions is undermined by the continued detention of opposition leaders, including former MPs Jalal Fairooz and Mattar Mattar. In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof pleaded for the release of his friend, Bahraini professor Hassan al-Sahaf, in an open letter to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa.

pomed.org

Bahrain Workers’ Rights

Chart showing numbers of sacked employees from the biggest companies in Bahrain, according to records of GFBTU

8 June, 2011

The more you become involved in the complexities of politics, even within a relatively small country like Bahrain, the more you see the fallacy of that maxim of natural law which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”[1] . If only this were true. Sadly, it is because we are not all born free and equal that we must fight to claim the rights that we are all supposed to have. It is not enough to sit back and watch as supposedly ‘inalienable’ rights are taken away from others.

The International Labor Organisation know this, and while they may not have as much influence over western governments as they once did, supra-national organisations like the ILO are central in raising awareness about the abuse of labor rights in authoritarian states like Bahrain. From a legal perspective, it is important to note that it is not just ‘abstract’ multilateral treaties that Bahrain ignores when forcing the sacking of hundreds of workers for their political and religious beliefs, but also bilateral treaties which it has signed such as the 2006 US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement.[2]

Many international organisations have been alarmed that the current repression in Bahrain undermines all of the hard work that reformers on all sides of the political spectrum have done to modernize Bahrain’s anachronistic political system. The American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) noted in a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the General Federation of Bahraini Trade Unions (GFBTU), created during the reforms of the 1990s, has been targeted by the government, with more than half of its elected leadership sacked.

The ILO sent a delegation to investigate labor practices in Bahrain at the end of May. It has recommended that 2000 workers who were sacked be re-hired in a gesture of reconciliation.[3] This is a somewhat different outcome of the talks than what was reported in some regional media.[4] Here is what the ILO’s Guy Ryder had to say about his visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4In3lBnxVE

After talks with President Obama yesterday, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa reiterated his government’s commitment to dialogue ‘without preconditions’.[5] Bahrain’s UN delegation has also stated that it is willing ‘in principle’ to receive a visit from the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, although no date has yet been set.[6]

BCHR welcomes these statements. However, if we are to have any confidence that these promises of reform will be carried through and are not just empty rhetoric, the government must follow them up with concrete statements about the talks and the UN visit. In order for dialogue to be successful, it has to be shown that the government is serious about reconciliation. This requires:

1) Political prisoners, especially opposition leaders, must be released from jail in order to take part in the national dialogue.

2) The ILO’s recommendation that sacked workers be reinstated must be carried through to reduce sectarian tension.

3) The securitization of neutral zones like Salmaniya hospital and the University of Bahrain must end to reduce the fear of people who need to go to university or hospital.

If these limited concessions can be made, there can be some trust that the government means what it says about reform. If not, the only outcome can be continued violence and economic upheaval. The opposition would also like to see the Bahrain GP return, but this is not possible under the current situation. All Bahrainis wish to see an end to the current crisis, and it is hoped that both sides can put aside their differences to engage in constructive talks.

John Lubbock Advocacy Officer, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights London, 8 June, 2011

Resources

Babylon & Beyond spoke with Shawna Bader-Blau, regional program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Washington-based Solidarity Center. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbe..

AFL-CIO statement. http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/04/21/glob..

AFL-CIO’s complaint letter. http://www.aflcio.org/issues/jobs..

AFL-CIO complaint about US-Bahrain FTA. http://www.aflcio.org/issues/jobse..

ActNow Labourstart campaign. http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/soli..

ITUC Press Release warns of slide into dictatorship. http://www.ituc-csi.org/bahrain-urg..

Building and Wood Workers International. http://www.bwint.org/default..

BCHR 7th April - mounting clampdown on Trades Unions. http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/3884

BCHR 6th April - thousands subjected to dismissals. http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/3879

ILO DG sounds alarm on dismissal of workers. http://www.ilo.org/global/about-t..

UN News March 16, curtailment of TU activities. http://www.un.org/app..

Civil Society Orgs letter to the government. http://arabrevolt.wordpress.com/2011/..

Latest sacking list according to General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (8 June 2011) https://www.facebook.com/photo..

Amnesty International: Bahrain faces fresh torture claims over health workers’ trial

7 June 2011

The Bahraini authorities must independently investigate fresh claims that dozens of doctors and nurses on trial before a military court were tortured in detention and made to sign false confessions, Amnesty International said today.



