23 Dec, 2007

BAHRAIN: Grave concern over the death of Mr. Ali Jassim Meki after being assaulted while peacefully demonstrating

THE OBSERVATORY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (OMCT-FIDH)

Paris - Geneva, December 21, 2007. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, deplore the violent death of Mr. Ali Jassim Meki, a human rights defender close to the HAQ Movement of Liberties and Democracy, following harsh repression of a peaceful protest by the authorities.

According to the information received, on December 17, 2007, Mr. Ali Jassim Meki reportedly died because of the excessive use of force by the authorities of Bahrain as he was taking part in a peaceful demonstration in the Sanabis area[1], at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day - aiming at paying tribute to victims of torture in the past.

At around 5 p.m., the demonstration was dispersed by members of the riot police and of the special security force, who heavily resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets. Some participants were chased through narrow streets and beaten on the spot.

Mr. Meki managed to run to his home and told his relatives: “They destroyed us, I feel I am dying”. His breathing then became more difficult, and he vomited white foam. Mr. Meki was taken to the Bahrain International Hospital, but the doctor asserted that he had died on the way, and ordered that he be taken to the morgue of Al-Sulaimania Governmental Hospital.

At around 8 p.m., Mr. Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, President of the Bahrain Human Rights Centre, observed the body and noticed bruises on his chest and on his arms. However, at 9.40 p.m., before the body was examined by doctors, the official news agency surprisingly published a press release stating that the death was the result of natural causes. At 10.30 p.m., the body was observed by three doctors assigned by the government. The body had reportedly turned greenish-red and blood was coming from his mouth.

At around midnight, the doctors conducted an autopsy, and handed afterwards a death certificate to Mr. Meki’s family, reporting that his death had been caused by a “sharp decline in blood and breathing systems”. The relatives asked for independent doctors to examine the body, but were told that no independent specialist was available in the country.

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

The Observatory expresses its deep concern at Mr. Meki’s death, and considers that there are strong reasons to believe that his death be directly linked to the violent repression he was subjected to because of his human rights activities. The Observatory therefore calls upon the Bahraini authorities to carry out immediately and unconditionally an impartial and independent enquiry, so that the circumstances of Mr. Meki’s death be clarified, and that those responsible be identified, brought to justice and sanctioned according to law. The Observatory also urges the authorities to guarantee adequate reparation to the victim’s family.

More generally, the Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against all human rights defenders in the country, as well as to conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December, 9, 1998, and in particular its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and its article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and 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 [...] Declaration”.

For further information, please contact :

FIDH : Gael Grilhot: +33 1 43 55 25 18

OMCT : Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39

11 Dec, 2007

Postal union activist suspended from job over media statement

10 December 2007

SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Postal Directorate of the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) suspended union activist Jamal Ateeq from his job for five days without pay for expressing his views in the local media.

Ateeq is the elected president of the "unauthorized" Postal Union (PU), one of the largest unions in Bahrain. He has been speaking to the media since the inception of the PU. He was most recently cited in an article published on 15 October 2007 in the "Al-wasat" newspaper. Ateeq's employer considered the statement quoted in this article to be defamatory, as in a CSB statement announcing penalties against Ateeq.

Ateeq was suspended from his position as a postal specialist for five days beginning 8 December. In response, Ateeq immediately began a peaceful protest in the form of a hunger strike, which he is holding in the Bahrain General Union's headquarters for the duration of his suspension.

The measure taken against Ateeq was based on an administrative order by the CSB banning the formation of unions to represent government workers, in direct violation of Decree Code Number 33 of 2002; the administrative order rendered the PU unauthorized and therefore illegal. This is not the first such punishment of Ateeq for speaking to the media; he was similarly penalized in 2005 with a three-day suspension.

The BCHR is concerned about Ateeq's suspension, which appears to be intended to silence him and to deter other unionists, as well as other human rights activists, from speaking out.

The BCHR is also worried about the deterioration of Ateeq's health as a result of his hunger strike, and holds the Bahraini authorities responsible for his well-being.

The measures against Ateeq violate Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as domestic legislation, and are part of a systemic attack by the authorities on all forms of free expression in Bahrain.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the Bahraini authorities: - calling for an end to Ateeq's suspension - urging that no further measures be taken against him in reprisal for expressing his views - requesting legislative changes to guarantee the right of public employees to freely express their views

APPEALS TO:

His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa King of Bahrain Riffa, Bahrain Fax: +973 1721 1363

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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

8 Dec, 2007

Human Rights Day 2007 - Overview on Main Human Rights Concerns in Bahrain

Overview on Main Human Rights Concerns in Bahrain Bahrain Centre for Human Rights 10 December 2007

Content: • Political Background and Main Concerns • Sectarian Discrimination: Main Source of Conflict, Violations and Unrest • "Al Bander-Gate": Maintaining Sectarian Division and Penetrating NGO’s • Failure of the National Assembly to Promote Human Rights - Restrictive Laws • Women Rights and Female Migrant Domestic Workers • Arbitrary Detention and Unfair Trials • The BCHR: An Intensive Case Study • Follow-up to Recommendations Adopted by Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures on Bahrain • Other Issues and References

Political Background and Main Concerns:

“The Al-Khalifa extended family has ruled the country since the late 18th century and continues to dominate all facets of society and government. The King, Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, governs the country with the assistance of his uncle, the Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa Al-Khalifa; his son, the Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad; and an appointed cabinet of ministers” ..

“Bahrain is a monarchy with a population of approximately 725,000, approximately 430,000 of whom are citizens. Members of the Al Khalifa royal family hold about half of the cabinet positions, including all strategic ministries. In 2002 the government adopted the current constitution that reinstated a legislative body with one elected chamber, the Council of Representatives (COR), and one appointed chamber, the Shura Council..

“The constitution provides that the king is the head of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government. Citizens are not able to change the government and experienced restrictions on civil liberties such as the freedoms of press, speech, assembly, association, and some religious practices. Though citizens were not able to form political parties, the law authorized registered political societies to run candidates and participate in other political activities. Reported judicial abuses included lack of judicial independence and allegations of corruption.

“Occurrences of domestic violence against women and children were common, as well as discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of expatriate workers remained problems. The Shi'a majority population was routinely discriminated against in leadership positions” .

Sectarian Discrimination: Main Source of Conflict, Violations and Unrest:

“A little over four years after Sheikh Hamad bin `Isa al-Khalifa announced a sweeping reform plan, Bahrain's fragile liberal experiment is poised to stall, or, worse, unravel. The overlap of political and social conflict with sectarian tensions makes a combustible mix. If steps are not urgently taken to address the grievances of the large and marginalized Shiite community -- as much as 70 per cent of the population -- Bahrain, which is often touted as a model of Arab reform, could be in for dangerous times. The U.S., which has extolled Bahrain's reforms and is the country's principal benefactor, should moderate its praise, urge the government to see through what it started in 2001 and find ways of raising the delicate issue of sectarian discrimination.

“Bahrain's problems go beyond sectarian discrimination to include protracted conflict between government and opposition, mounting unemployment, high rates of poverty, and a rising cost of living: establishing a stable political system requires altering relations between government and citizens as a whole.

“The government recently has taken steps to repair what was once a dysfunctional autocracy. Still, it so far has failed in two important respects. First, reform has been uneven, leading many domestic critics to view it as an attempt less to establish a new political contract between rulers and ruled than for the royal family to formalize and institutionalize its grip on power. Secondly, it has done virtually nothing to tackle sectarian discrimination and tensions. Indeed, the latter have been exacerbated, as the majority Shiite community feels increasingly politically marginalized and socially disadvantaged.