Relatives of the accused have alleged to Amnesty International that security officials at Bahrain’s Criminal Investigations Directorate forced detainees to stand for long periods, deprived them of sleep, beat them with rubber hoses and wooden boards containing nails, and made them sign papers while blindfolded. One of the detainees, who was bailed last month, was slapped in the face while blindfolded, insulted and threatened: “if you don't confess I'll take you to someone who will make you confess”.

The same detainee was forced to remain standing for hours, denied sleep and placed in front of a cold air conditioning unit all night and then interrogated again the next morning while still blindfolded.

"I was so tired that I kept quiet and only answered yes or no,” he told Amnesty International.

“After a while he gave me some papers and made me sign them while I was still blindfolded. I did not see what I signed, but I signed on eight or nine papers."

The trial of the 48 medical staff, most of whom worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, opened at a military court in Manama on Monday but was adjourned until 13 June. Some of the defendants have been released on bail but others remain in prison.

The doctors and nurses face a range of charges arising from their involvement in treating people injured when security forces violently crushed mass pro-reform protests in February and March. They are accused of misusing their positions at Salmaniya hospital to make false allegations of security force violence, to have operated on some patients unnecessarily causing their deaths and to have denied medical treatment to others for sectarian reasons, as well as a string of related offences.

A relative of one of the accused who attended the court yesterday told Amnesty International that the prisoners’ heads had been shaved and most had lost a lot of weight since their arrest weeks ago. The men among them were made to stand in the hot sun for around 30 minutes before the session began: “They were blindfolded and handcuffed, and these were only removed when the session began."

"The Bahraini authorities must immediately undertake an independent investigation into these new torture allegations and bring any officials responsible to justice,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The court must also throw out any 'confessions' that were obtained through torture or other duress as international law requires."

Before the trial opened, detainees’ were only able to communicate with their families by phone. Their lawyers had not been permitted to see them and were not allowed to be present when they were interrogated, first by security officers and then by the military prosecutor when they were held in pre-trial detention. The Bahraini authorities ignored their lawyers’ requests to see their clients.

"All detainees must be granted prompt and regular access to lawyers of their own choosing, their relatives and any medical treatment that they may require," said Malcolm Smart.

"The authorities must also ensure that doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health and medical workers are able to carry out their work without discrimination, interference or fear of reprisal."

amnesty.org

IHRC: Action Alert: Bahrain – Mohamed Al-Buflasa began a hunger strike in protest at his continued detention without charge

Write to pressure the Bahraini government to release Al-Buflasa immediately.

1. Summary

The well known Bahraini poet Mohamed Al-Buflasa was issued an arrest warrant on the day of his scheduled release from prison. Al-Buflasa has now finished his 45 days of detention pending investigations on unknown charges, while his detention continues. Al-Buflasa does not have access to a lawyer and has been denied any communication or visitation from his family. The date of his scheduled release for the second time, 1st June 2011, has passed. He has now begun a hunger strike in objection to his unfair detention and the ill-treatment he receives. IHRC urges campaigners to write letters to the UAE Ministry of Interior, which has its army present in Bahrain, to investigate the whereabouts of Al-Buflasa and pressure the Bahraini government to release him.

2. Background

Mohamed Al-Buflasa, a Bahraini sunni citizen, who gave a speech calling for political activism at Pearl Square at the beginning of the revolution was arrested by the military and sentenced to two months imprisonment by a military court has been re-arrested for the second time on unknown charges.

On the day of his release, 15th April 2011, he was issued an arrest warrant for 45 days pending investigations. Al-Buflasa was not given the option of defending himself in courts or appointing a lawyer during the first court hearing. He is now going through the same outrageous experience and his detention continues despite finishing his detention period for the second time.

His place of detention has changed many times since he was imprisoned for the first time. He is only allowed two minutes to call his family once every month and sometimes he is not allowed to call them at all. During this last and very short conversation with his family, Al-Buflasa complained of ill-treatment and humiliation. He also complained about the prison conditions, lack of ventilation and detainees there cannot even see the day light. Al-Buflasa suffers from depression and has requested to be seen by doctors; however, the prison administration has refused. He began a hunger strike in objection to his unfair detention and ill-treatment. Al-Buflasa’s life is at risk due to his deteriorating health condition.

Al-Buflasa has called on IHRC and all campaigners to work hard for his release, inform the international community of his case and ensure his safe and immediate release.