“Of greatest concern today are increasingly aggressive moves by the government, which resorts more and more to police tactics and authoritarian measures to maintain order. At the same time, the moderate Shiite leadership's control over more confrontational elements within its community is showing signs of wear. While some opposition members advocate reconciliation, others are pushing for a more dramatic showdown. As this dangerous dynamic sets in, government and opposition moderates may lose their tenuous hold on the situation. Both need to act quickly to prevent this from happening”

"Al Bander-Gate": Maintaining Sectarian Division and Penetrating NGO’s

According to a report released by Dr. Salah Al Bandar, a Strategic Planning’s Chancellor at the Council of Ministers Affairs, a secret web lead by a high government official, who is a member of the royal family, has been operating in Bahrain with an aim to manipulate the results of elections, maintain sectarian distrust and division, and to ensure that Bahrain's Shias remain oppressed and disenfranchised. As a result of leaking the information, Dr Al Bander was deported to the United Kingdom on September 13th as he is a British citizen. BCHR: "Al Bander-Gate": A Political Scandal In Bahrain

The 216-page report, which was distributed by the Gulf Centre for Democratic Development (GCDD), contains almost 200 pages of cheques, receipts, letters, bank statements and accounts sheets to support this claim. The full 216-page report (in Arabic) can be downloaded from here (31MB).

On October 13th, 2006, a hundred prominent figures and activists submitted a petition to the king expressing their enormous shock regarding the dangerous sectarian plan and the existence of a secret organization that was revealed by the published report.

Failure of the National Assembly to Promote Human Rights

Restrictive Laws

Taking advantage of the overfilling positive vote on the National Charter in 2001, the newly pronounced king adopted the current 2002 controversial constitution that reinstated a National Assembly with one elected chamber of 40 members, the Council of Representatives (COR), and one appointed chamber of 40 members, the Shura Council.

As a popular protest against the failure of the reinstated semi-democracy, 82,000 citizens (more than 40% of the electoral block) signed a petition to the United Nation to call for support against the 2002 constitution and to give the people of Bahrain the right to have a decision in the political system of the state.

Manipulation of elections constituencies has secured a majority loyal to the government in the Council of Representatives. Furthermore, the government effectively uses the defect in the mechanism and authorities of the Representative Council in order to subjugate or disable the National Assembly.

On top of this all, the fundamental factor in imposing government power over the National Assembly remains, and that is in the governments ability to use the appointed Shura Council, which shares the legislative authority with the elected members. Shura members proved during the last period their absolute obedience to the government as far as passing bills against freedoms and human rights or in the support of governmental repressive actions.

The National Assembly, since December 2002, has ratified laws that were initiated by the Government and which restrict basic freedoms and punish citizens for exercising their fundamental rights. Among these laws were: the Law on Political Societies that places political groups under the mercy of the government, the Law to Combat Terrorism, that imposes the death penalty and harsh punishments against actions that do not necessary imply the use of violence; the Law to Deprive Citizens of their Civil and Political Rights, this allow for selectively depriving opposition figures and human rights activists from their right to vote or to run for election by fabricating judicial charges in cases related to their opinions and peaceful activities.

The National Assembly has also failed to amend the restrictive laws that were pronounced prior to its existence, such as: the 1974 Penal Code which consists of stringent clauses that facilitate, during the last three decades, the practice of excessive human rights violations that resulted in the loss of tens of life’s and left thousands of victims of arbitrary imprisonments, tortures and forcible exile; the 1989 Law on Societies which hindered the establishment and activities of many societies and was used to close the Bahrain Center of Human Rights; the 2002 Law on the Press, that was used during the work of house of representatives against journalists, activists and internet websites and Law 56 of 2002 that grants impunity to those responsible for committing the aforementioned violations and who have remain in their high and sensitive security and administrative positions.

The National Assembly, instead of monitoring and investigating Government practices, has surrendered to Governmental influence. It had remained silent or supported the government by published statements justifying the excessive use of force against peaceful activities and against hundreds of activists, journalists and human rights defenders who were subjected to physical assault, defamation, arbitrary detention and unfair trials.

Due to government influence, the Council of Representatives has failed to form a Human Rights Committee. Furthermore, it has also failed to approve any bills initiated by its members that would contribute to improving people’s living standards, the questioning of any Ministers who were accused of corruption despite evidences provided by interrogatory committees as in the case of General Organization for Social Insurances (GOSI) and Retirement. The Majority of members refused to pronounce a vote of no confidence against the aforementioned Ministers.

Women Rights and Female Migrant Domestic Workers

Some of the pressing problems facing women in Bahrain are that: • women continue to be discriminated against in the workplace and denied senior posts in both the private and public sectors family law in Bahrain is unmodified and governed by all-male religious Sharia courts -- influential sections of the religious establishment oppose a codified family law, while the government now seems uninterested in pursuing the matter (see Women's Petition Committee statement, 1 Nov 2006 • ); the Sharia courts and Public Prosecution have resorted to threatening activists who dare to criticize its anti-women policies (see BCHR Ref: 05060301 and Ref: 07011401 • children and spouses of Bahraini women married to non-Bahraini men are not entitled to citizenship; • sexual harassment and domestic abuse against women is commonplace, with very little institutional support for victims -- spousal rape is not considered a crime according to Bahraini law.

The BCHR feels, however, that special attention must be given to the plight of female migrant domestic workers, as they have been by and large ignored and excluded from the discourse on women's rights in Bahrain. In Bahrain, migrant workers employed as domestic helpers are not protected by the country's labor law.

Upon arriving to the country they are subjected to mandatory health testing related to sexual and reproductive health without consent or counseling. Problems faced by these women include long (or undefined) working hours, low salaries and late payment of salaries, poor and repressive living conditions and psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

Extreme local cases have seen women being trafficked into prostitution. However, few are able or willing to seek legal redress - many because they are unaware of their rights, but also because they do not have access to the institutions where they could seek help. In addition, because domestic helpers are required by law to live with their sponsor (employer), leaving the home to file a court case has lead to the jailing of abuse victims in the past.

Read more: Female domestic workers living under the Kafala system in GCC states , CARAM / BCHR: State of health of Migrant 2007- Mandatory testing in Bahrain and BCHR: Death toll continues to rise as aresult of migrant worker suicides

Arbitrary Detention and Unfair Trials

Since 2004, Bahrain has witnessed an extreme decline in public freedoms, specially in regards to freedom of expression and opinion and the freedom of assembly. In 2006 alone, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has documented and provided legal support. for seventy one detainees including human rights defenders, political activists and minors who were subjected to severe beatings and arbitrary detention, (some detained for extended periods without charges). While some were tried in criminal courts for charges related to practicing expression of opinion, or participating in protests and gatherings which were related to human rights issues but considered unauthorized. (Please Find Attached a full report on the cases : BCHR: Arbitrary detention and unfair trials in Bahrain during 2006

Socio-economic background of the unrest: Use of restrictive laws and measures leads to increased unrest

The BCHR: An Intensive Case Study

According to official documents submitted to the Bahraini courts, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was closed on November 2004 for three reasons: Breaching Article 18 of the Law of 1989 on Societies, which forbids interference in politics, by organizing a seminar and publishing a report on Discrimination and Favoritism in Bahrain: addressed to the 66th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), March 2005 Breaching Article 18 of the Law of 1989 on Societies by organizing a seminar and publishing a report on poverty and corruption titled: Half of Bahraini Citizens are Suffering from Poverty and Poor Living Conditions.

Read more on: Once Again: The Minister Of Labour Threatens To Close The BCHR

• Interference in the affairs of a neighboring country: by staging an online petition to campaign for political rights for women in Kuwait.

Since its official closure in 2004, the BCHR has become more active and expanded its activities specially in economic social rights and migrant workers rights. Its work has expanded internally by playing a major role in supporting the work of more than 12 grass root groups on different human rights issues such as unemployment, housing, victims of torture and women petition committee. The BCHR has taken a leading role in organizing workshops on transitional justice and the creation of the unofficial Coalition for Truth, Equity and Reconciliation.

Externally, since its closure, the BCHR submitted parallel reports and attended the discussion of Bahrains official reports to the UN Committee of Elimination of Racial Discriminations and the Committee Against Torture. In 2006/2007 the BCHR became a member of the FIDH, IFEX and KARAM ASIA among other regional and international networks and organizations.

In response to the aforementioned activities, members of the BCHR, including President and Vice-President have been subjected to harassment, physical assaults, arbitrary detention, unfair trial and defaming campaigns internally and externally.

For more information please refer to: (BCHR: Bahraini Authorities Persistent Campaign Defaming Human Rights Defenders: Signals Possible Crackdown)

Follow-up to Recommendations Adopted by Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures on Bahrain

The BCHR highly recommended the follow-up to recommendations adopted by the following treaty bodies:

Shadow report to the UN Committee Against TortureConclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture: BahrainConcluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination : BahrainBCHR: The UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination Committee Criticizes Bahrain

Other Issues and References:

BCHR JOINT ACTION: 52 organizations call on Bahrain government to stop clamping down on freedom of expressionAL Khawaja At the Meeting of Human Rights Council: Corruption and inadequate Housing in BahrainBahrain: a Heaven for Investors and the Wealthy ,while workers suffer poverty and discrimination -------------------------------------------------------

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 28, 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 6, 2007 Bahrain's Sectarian Challenge, the International Crisis Group, Middle East Report N°40, 6 May 2005 http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3404&l=1 Arbitrary detention and unfair trials in Bahrain during 2006, This Report is released by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, November 2007

4 Dec, 2007

BCHR: Bahraini Human Rights Defender at Risk

Director of BYSHR is put to trial with the charge of heading unlicensed NGO

Bahraini authorities launch a legal pursuit campaign against unlicensed human rights groups

On Tuesday, 27 November 2007, the young human rights activist and undergraduate student, Mohamed Abdul Nabi Al-Maskati, 20, was tried by the Fourth Degree Minor Criminal Court. The notification of the hearing mentioned that Maskati is summoned to attend the hearing of the case no. 21741/2006 with charge of "activating unregistered association before issuing the declaration of registration."

When the judge announced the charges leveled against the young activist, Maskati replied that he did not violate law. His justification was that he is following the international law of human rights signed by Bahrain, and consequently has become part of its internal laws, particularly after signing the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights. The laws he is charged with are contradicting the international commitments of Bahrain. The judge decided to postpone the trial to 21 January 2008.

Maskati is the head of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) which failed to get registered because of the restricting procedures including but are not limited to Penal Code 1976 and Association Law 1989. The Bahraini laws criminalize the formation of any group without the approval of authorities, prevent handling political issues, and provide that all members should exceed the age of 18. All these conditions are not applicable to BYSHR. The real reason behind pursuit of NGO is its activism and unveiling many governmental violations. Despite the young age of its members, BYSHR played a great role in arranging training workshops, monitoring and documenting human rights violations, participating effectively in forming a regional network for young rights activists in eight Arab countries. BYSHR has also become an effective member of the Bahraini Coalition for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation which has other six human rights groups and five political associations. Most of the unregistered human rights groups in Bahrain received similar notification by The Ministry of Social Affairs requesting them to stop their activities in their NGOs or they will be prosecuted.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is astonished that Maskati is put to trial upon a restricted law that was previously condemned by international NGOs. BCHR was shut down according to this law before. The same law is pending governmental amendments right now, according to the governmental call for holding meetings to discuss the proposed amendments of the law. BCHR is concerned that Maskati trial is a notification for the other 10 human rights groups, networks, and committees which the government sees as illegal groups.

28 Nov, 2007

BCHR: Authorities reinforce sweeping media ban, Internet censorship on controversial report

(BCHR/IFEX) - A statement by the Higher Criminal Court on 27 November 2007 affirmed the permanence of the decision to stop publishing news or press comments on the "Al-Bandar report", although the prosecution of Salah Al-Bandar, the issuer of the report, was passed.

The decision to extend the "publication ban order" was explained by the judge in the following statement: "The ruling on the accused was made in his absence, and thus was susceptible to reversal and appeal by default, meaning it had not yet become final, and this justifies maintaining a ban on any publication about the report".

The ban on any media coverage of the "Al-Bandar report", originally issued in 2006, resulted in the prosecution of many journalists (for example, Mohamed Al-Sawad and Ahmed Al-Aradi of the "Alwaq" newspaper) and some human rights activists (for example, Nabeel Rajab of BCHR). Furthermore, the Bahraini Ministry of Information used this ban to activate articles 40 and 71 of the Press Decree Code of 2002, issuing an official order to prevent Internet access (from inside Bahrain) to many Bahraini and non-Bahraini websites that make reference to the report. This ban continues and applies to electronic forums, sites of local political and civic organizations, including religious, secular and ethnic groups based outside Bahrain. It also banned access to websites of human rights organizations BCHR and HAQ (inside Bahrain) as well as the Network of Human Rights Information (HRinfo), outside Bahrain.

The "Al-Bandar report" contains documents exposing a "secret" organization led and funded by known official organizations - mainly the Royal Court - and contains executive plans aiming at introducing sectarian sedition, rigging elections and undermining dissident groups, disenfranchising Shia populations, creating and funding phony non-governmental organizations, clamping down on and containing civic organizations, as well as managing a politically-motivated change of demography scheme by facilitating the immigration of thousands of people of different nationalities from around the region. The report also exposes the mobilization of the media team and capabilities of a newspaper created, funded and supported by the secret organization, and dedicated to achieving the above objectives and to misleading people about the report and its content, as well as about many public issues, activists and rights organizations.

BCHR is concerned about the ban on media coverage of the "Al-Bandar report", which only raises suspicions over the contents of the document. This is a blatant breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights acceded to by Bahrain. Furthermore, BCHR is concerned about the use of legislation to clamp down on freedom of expression and to limit space for action by human rights activists and their organizations.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to Bahraini authorities: - calling for an end to the constraints on media access and freedom of expression, including the banning of various websites - denouncing the use of legislation, and the Press Decree Code in particular, to punish individuals and groups who attempt to express their views on public issues - condemning the alleged creation of a "secret organization" aimed at influencing media, activists and their organizations

APPEALS TO:

His Hightness Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa, King of Bahrain His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +973 1721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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

17 Nov, 2007

Bangladeshi workers and Bahrain,An analysis from two angles: Business and Human Rights

Enhancing social protection of Bangladeshi migrants Dhaka, Bangladesh Nabeel Rajab

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

Section 1: The Situation

There are approximately 74,000 Bangladeshi workers in Bahrain, including up to 4,000 women. These workers represent 10 per cent of the total population of residents in Bahrain.

Within the region, Bangladeshi workers are mainly employed in unskilled work, such as construction work, menial and manual labor, and tend to work for the lowest wages out of migrant workers from Asia. They can be seen working in ‘3-D’ jobs ,dangerous, dirty or demeaning.

What are the problems faced ?

A large number of Bangladeshi workers in Bahrain are classified as ‘undocumented or illegal workers. This comes as a result of holding expired work permits, or being ‘runaway and workers who are employed in work other than that listed on their work permit.

The position of undocumented workers is a vulnerable one. They are vulnerable to maltreatment, abuse, and blackmail. They are also unable to access aid and protection from government authorities, health service providers, and the judicial system.

Mainly because they are desperate to secure employment abroad, many Bangladeshi workers carry false identification documents, including passports.

These are usually made in the country of origin by the recruitment agents. Workers in Bahrain found carrying false documents are normally deported.

Other Bangladeshi workers do not have work contracts, and some have created false contracts and destroy the one sign in the Embassy. Again, this can be seen as a result of desperation to gain and keep their jobs.

In legal disputes, court verdicts have been shown to pass tougher sentences for poor migrant workers, as compared with locals.

In addition, many Bangladeshis have been trafficked to the country (and the region) on false promises of good jobs with higher salaries. A large number have sold property or other valuables in their home country in order to pay for their travel to the region.

The issues faced by migrant workers are largely ignored by civil society both in sending and receiving countries. Because Bangladeshi workers generally cannot speak the language of the host country they work in, they cannot seek help from the police or other government authorities and institutions in the receiving country.