3. Action required

Write to the following authorities to investigate the whereabouts of Al-Buflasa and pressure the Bahraini government to release him immediately:

a) UAE Ministry of Interior which has its army present in Bahrain, to investigate the whereabouts of Al-Buflasa and pressure the Bahraini government to release him immediately. b) UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Detention calling them to urge the Bahraini government to release Al-Buflasa. c) Alistair Burt MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

4. Sample letter ------------------------------

A sample letter is given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is very important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters. It is preferable that letters be sent via post, or otherwise by fax and/or email.

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

a) UAE Minister of Interior, Lt-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

[Your name] [Your address]

[Date]

Minister of Interior Lt-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al- Nahyan Minister of Interior Human Rights Directorate POB: 398, Abu Dhabi, UAE Fax: +971 4 3981119

Your Excellency, Lt-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-ahyan

Re: Call for the release of Mohamed Al-Buflasa from Bahraini prison

I am writing to you in your capacity as a Minister of Interior in UAE who have their army present in Bahrain to intervene in this case and ensure the release of a detained sunni citizen, who has been arrested since the beginning of the demonstrations until now, despite finishing his detention period.

Mohamed Al-Buflasa, a 36 year old poet, writer and former independent candidate for the Parliamentary elections was arrested for calling for political reform and the improvement of living standards for all Bahrainis in Pearl Square.

He was arrested on 15 February 2011 and sentenced to two months imprisonment without the announcement of charges against him without being given the option of defending himself or appointing a lawyer.

Al-Buflasa was not released for the second time on the day of his scheduled release 1 June 2011 after spending another 45 days detention pending investigation on unknown charges. He began a hunger strike on 1 June 2011, in objection to his unlawful continued detention. The charges against Al-Buflasa remain unknown until this day.

Al-Buflasa does not belong to any political party and was speaking out of patriotism. I urge you to use your capacity and urge your army to pressure the Bahraini government to reveal the whereabouts of Al-Buflasa and call for his immediate release.

I look forward to hearing back from you regarding this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,

[Your signature] [Your name]

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

b) UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

[Your name] [Your address]

[Date]

e-mail: wgad@ohchr.org

Dear Mr Sow, Chair Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Arrest

Re: Call for the release of Mohamed Al-Buflasa from Bahraini prison

I am deeply concerned about the continued detention of Mohamed Al-Buflasa, a 36 year old poet, writer and former independent candidate for the Parliamentary elections. Al-Buflasa was arrested for calling for political reform and the improvement of living standards for all Bahrainis in Pearl Square.

He was arrested on 15 February 2011 and sentenced to two months imprisonment without the announcement of charges against him. He was not given the option of defending himself in courts or appointing a lawyer, so his trial lacked standards of a fair trial.

On the day of his scheduled release an arrest warrant was issued against him for 45 days pending investigations. Al-Buflasa has finished his second detention period on 1 June 2011, however, he has not been released and his detention continues. On 1 June 2011 he began a hunger strike in objection to his unlawful continued detention. His life is at risk as the hunger strike is severely affecting his health.

Al-Buflasa does not belong to any political party and was speaking out of patriotism. I urge you to use your authority to confirm the whereabouts of Mohamed Al-Buflasa, and order his immediate release.

Al-Buflasa complains of being ill-treated and humiliated by the prison guards and officers during a 2 minute conversation to his family.

Al-Buflasa is only a case between hundreds of people detained arbitrarily. I urge you to investigate his case, find his whereabouts and call for his immediate release. Al-Buflasa has the right to appoint a lawyer to defend him and be allowed visitations from his family and lawyer.

I look forward to hearing back from you regarding this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,

[Your signature] [Your name]

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

c) Alistair Burt MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

[Your name] [Your address]

burta@parliament.uk

Dear Mr Burt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Re: Call for the release of Mohamed Al-Buflasa from Bahraini prison

I am writing to you in your capacity as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on the situation of a Bahraini sunni citizen that has been detained since 15 February 2011 until now. I have decided to write to you after I read your statement issued on 1 June 2011 in which you strongly urged the Government of Bahrain to meet all its human rights obligations and uphold political freedoms, equal access to justice and the rule of law.

I am deeply concerned about the continued detention of Mohamed Al-Buflasa, a 36 year old poet, writer and former independent candidate for the Parliamentary elections. Al-Buflasa was arrested for calling for political reform and the improvement of living standards for all Bahrainis in Pearl Square.

He was arrested on 15 February 2011 and sentenced to two months imprisonment without the announcement of charges against him. He was not given the option of defending himself in courts or appointing a lawyer, so his trial lacked standards of a fair trial.