Because they are poor migrant workers whose their main concern is to keep their job and continue to send money to their family at home, their plight is largely ignored by officials.

Section Two: Violations

- Working conditions, including wages, living conditions, and health and safety regulations often fall far below International standards.

- Psychological, physical, verbal abuse, and inhumane living and work conditions have led migrant workers in the past to run away – or commit suicide.

- In some cases, undocumented or runaway female domestic workers end up working, or being forced into working as prostitutes. Often, in these cases, an agent from their home country coerces them into runaway from their sponsors and working as prostitutes.

- The majority of workers are not aware of their rights.

- Asian country Embassies in receiving countries are more concerned about the flow of remittances into their home economies, than the human rights of their citizens.

- Many Recruiting agents, both in home and receiving countries, are key violators of migrant workers’ human rights.

Section Three: Recommendations

1. Bangladeshi embassies based in the region have to take tougher measures in addressing the problem of their own citizens when dealing with host governments. They should keep in mind the host countries’ continuing need for a labour force due to the economic and construction boom.

2. The Bangladeshi government and other Asian ‘sending’ countries should join together for negotiations with receiving countries in the Gulf and wider Middle East region.

3. Bangladesh should develop a system to bring individuals, recruitment agencies and government employees in Bangladesh and who are responsible for human rights volitions to justice, and black list those acting in receiving countries.

4. Workers should be educated and encouraged to join labour unions and civil society groups in receiving countries.

5. Receiving countries should have shelters and safe houses for abused workers. These should be run by sending country embassies if the receiving country government has not established its own.

6. Workers should be guaranteed their right not to be deported with prior review of their cases by an independent judiciary in order to ensure that their right to fair and due process is respected.

7. The contribution of migrant workers to the economy of receiving and sending countries should be recognized

8. Countries should publish and implement national action plans and policies to protect the labour and human rights of all workers, including migrant workers, without discrimination.

9. Activists and social workers should facilitate the establishment of an inter-regional network between Arab and Asian organizations interested in the issues related to the situation of migrant workers. The network should work through regular meetings and exchange of information. This work should include:

- Campaigning for concluding bilateral agreements between origin and host countries on the regulation of migration.

- Formulating contracts which are ratified by ministry of labor in both sending and receiving countries .

10. A maximum number of working hours for domestic workers should be set and implemented.

11. Civil society groups in both sending and receiving countries should work together.

12. Concerned individual activists and organization should fight against the impunity of the middle agents, particularly regarding the exploitation rings run by recruiting agencies in Bangladesh.

13. We should work to raise awareness among migrant workers about legal protection through information campaigns by NGOs, National Human rights institutions, Embassies and trade unions.

15 Nov, 2007

BCHR: Arbitrary detention and unfair trials in Bahrain during 2006

Arbitrary detention and unfair trials in Bahrain during 2006

This Report is released by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights November 2007

Preface:

The year 2006 has witnessed an extreme decline in public freedoms in Bahrain, especially in regards to freedom of expression and opinion and the freedom of assembly.

The year 2006 has witnessed many violations, that were documented, against human rights defenders and political activists and juveniles, who were subjected to beatings, torture, and detention (some detained for extended periods without charges). While some were tried in criminal courts due to a peaceful manner of expression of opinion, or as a result of participating in protests and gatherings which were related to human rights issues.

All the foresaid arrests, detentions and charges were based upon the Bahraini Penal Code promulgated by Decree Law No. (15) in 1976 by the executive authority at a time when the Legislative Council was dissolved and the infamous emergency law (State Security) was applied. This law conflicts with the agreed constitutional principles and the conventions of the international covenants. Law No. 15 is based on strict new laws, such as the gatherings and press law, which violates human rights.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights played a fundamental role in the defense of detainees through providing legal support. In 2006, the total number of detainees has reached seventy one (71). The BCHR has adopted all these cases. The Center’s role, as represented through the different stages of the proceedings, took the following form:

Indictment stage (Preliminary Investigation):

This stage is when the detention takes place, and the detainees are indicted with charges at the Police Stations, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and the Public Prosecution Office. This is a very important and critical stage, because many detainees are subjected to torture and ill-treatment in order for the police to obtain information and make the detainees confess and acknowledge the charges made against them. These detentions are usually done in isolation, where the detainee is not allowed to contact his family or a lawyer. Furthermore, there is no neutral medical supervision.

In this stage, the Center's role includes allocating lawyers in order to determine the detainees’ places and to attempt to secure the detainees visitation rights. BCHR members have also attended interrogation sessions, at the public prosecution, with the defendants in order to provide moral support and to reduce the element of coercion against the accused by the Investigation Authority, also to secure that the legal action taken against the detainees is sound.

Trial Stage: This is the stage when the criminal proceedings are referred to the relevant Courts.

The role of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) entails all of the following:

A- Formation of the Defense Committee: The BCHR assigns the most possible qualified lawyers to defend the accused detainees and coordinates amongst them in preparing the legal defenses.

B- Overseeing the preparation of the defense case: This consists of overseeing, coordination and contribution to the preparation of the legal defense memoranda in liaison with the BCHR sponsored lawyers, and the provision of legal evidence and conducting a study of the case to extract the evidence.

C- Providing of legal Support: This entails provision of legal advice to the accused and their families at all stages of the proceedings (the Charges Stage & trial) and informing them about the proceedings and responding to their inquiries through the lawyers and BCHR’s human rights activists.

D- Close monitoring and surveillance: It is the provision of a detailed database of the detainee statements and the precise information of the charges of the ongoing proceedings and documenting the cases of violations and torture, if possible, by contacting the detainee and his/her family, and to present the BCHR’s specialist observing members for court hearings, should they be allowed to attend.

3- Assisting the families in organizing their movement: In all the cases mentioned in this report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights brought together the relatives of detainees and helped them to organize themselves, and to develop strategies to reveal the truth and to set their children free. This escalating move has led to a royal pardon of a special release of all convicts and defendants, in the cases of opinion and freedoms in the year 2006.

Cases Overseen by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in 2006 The total number of detainees, whoso cases were taken by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in 2006, were 71 people spread over 10 lawsuits. We will hereby cite the cases with an overview presentation of facts and charges against the detainees and the stages of the criminal proceedings.

1. The Case of Detainees in the Airport Incident: A- Date of arrest: 28 / 12 / 2005.

B- Number of detainees: 22 people (five of them were activists in committees of human rights and national demands).

C- The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

- Article (155 / 1) anyone who deliberately damages buildings or public property or property allocated for the public interests will be punished with imprisonment.

- Article (179) if one or more of the gathered persons proceeded with the use of violence to achieve the gathering objective, all participants will be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine.

- Incident Profile: They were arrested following the arrest warrants they received for their participation in a peaceful gathering. at the airport of Bahrain. The protesters demanded the release of a detained cleric who was arrested for his political opinions, when returning from abroad. The detainees were carefully selected from a group of more than 200 people who participated in the protest. Most of these detainees are either members in committees of people’s demands or human rights activists.

D- Stages of the proceedings: Following the Prosecution’s decisions to keep them in custody for investigation for a period of 15 days, the cases were then referred to the criminal court and the detainees were sentenced after one month.

E- Court Judgment: the Lower Criminal Court sentenced four persons not guilty of the charges and sentenced the remaining to two years imprisonment. After the defendants appeal the punishment period was reduced to one year by the Court of Appeal.

F- Discrimination and release: The detainees requested to appeal to the Court of Cassation because the articles that the charges were based on are unconstitutional, and because of the incorrect way the law was being applied. However this trial was not held due to a royal pardon in the case, and the detainees were released a week prior to the expiration of the sentence.