On the day of his scheduled release an arrest warrant was issued against him for 45 days pending investigations. Al-Buflasa has finished his second detention period on 1 June 2011, however, he has not been released and his detention continues. On 1 June 2011 he began a hunger strike in objection to his unlawful continued detention. His life is at risk as the hunger strike is severely affecting his health.

Al-Buflasa does not belong to any political party and was speaking out of patriotism. The case of Al-Buflasa is a case of hundreds of people detained unjustly. The case of Al-Buflasa is neither a case of Sunni nor Shia as your government would have everyone believe. I urge you to use your relations with the Bahraini government to confirm the whereabouts of Mohamed Al-Buflasa, and order his immediate release.

Al-Buflasa complains of being ill-treated and humiliated by the prison guards and officers during a 2 minute conversation to his family.

Al-Buflasa is only one case amongst hundreds of people detained arbitrarily. I urge you to investigate his case, find his whereabouts and call for his immediate release. Al-Buflasa has the right to appoint a lawyer to defend him and be allowed visitations from his family and lawyer.

Why are you not doing anything about this case?

Yours sincerely,

[Your signature] [Your name]

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

For more information, please contact IHRC

ihrc.org.uk

Bahrain testimony a highlight of "best ever" IFEX conference

8 June 2011

Security forces prevented IFEX member Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), from attending the IFEX General Meeting and Strategy Conference in person in Beirut last week. But they couldn't prevent him from talking about recent human rights abuses in Bahrain via Skype, nor IFEX members and partners who were listening from initiating an international mission to Bahrain in the coming days. This was just one of the many highlights of the IFEX 2011 conference.

The Bahraini government had prevented Rajab from flying to join his IFEX colleagues in Beirut on 29 May. Maryam al-Khawaja, who heads BCHR's foreign relations department, cancelled her trip after receiving death threats.

Instead, fellow free expression and human rights defenders gathered for a 40-minute call on 2 June, during which Rajab thanked them for their support and welcomed plans for a mission composed of IFEX members and other concerned groups to Bahrain in the coming months.

Rajab also brought them up to date with the rounds of arrests, detentions, assaults and threats that both preceded and followed 1 June when the King cancelled the state of emergency and called for "national dialogue" on reform.

"How can there be a dialogue when people even this morning are being detained?" he asked. If the government is serious about dialogue, it must "stop persecuting people for doing their human rights work, allow journalists to publish freely, stop the bans on blogs," he said.

Rajab repeatedly thanked IFEX members for shining a light on Bahrain when other internationals failed to do so: "We are victims of the West who won't criticise the Bahrain government even though they criticised Libya and supported the revolutions in Egypt or Tunisia.

"Your support is like air for us, it’s like hope for us. It is lifting our spirit," he said.

[..]

UK stressed the importance of the Bahrain Government moving to a policy of reform rather than repression

Written answers and statements, 6 June 2011

Question Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty's Government what communications they have had with the Government of Bahrain since the beginning of public protests there; what communications they intend to have with that Government in the near future; whether they are emphasising the importance of due process for all persons arrested; and whether they have received information about allegations of disappearances and the outcomes of relevant cases.[HL9237]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government have had regular communications with the Government of Bahrain since the beginning of public protests, and these communications are ongoing.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister spoke by phone to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on 15 March 2011 and met the Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in London on 19 May 2011. On both occasions the Prime Minister expressed our concerns about the situation in Bahrain and stressed the importance of the Bahrain Government moving to a policy of reform rather than repression.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), spoke to the Bahraini Foreign Minister on 17 February, 16 April and 25 May and raised the UK's concern about the human rights situation. He made clear our concerns about arrests, deaths in detention and moves to investigate prominent licensed, political opposition parties. He made clear that the civil rights of peaceful opposition figures, the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly should be respected.

The Secretary of State for Defence, my right honourable friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), spoke to the Crown Prince on 22 February 2011 and met the King and Crown Prince in Bahrain on 3 April 2011 and spoke to the King again on 16 May 2011, urging the Bahrain Government to create the environment in which dialogue can take place.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my right honourable friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), spoke to the Bahraini ambassador by phone on 1 April 2011 and raised our concerns about human rights. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever, met the Crown Prince in Bahrain on 23 February 2011 and urged all sides, including opposition groupings, to engage in dialogue.