G- -Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case:

1. Mohamed Jaffar Al-Mutawa 2. Ahmed Jaffar Al-Arayyedh 3. Fatima Al-Hawaj 4. Fadhel Al-Mudaifa 5. Shahzalan Khamees 6. Ali Salem Al-Arayyedh 7. Taimoor Kareemy 8. *Court of Cassation: Mohamed Ahmed

H- - Release: The detainees were released on the 22nd of September 2006 following the special pardon in the issues of freedoms and expression; this happened to be one week prior to the expiration of the sentence period, as the expiration of the sentence was the 28th of September, 2006.

On the 15th of February, 2006 those who were acquitted by the court were released. This was after they had spent 49 days in detention.

2- The case of detainees who participated in a peaceful march in Daih:

A. Date of Arrest: 14th June 2006

B. No. of Detainees: 14 people

C. The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

- Article (155 / 1) anyone who deliberately damages buildings or public property or property allocated for the public interests will be punished with imprisonment.

- Article (179) if one or more of the gathered persons proceeded with the use of violence to achieve the gathering objective, all participants will be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine.

D. Incident Profile: They were arrested during their participation in a peaceful march, demanding the release of detainees of opinion when the police dispersed the march without warning.

E. Stages of the proceedings: Following the Prosecution’s decisions to keep them in custody for investigation for a period of 15 days, the cases were then referred to the criminal court and the detainees were sentenced after one month. Seven peopled were excluded, due to insufficient evidence against them and they were released on the 29th of January, 2006.

F. Court Judgment: the Lower Criminal Court sentenced seven people to two years and after the appeal by the defendants the punishment period was reduced to one year before the Court of Appeal.

G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case:

1. Radhy Khalil 2. Ahmed Jaffar Al-Arayyedh 3. Fatima Al-Hawaj

H- Release: The detainees were released on the 22nd of September, 2006 following the special pardon in the issues of freedoms and expression; this was 25 days prior to the expiration of their sentence period, as they were supposed to be release on the 13th of October, 2006.

3- The case of detainees in the protest near Dana Mall:

A. Date of Arrest: 10th March 2006

B. No. of Detainees: 22 people (two people were Human Rights activists in Committees of People’s Demand and four people were under the age of 18).

C. The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

-Article (227) punishment with imprisonment, for a period not exceeding ten years, for a person who starts a fire, with the intention of endangering people's lives or property (fixed or movable property), even if owned by him.

D. Incident Profile: the defendants were arrested during their participation in a peaceful protest that was organized by the relatives of the detainees in the previous cases, demanding the release of their sons. Although security authorities were notified prior to the protest, the riot police attacked the protesters with teargas and rubber bullets, which led to the escape of participants to the nearest building i.e. Dana Shopping Complex. The riot police chased the demonstrators into the shopping mall and indiscriminately arrested people with the use of force.

E. Stages of the proceedings: Following the Prosecution’s decisions to keep them in custody for investigation for a period of 45 days, the case was referred to the High Criminal Court and was adjourned four times due to unavailability of prosecution witnesses to attend court at the request of the defense. During the trial amnesty was issued to release all of the detainees.

F. Court Judgment: No verdict was issued due to the pardon and their release.

G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case:

1. Abdulla Shamlawi 2. Ahmed Jassem 3. Fatima Al-Hawaj 4. Issa Ebrahim

H- Release: The detainees were released on the 24th of September 2006, following the pardon in the cases of freedom and expression and prior to pronouncing the sentences against the detainees. This release took place after six and a half months of imprisonment.

4. The Case of the Detainees of Daih’s Peaceful march on April 2, 2006: A. Date of arrest: 2 / 4 / 2006. B. Number of detainees: 5 people C. The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

- Article (155 / 1) anyone who deliberately damages buildings or public property or property allocated for the public interests will be punished with imprisonment. - Article (179) if one or more of the gathered persons proceeded with the use of violence to achieve the gathering objective, all participants will be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine.

D. Incident Profile: The detainees were arrested from the main street following a peaceful march demanding the release of detainees in the cases of opinion and freedom. E. Stages of the proceedings: The defendants were detained by Public Prosecution for 45 days for investigation and then the case was referred to the Criminal Court and during the trial amnesty was issued to release all of the detainees in the cases of opinion and freedoms. F. Court Judgment: No verdict was issued due the pardon and their release. G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case:

1. Fatima Al-Hawaj 2. Issa Ebrahim 3. Radhy Khalil

H. Release: The detainees were released on the 26th of September, 2006 following the pardon in the issues of freedoms and expression; this was prior to their sentence and after five months and a half of imprisonment.

5. The Case of the Detainees of Bani Jamra’s Peaceful march: A. Date of arrest: 16 / 3 / 2006. B. Number of detainees: 2 people C. The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

- Article (155 / 1) anyone who deliberately damages buildings or public property or property allocated for the public interests will be punished with imprisonment.

- Article (179) if one or more of the gathered persons proceeded with the use of violence to achieve the gathering objective, all participants will be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine.

D. Incident Profile: The detainees were arrested after they received warrants from the police station on suspicion of their involvement in the demonstrations and acts of protest E. Stages of the proceedings: The defendants were detained by Public Prosecution for 30 days for investigation and then the case was referred to the Criminal Court F. Court Judgment: Found innocent of all charges G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case: 1. Issa Ebrahim 2. Ahmed Jaffar Al-Arayyedh

H. Release: They were released after being acquitted of the charges on the 5th of July 2006. This was after four months and five days of detaintion. 6. The Case of the Detainees of Daih’s Peaceful march April 4, 2006 : A. Date of arrest: 28 / 4 / 2006. B. Number of detainee: 1 Person C. The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

- Article (179) if one or more of the gathered persons proceeded with the use of violence to achieve the gathering objective, all participants will be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine.

D. Incident Profile: The detainee were arrested from his home on suspicion of participation in a peaceful demonstration. E. Stages of the proceedings: The detainee was held in custody for 2 months for investigation, he was then referred to the Lower Criminal Court. F. Court Judgment: He was found innocent from all charges. G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case: 1. Ahmed Jaffar Al-Arayyedh

7. The Case of a Detainee accused of providing a hide for a wanted: A. Date of arrest: 28 / 4 / 2006. B. Number of detainee: 1 Person C. The charges against detainees: Article (51/1) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who helps a sentenced person to escape will be punished. D. Incident Profile: The detainee was arrested by civic police while driving his car with his nephew by his side. His nephew wanted by the security authorities in the case of gathering at the airport (refer case no.1). E. Stages of the proceedings: He was arrested for two weeks for investigation by the Public Prosecutor. However, he was released prior to expiration of the custody due to his suffering of heart disease. He was then referred to the criminal court. F. Court Judgment: He was found innocent from all charges. G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case: 1. Hassan Al-Nahhash

8. The Case of a Detainee of Sanabis’s Peaceful march: A. Date of arrest: 4 / 12 / 2005. B. Number of detainee: 1 Person C. The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

- Article (179) if one or more of the gathered persons proceeded with the use of violence to achieve the gathering objective, all participants will be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine.

D. Incident Profile: The detainee was arrested as he was leaving a shopping mall. Protestors were demonstrating outside the mall. E. Stages of the proceedings: The detainee was detained for 90 days for investigation and he was then referred to the Lower Criminal Court. F. Court Judgment: The Lower Court sentenced him to a year imprisonment, and after the appeal, the Appeal Court affirmed the sentenced period. G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case: 1. Ahmed Jaffar Al-Arayyedh H. Release: The detainee was released on the 22nd of September, 2006 following the pardon in the cases of freedom and expression; this was prior to the expiration of his sentence by two days as the sentenced expiration date was the 24th of September 2006.

9. The Case of the Detainees accused of possessing a printed document: A. Date of arrest: 16 / 11 / 2006. B. Number of detainees: 2 people C. The charges against detainees: Article No. (161) of the Penal Code states; a penalty of imprisonment or a fine for the possession of a printed document that contains support for or the promoting of the overthrow or change of the political, social or economic regime. D. Incident Profile: The detainees were arrested while possessing some booklets written by a Bahraini Writer who presents his point of view on the parliamentary elections. E. Stages of the proceedings: The detainees were detained for 15 days before they were referred to Public Prosecution for trial. F. Court Judgment: One defendant was sentenced to one year imprisonment and the second to six months. The judgment was appealed but the next session was not decided due to special amnesty against the charges. G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case: 1. Mohamed Ahmed

H. Release: They were acquitted of the charges and then released on the 25th of February 2006. This was after the amnesty.

10. The Case of the Detainee of Sanabis’s Peaceful march: A. Date of arrest: 29 /12 / 2006. B. Number of detainee: 1 Person C. The charges against detainees: Article (178) of the Bahraini Penal Code: Anyone who participates in a gathering, composed of at least five people and in a public place, with the purpose of committing crimes and premeditated action facilitating or disturbing public security, even if it was to achieve a legitimate purpose, shall be liable to a term not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding BD200/-, or one of the foresaid charges.

- Article (179) if one or more of the gathered persons proceeded with the use of violence to achieve the gathering objective, all participants will be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine. D. Incident Profile: The detainee was arrested for participating in a peaceful demonstration demanding the release of political prisoners. E. Stages of the proceedings: The detainee was held in custody for 30 days by Public Prosecution. The case was referred to the Court who ordered his release on the basis of a guaranteed residence until sentence pronouncement. F. Court Judgment: The case is still under deliberation. G. Names of Sponsored lawyers in the case: 1. Issa Ebrahim Release: The detainee was released on the 22nd of February 2007 after the first hearing on the basis of a guaranteed residence. The case is still pending before the court.

9 Nov, 2007

BCHR JOINT ACTION: 52 organizations call on Bahrain government to stop clamping down on freedom of expression

JOINT ACTION - BAHRAIN

8 November 2007

Fifty tow national, regional and international organizations call on government of Bahrain to stop clamping down on freedom of expression SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, express our deep concern about the recent serious deterioration of freedom of expression in Bahrain.

This includes violations of:

- the right to post information about public issues on Internet sites, - the right to print and distribute academic, documentary and artistic publications, - the right to watch films of public interest (documentary, drama, action, fiction, etc), - the right to express views, as journalists, writers, authors and bloggers, - the right for human rights defenders and activists to access media.

The Bahraini authorities have taken severe measures against activists to prevent them from reaching the public through media outlets, have blocked access to websites, have banned films, prohibited the printing of fictional and non-fictional books, and, above all, they have prosecuted writers and journalists for practicing their professions and expressing their beliefs.

Moreover, the Penal Decree Code of 1976 and the Press Decree Law of 2002 have both been used to nominally "legalize" the aforementioned violations.

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call upon the Bahraini authorities to halt their attacks upon freedom of expression, to abolish abusive laws, and to respect their commitment to international charters and covenants, in particular Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

1. Alhorrya Centre for Political Rights and Democracy 2. Andalus Centre for Anti-Violence and Tolerance Studies 3. Arab Archives Institute, Jordan 4. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HR Info), Egypt 5. The Arab Organization for Civil Society and Human Rights 6. Article 19, United Kingdom 7. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain 8. Bahrain Journalists Association 9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Egypt 10. Cartoonists Rights Network, United States 11. Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), Nepal 12. Centro de Periodismo y Etica Publica (CEPET), Mexico 13. Centro para la Comunicación Social (CENCOS), Mexico 14. Civil Observatory for Human Rights 15. Defend International 16. Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) 17. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt 18. The Egyptian Association Against Torture 19. The Egyptian Society for Democratic Development 20. The Egyptian Center for Human Rights 21. Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), Colombia 22. Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka 23. Freedom House, United States 24. Habi for Environmental Rights 25. Hisham Mubarak Centre 26. Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Development Studies 27. Independent Journalism Centre Moldova (IJC Moldova), Moldova 28. Index on Censorship, United Kingdom 29. Initiative for Freedom of Expression, Turkey 30. Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan 31. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium 32. International Justice 33. Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Ukraine 34. Journalists Trade Union (JuHI), Azerbaijan 35. KARAPATAN, the Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights 36. Land Centre for Human Rights 37. Maharat Foundation, Lebanon 38. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia 39. Network integration of Arab youth 40. Nadeem Centre for Psychiatric Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence 41. Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Pakistan 42. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France 43. Women petition committee 44. World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC) 45. World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) 46. KARAPATAN, the Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights. 47. Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) . 48. Network Integration of Arab Youth. 49. Defend International 50. World Association of Newspapers 51. Bahrain Youth Society of Human Rights 52. HAQ- Movement of Liberties and Democracy- Bahrain

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

30 Oct, 2007

CARAM / BCHR: State of health of Migrant 2007- Mandatory testing in Bahrain

State of health of Migrant 2007 Mandatory testing in Bahrain

Mandatory testing Research is made by CARAM network and its member organization The Bahrain Center for Human rights BSHR. It is a part of comprehensive regional report that covers countries of origins and destinations . It is an annual report that included Bahrain for the first time.

1- Migrant-Friendly Testing

A- Informed consent B- Pre-test and post-test counselling C- Confirmatory tests D- Confidentiality of test results E- Referral systems for treatment, care and support F- Financial and Geographical Accessibility G- Language H- Gender and Cultural Sensitivity I- Policy J- Health Education K- Accessibility

2- Bahrain country report

A- Pre-Departure testing B- Testing Procedures and Handling of Results C- Accessibility to treatment, care and support for migrants D- Impact of result E- Reintegration

3- Action to be taken

a- Actions for governments in origin and destination countries b- Actions for health testing facilities c- Action by the privet sector d- Actions for embassies e- Actions for NGOs and CBOs f- Actions for international partners

Migrant-Friendly Testing

Mandatory medical testing is now being used to restrict the movement of migrant workers in the name of public health. The very idea of required testing connotes and reinforces the judgment that migrant workers are carriers of disease and are vectors for the spread of infections like HIV. Under this paradigm, current mandatory medical testing practices are conducted without respect for the rights of migrant workers and are punitive by nature, since failing the tests leads to loss of the right to travel to or stay in a destination country and thus denies them the right to employment.

Although CARAM AND BCHR does not, in any way, support mandatory testing of migrant workers, the reality is that there is currently no political will to abolish testing requirements, which widely includes HIV. As such, CARAM AND BCHR proposes a more humane manner of conducting medical tests among migrant workers: a “migrant-friendly” medical testing that assures the protection of the rights of migrant workers and ensures that their health and well-being is safeguarded.

This framework for “migrant-friendly testing” is characterised as being based on the principles of non-discrimination; is responsive to the contexts of migrants; and is conducted in an enabling environment that provides migrants the ability to make choices that support their health and well-being. In addition and ideally, CARAM AND BCHR believes that, in line with UNAIDS guidelines, testing of migrants should be accompanied by full access to antiretroviral therapy for those who are found to be HIV positive.

The principle of non-discrimination stipulates that migrants are treated in the same way as the general public under prevailing laws and policies regarding HIV testing, and are treated as human beings with full exercise of their human rights no matter which country they are in. Under the context of medical testing, this principle can be manifested in the following conditions:

• Informed consent Full informed consent is obtained from the migrant worker being tested. This means that all information about the health test is communicated to migrants in a way that they understand, considering language and literacy before providing formal consent. Information includes: the process of testing, the risks and benefits of health testing, consequences and implications of the results, and the treatment services available. Other elements of informed consent include how the test results will be communicated and the opportunity for the migrant to ask questions.

• Pre-test and post-test counselling In the conduct of HIV testing, proper pre-test and post-test counselling is provided in a way that migrants understand, taking into consideration their language and literacy level. Pre-test counselling includes basic information regarding HIV transmission, prevention, and the specific vulnerability of migrant workers; the process of testing, and the meaning of HIV test results.