Our ambassador has also regularly raised the UK's human rights concerns with Ministers across the Bahraini Government, including most recently with the Ministers of Justice, Interior and the Deputy Prime Minister. These include highlighting our concerns that due process should be followed and that those accused should have access to legal counsel and be tried before independent and impartial courts. The Defence Senior Adviser Middle East, Lieutenant General Simon Mayall, raised human rights with the Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force on 11 May 2011.

We will continue to make our concerns clear to the Bahraini authorities.

publications.parliament.uk

Secretary Clinton Must Press Bahrain Crown Prince on Human Rights During Visit

June 6, 2011

Washington, D.C.—Secretary Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials meeting Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in the U.S. this week must publicly press the issue of human rights violations, including torture, mass arrests, military show trials and attacks on religious sites, said Human Rights First today. She should raise the cases of human rights defenders like Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, whose house has been attacked and who has been prohibited from leaving the country.

“The U.S. government must tell the Crown Prince forcefully and unambiguously that these violations are unacceptable and seriously threaten the U.S. relationship with the Bahraini government. The reports of widespread torture, the show trials, the disappearances, attacks on Shia mosques and other serious violations must be addressed, and those responsible must be held accountable. Impunity for the guilty damages the prospects for a political solution,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First.

“These are messages the Crown Prince and the Bahraini government must hear clearly and publicly from U.S. officials. The Bahraini authorities must be left in no doubt that the U.S. Government condemns its actions in the strongest possible terms”

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, visiting the U.S. this week, is regarded by some as a relative moderate among the Bahrain’s ruling elite, but the brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in recent months has made dialogue about reform more difficult. Although the state of emergency in Bahrain was officially lifted June 1, little has changed. Leading opposition figures and human rights activists remain in detention or in fear of arrest. Peaceful dissent has been met with violent repression. Today, the military trials of dozens of medical personnel opened.

“Amid continuing reports of protestors being shot in the streets, the Crown Prince needs to explain how the continuing repression respects human rights and advances the political dialogue,” added Dooley. “The U.S. government’s response so far has been largely muted in comparison to its rhetoric encouraging peaceful protestors in other countries in the region. It should raise these violations by name with the Crown Prince, detailing specific abuses, and demand that they end. We have seen elsewhere in the region that stability does not come through repression.”

Human Rights First visited Bahrain last month. Its report, Speaking Softly, focuses on the targeting of human rights defenders and other human rights violations, and includes recommendations to the U.S. government regarding how to respond to the situation in Bahrain.

humanrightsfirst.org

BCHR Letter on the Deterioration of Laborers' Rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain

08 June 2011 Mr. Juan Somavia Director General, International Labor Organization

Greetings,

Sub: Letter on the Deterioration of Laborers' Rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain

We would like first of all to cordially extend our thanks for your precise follow-up on the laborers' conditions in Bahrain; for the tremendous efforts as reflected in the various statements in which you declared your deep concern on the deteriorating situation of the Bahraini workforce; and for the ILO Delegation that visited Bahrain at the end of April to look into the working conditions of laborers. This led to the assembly of a committee chaired by the Labor Minister to address the issues pertaining to the cases of mass lay-offs.

Although such a committee was formed, the number of laborers being laid off is accelerating day after day. The estimates released by The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain show that, as of May 29, 2011 the total number of sacked laborers reached 1724 [1]. The actual number, however, is even greater than this as it incorporates only the laborers who reported their cases to the Union and not the total number who have actually been laid off. According to the same statistics, Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) and Bahrain Aluminum (Alba), of which the government of Bahrain owns 100% and 70% respectively, have topped the list for layoffs, accounting for around 40% of the total number of sacked laborers in Bahrain.

ALBA has dismissed 364 laborers. About 250 of these were dismissed without any Interrogation. ALBA alleges that the main reason for dismissal was due to participation in the strike which was called by the company's Trade Union as well as the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions in solidarity with the protesters who were violently oppressed. However, Bahrain Center of Human Rights (BCHR) received several testimonies from some ALBA laborers that they were not absent from work but were still dismissed. Other laborers said that they were absent from work due to the deteriorating security situation, or due to annual or sick leave however they were also dismissed. BCHR has documented a case in which an ALBA laborer was arrested from his workplace and dismissed under the pretext of an absence of more than 10 consecutive days. Other employees were given the option of either resignation, demotion or immediate dismissal [2].