Post-test counselling is provided individually to all migrant workers, regardless of their HIV test result, or at least to all HIV positive results. Post-test counselling for migrant workers with HIV positive test results is aimed at encouraging positive, healthy lifestyles, and providing information on available support services and treatment options. For migrant workers with negative HIV test results, counselling is directed at promoting safer lifestyles to prevent HIV infection, and can be given in a group setting if necessary.

• Confirmatory tests Government Health Institutions, in the form of centralised reference laboratories, have a mechanism for ensuring verification of all test results that render migrant workers unfit to work. Confirmation of test results is free of charge.

• Confidentiality of test results Full details of test results are given directly and only to the migrant worker on an individual basis, especially for an “unfit” result. An option of having a translator during disclosure of results is available with the assurance that confidentiality is observed by all involved. In the current reality where third parties are also provided with such results, these parties are not provided details on the condition found, but only the determination of whether the individual is fit, temporarily unfit or unfit.

• Referral systems for treatment, care and support Health testing is only ethically acceptable in a context where treatment, care and support are available in all stages of migration. Proper referral systems need to be in place at all testing centres to provide migrants with access to treatment, care and support. This requires facilitating contact with service providers and follow-up efforts to ensure migrant workers’ welfare.

Making medical testing responsive to the contexts of migrant workers means that there is acknowledgement of the unique situations migrants face, and that assistance is provided to counteract their vulnerable social position, which is most pronounced when they travel outside their home countries for work. This means fulfilling the following:

• Financial and Geographical Accessibility The location of testing centres in both origin and destination countries is decentralised to allow easier access for migrant workers whose residence or place of work are in geographically remote areas. This minimises transportation and other related costs that migrant workers would otherwise incur if testing centres are all located in the capital.

Testing fees, like all information pertaining to the medical testing process, are presented in a transparent manner to avoid unscrupulous practices by medical testing personnel. This implies a sound monitoring system and an accessible mechanism for redress by relevant regulatory bodies.

In cases where a migrant worker is found “unfit” to work, especially in the destination countries, repatriation costs are provided by employers or sponsors. Upon return to their home countries, repatriated migrant workers receive support or assistance from the Government to ease their reintegration.

• Language Stakeholders involved in the mandatory medical tests are required to explain the process of medical testing to migrant workers in a way that they can understand, considering language and literacy levels. This language requirement is also observed in the provision of counselling services, delivery or disclosure of results and in referring migrant workers to service providers. Although this is particularly important in destination countries where migrant workers may not speak the language of the nationals, the situation in origin countries may also require sensitivity to the language used by migrant workers in relation to ethnicity and terminology. If specific language capacity is not available among the staff of a testing centre, services of skilled independent translators are utilised.

• Gender and Cultural Sensitivity Medical testing centres observe proper gender matching by employing the services of female doctors to conduct examinations for female migrant workers, and male doctors for male migrant workers. In situations where there is a lack of female doctors, other female health personnel – midwives, nurses or others – are present during the course of the examination of female migrant workers.

There is a need to review the requirement of a physical examination that requires migrant workers to fully undress. If this is deemed necessary for medical purposes, then it is conducted with full explanation of every step of the examination process.

Sensitive examination procedures, including those involving the prostate, breast, pelvic or rectal areas, are fully explained to the migrant workers prior to the onset of the whole medical testing process. Such examinations are conducted with respect to privacy and cultural sensitivity.

Medical testing facilities respond to the needs of male and female migrant workers by having separate and sanitary restrooms or toilets, and separate cubicles for physical examinations and the like.

The ultimate goal of creating an enabling environment for migrants to access migrant-friendly testing is to ensure that migrants are able to make informed decisions in all matters pertaining to their health and well-being. As such, there is a need to formulate principles and strategies across the range of issues relating to medical testing for migrants. The following points need to be taken into account.

• Policy Medical testing for migrant workers is conducted in a manner that respects and protects their right to health, particularly, the right to information, privacy, bodily integrity and access to health care services. This can be realised if appropriate and sound policies are in place and are properly implemented in both sending and receiving countries. Such policies need to reflect the provisions enshrined in international conventions that promote and protect migrants’ rights, such as the Migrant Workers Convention. Furthermore, strict and regular monitoring of the implementation of these policies needs to be set up by Governments, with participation from civil society and migrants’ communities.

• Health Education Health education is institutionalised and implemented to improve the health-seeking behaviour of people and to enhance their awareness of their rights as individuals, as migrants and as patients. This way, migrants will be able to proactively seek health-related information and services.

• Accessibility Government-accredited medical testing facilities are accessible to migrants, geographically and financially, and without monopoly. Migrant workers are able to choose the most convenient testing facility s/he can access, without prejudice to quality medical testing facilities and procedures.

Medical testing should not be used simply as a screening mechanism to decide who can work and who cannot. Medical testing is foremost a process to prevent the occurrence of illness; and it is a gateway to access healthcare services, specifically treatment and care. More than a screening process, medical testing should be aimed at benefiting the health and well-being of migrant workers because they have a right to be healthy and they have a right to work productively.

BAHRAIN Report

Bahrain is a major destination country for migrant workers. The country is currently experiencing a construction boom and is promoting its tourism industry, both of which are fuelling the trend of migration to Bahrain for work in the construction and service industries. Another significant form of employment for migrant workers is as domestic workers: this is specifically for females.

Bahrain’s total population of 707,160 includes 268, 951 expatriates (38%) who account for over 50% of the country’s workforce. A major proportion of the migrant worker population comes from India, but there are also significant numbers coming from Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and a number of countries in Eastern Europe. Workers from these countries mainly provide the workforce for 3-D jobs (work that is regarded as dirty, dangerous and demanding), or work in the entertainment sector. Bahrain also receives a smaller number of expatriate workers from the United States, Australia, South Africa and Western Europe, who tend to be employed in well-paid jobs with private companies or in the education sector. This research, however, focuses on migrants employed in the construction sector, as semi-skilled or skilled manual labourers, or as domestic helpers. These are the most vulnerable sectors where migrants find work.

Bahrain, as one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries, follows the mandatory health testing of migrant workers in line with the rules and regulations of the Gulf Approved Medical Centres Association (GAMCA). Upon arrival, all construction workers and manual labourers are referred to the government’s centralised health facility for migrant workers, Al Razi Health Centre, which is a GAMCA centre. According to the centre’s own records, a total of 87,000 migrant workers were tested in 2006, meaning an average of 350 workers are tested per weekday.

Mandatory health testing for domestic workers is undertaken in a decentralised fashion; tests can be done at local health centres in the area where their employer lives. These health centres are accredited, licensed and operated by the Bahrain Ministry of Health. While the majority of foreign workers are documented, it is widely accepted that there are quite a few ‘floating’ migrants working in Bahrain. These are workers without the required documents, which includes being without a positive health test result. According to NGO workers and health professionals, these undocumented workers have evaded or escaped the testing process out of fear of the consequences of being declared unfit.

PRE-DEPARTURE TESTING

Bahrain does not require migrant workers to undergo pre-departure health testing in their country of origin unless they are from certain Sub-Saharan African countries. While some recruitment agencies and sending countries’ officials recommend and in some cases require it, in our research findings, there was little evidence of a standardised process of pre-departure testing for migrant workers. Some had undergone testing in their home countries and others had not. For example, most Filipinos interviewed stated they had been tested in the Philippines, all Bangladeshis interviewed stated they had not been tested in Bangladesh, and some Indians interviewed stated they had been tested before leaving India, while others had not.