BCHR has also investigated cases of dismissed laborers working for Bapco, which BCHR believes to have been carried out on sectarian and political grounds [3]. As of May 10, 2011, 293 laborers have been laid off. BCHR also has information asserting the intention of the said company to sack 150 laborers over the coming period with the list of employees to be fired pending the approval of the company CEO. Furthermore, BCHR has received dozens of leaked documents from Bapco emphasizing that the dismissal was arbitrary and violated local laws and international conventions. Such decisions were made on the grounds of punishing those laborers for their political beliefs. Please find attached herein some documents representing excerpts of interrogation statements with some laborers along with a list containing the employees' names who were already interrogated and were mostly recommended to be dismissed. With the careful scrutiny of such documents, the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. Interrogation proceedings centered around the days of absence due to the crackdown and the response of the laborer going on strike called for by The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain and Trade Union of Bapco Employees. The interrogation sessions included questions related to the laborer’s participation in the prodemocracy protests. Some of the employees were faced with pictures obtained from notoriously unreliable resources as evidence of participating in the demonstrations.

2. The Interrogation Committee has counted the days off as absenteeism, in a clear breach to provision 4 of Article 113 of The Labour Law for the Private Sector, 1976 [4]. It is important to mention that Bapco’s management did not adhere to the provisions contained in the aforementioned article stipulating that an employer shall give a written notice to the employee after an absence of five alternate days or after an absence of ten non-consecutive.

3. The Interrogation Committees gave no respect to the employees excuses for being absent on the grounds of the unsecure situation of the country in the wake of the crackdown, notwithstanding the company's explicit directions stressing that “if any occurrences cause the employees to feel insecure leaving their homes, they should consider their safety as paramount and notify their supervisors as soon as possible”.[5]

4. Employees were punished for their political views and activities in a clear violation of provision (a) in Article 1 of the ILO’s ‘C111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958’, that stipulates "An act of discrimination shall include (a) any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation". It should be noted that all dismissed people from Bapco are Shiite Muslims. This figure represents around 30% of the total number of Shiites in Bapco.

5. Some employees were punished on suspicion of going on strike despite the fact that the strike was called for by The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain and Trade Union of Bapco Employees, both entities being duly authorized and incorporated as per the applicable laws of the Kingdom and whose members are elected. The strike continued after the deployment of Bahraini, Saudi, and Emirati army troops on the streets and with the declaration of the martial law on March 15, 2011. This was later followed by spreading out check-points all over the island and letting military and police vehicles patrol all neighborhoods, making it extremely difficult for laborers to get to their places of work. Likewise, a vast number of citizens were either arrested or brutally beaten with more than 20 murdered following the announcement of martial law. More than 1000 citizens were arrested and many were wounded by the military and police at check-points.

Kindly note that BCHR will be more than happy to supply any documents we currently have at hand should you require them to draw a clearer picture of the violations being carried out by the regime against laborers' rights in Bahrain. Once again, please accept our sincere thanks.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

[1] http://www.alwasatnews.com/3187/news/read/563517/1.html [2] http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/4178 [3] http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/4100 [4] http://www.upr.bh/hrbc/The_Labour_Law [5] Circular issued by Bapco Management on March 14, 2011

Samples of the records of the investigation at Bapco Bahrain Petroleum Company - Click on image for a larger view

Sample of documents showing summary of the recommendations of the commissions of investigation at Bapco Bahrain Petroleum Company - Click on image for a larger view

Amnesty International Urges Secretary of State Clinton To Reveal Human Rights Commitments Received from Bahrain Crown Prince

Amnesty International USA Press Release For Immediate Release Tuesday, June 7, 2011

(Washington) -- Amnesty International today urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to publicly state any commitments she received from the visiting Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa AL Khalifa. The human rights organization said the United States should not be a spectator to the deteroriating human rights situation in Bahrain.

“As a strong allay of Bahrain, it is the United States’ duty and responsibility to raise concerns about abuses and to secure meaningful commitments for improvements. The world should know whether the United States is taking the human rights situation in Bahrain seriously. There should not be one standard for Bahrain and another for other countries in the region,” said T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director in Washington.

Amnesty International urged the Obama Administration to demand that Bahrain:

*Immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained simply for peacefully expressing his or her political views in public, and ensure that the scores of protesters who have been detained some facing military trials, are granted immediate access to lawyers and family members.

*Allow the US Ambassador to Bahrain and other international trial observers to observe the military trials of opposition figures.

* Suspend U.S. security assistance and secure a commitment that no American weapons will be used against peaceful protesters.

* Immediately reinstate the over 2,000 people who have been dismissed or suspended from their employment in the public and private sector for have participated in the protests. * Investigate and prosecute security forces who have committed abuses.

www.amnestyusa.org