For a number of respondents, pre-departure testing appeared to give a sense of security or legitimacy, but for other workers the fear of being prevented from temporarily migrating for employment made them avoid health testing in their home country or trying to manipulate the results. “They didn’t tell us anything, they gave us eye-test, x-ray and general check up. Because I had done the medical before [I left India] I had no worries.” (Male Indian garage worker)

“If you’re working in this kind of business then you have to be careful. Because we cannot go out of our country if we don’t have all this physical check up already. If you are a legitimate contract worker you have to pass all the tests before you go to Bahrain… But before you go to Bahrain, if you fail there you cannot come here. So you don’t have to worry about it… We are physically fit because we are legitimate – if you are not legitimate then that’s the worry.” (Female Filipina waitress)

“You know, they are supposed to undergo a medical in their own country. In many countries this either does not happen, or workers slip through other channels and avoid it, or are able to manipulate their results [by paying etc]. They probably travel with disease.” (Migrants’ support NGO worker)

To ensure monitoring of testing policies and procedures, GAMCA mandates that testing centres in sending countries undergo annual inspection by the GCC Executive Board Technical Committee for Gulf Countries, to ensure that they follow standards set by the GCC Health Ministries Executive Committee. Additional inspections are carried out if a complaint is filed about a particular centre, or if a high number of workers found unfit in a receiving country are being passed by a centre in a sending country.

“The Gulf Technical committee carries out annual inspections of health centres in sending countries. The centres are inspected to see if they meet standards set by the GCC Health Ministries executive committee. Additional checks are carried out if there are complaints regarding a particular centre, if a consistent number of unfit workers are given fit certificates from a particular centre. These centres will have penalties if they don’t meet the standards.” (GAMCA Official)

ON-SITE Testing Procedures and Handling of Results Following government laws, migrant workers are required to undergo mandatory medical testing only once per employment contract while in Bahrain. This is usually done on arrival. However, if they change employer or sponsor, the worker needs to do the test again . Barbers and those working in the food and beverage sector, in hotels or restaurants, need to test every year.

GAMCA testing guidelines prescribe a series of tests in sending countries, but in Bahrain itself, only a selective number of tests are conducted. All migrant workers in Bahrain are given chest x-rays and examined for pulmonary tuberculosis, but individual tests, including for HIV, vary according to the profession of the migrant worker. Female migrant workers are required to take a pregnancy test. As part of meeting GAMCA requirements, testing centres are obliged to have all equipment necessary to undertake the prescribed tests, meet international standards of quality control, and laboratories must have quality control certification by GAMCA.

GAMCA has established a monitoring process for the inspection of new centres and the evaluation of existing ones. Through this, new licenses can be recommended and old licenses can be renewed or revoked. Penalties including warnings, fines and/or temporary license suspension. An internal Ministry of Health committee monitors both the public and private health centres that provide mandatory health testing services to migrant workers. The private centres must be certified and endorsed by the Ministry of Health, via the Al Razi centre.

A Bahrain Ministry of Health official explained: “We test mainly with a clinical examination: blood pressure, vision, screening for any diseases. Some occupations are given blood test to check for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis. All expatriates are given chest x-rays and checked for pulmonary tuberculosis. Process: go from X-ray station to blood pressure and vision station to physician. Sequence: X-ray, nurses’ station for blood pressure and vision, physician for general check up.”

However, almost none of the workers interviewed were aware of which health conditions or diseases were tested. Most could only state that they underwent a physical check, an X-ray and had a blood sample taken. When asked if they were told what they were tested for, the most common answer is a straight “No,” and most reported having no idea at all about the tests.

“No, we didn't talk about the tests.” (Male Bangladeshi construction worker) “They take the blood, the urine.” (Female Filipina domestic workers)

The research findings indicate that language diversity among health centre staff is low. GAMCA guidelines do not require staff to be able to speak migrants’ languages, although both health professionals and migrant workers mentioned this as an area for potential improvement in the mandatory health testing system. According to a doctor from a private testing centre frequently used by migrant workers, language barriers contribute to the lack of information provided to workers by medical personnel at testing centres.

“Because sometimes I feel there is a gap during the conversation, with the language problem, [this is] a very big problem. So maybe they cannot explain what happened and what to do next.”

With regards to gender and cultural sensitivity, all respondents indicated satisfaction with the process and treatment by staff. All stated that they were segregated according to gender while being tested, and that doctors were gender matched. All respondents indicated that they felt comfortable and satisfied with this arrangement.

Al Razi Centre, the main public health testing centre for migrant workers, appears to have the necessary medical and technical facilities, but it is not very well lit, there is little sign of ventilation, and conditions do not appear to be as hygienic as might be expected, especially in regard to the toilets. Accordingly, the migrant workers interviewed gave an overall rating of cleanliness at the centre as ‘medium.’

Through observation, it was noted that the clinic had a small number of posters displayed on general health issues, such as hygiene, smoking and diabetes. There were also a small number of posters and cartoons in English, Arabic and Hindi script, but none of the materials referred to the mandatory testing procedure. General comments from migrant workers indicated satisfaction with the standard of care and the conditions of the centre overall. Although there seems to be sufficient seating in the waiting room, the main complaint made by migrants was in regards to the crowded conditions.

Physical accessibility to testing centres was not mentioned as a problem by any of the respondents. Al Razi is on a main road in Bahrain’s capital city and close to a central bus station. All domestic workers interviewed said that they were taken to a health centre by their sponsor. According to a doctor working in a private health centre, the decentralisation of testing centres also has improved accessibility for workers.

The average testing time does not appear to exceed an hour, although waiting times can be much longer, resulting in a worker losing the day’s earnings. Responses to questions on the financial arrangements at testing centres varied. Some workers lost their wages because of time spent being tested, some said they had paid for the test themselves, while others said their employer bore all the costs of the test, including transportation.

“The medical took maybe half an hour - sponsor paid.” (Male Pakistani garage worker) “For the X-ray, it was one day... and then it was two days for the other tests. The company cut one day salary because I went back again for two days.” (Male Bangladeshi construction worker)

GAMCA guidelines indicate that migrant workers should indicate their consent by signing an English/Arabic form on their medical report. However, this form cannot be understood or filled out by migrant workers who are illiterate. Moreover, many workers stated that no consent or signature was taken from them at the time of testing, and several interviewees indicated that it was their sponsor who had signed the consent form for their test. The findings confirmed that there is an inconsistency between the prescribed practices and the actual experience of migrants undergoing testing in these centres. Although, as one respondent indicated, logically no ‘consent’ is actually necessary since the tests are mandatory.

“A form must be filled out by the applicant and signed by the sponsor, presented to reception and fees paid.” (Ministry of Health official)

“No [consent is take], all tests are mandatory. They [staff] tell us we’ll take ‘x-rays, blood pressure, urine test, go to the doctor.” (Male Indian office workers)

“No… there was nothing like that [consent].” (Male Bangladeshi construction worker)

None of the workers, health professionals or government officials spoke of pre-test or post-test counselling. Each time migrant workers were asked about this, the response was negative. From our overall findings, no counselling or information specific to the workers’ situation as migrant workers undergoing mandatory testing is provided. Based on government officials’ and health professionals’ responses, counselling does not appear to be part of any testing practice or policy. As with the issue of informed consent, no workers seemed to expect any counselling services either, as confirmed by male Bangladeshi and Indian garage workers:

“No, nothing like this, they just gave us the test.”

Our findings also clearly indicate that there is very little concept that migrant workers own their personal medical information or have a right to privacy. This extends from the process of pre-employment mandatory testing to policies and practices regarding workers found to be living with HIV. For example, issues of confidentiality and privacy are breached at various stages of the mandatory testing process. This might be during the actual testing proceedings or resulting from the handling and disclosure of results. Test results and related data are jointly owned by the testing centre and the Economic Development Board (EDB), which is initiating a programme to computerise the pre-employment health testing process. All GAMCA centres also share medical information on workers tested at GAMCA centres through a shared database of information. This sharing of medical information is mandated by the state, as confirmed by a National Aids Committee official:

“By law, if any persons are found to have a communicable disease then the Public Health Department (Ministry of Health) must be informed.”

On a more personal level, it was observed that workers, particularly female domestic workers, were seen waiting with, or were taken for testing by, a local. This is assumed to be their sponsor or some other authority figure. While the practice of sending workers accompanied by an individual who is presumably more knowledgeable about the procedure can possibly assist with language and can be comforting and useful to the workers, it can also potentially compromise privacy in testing and handling test results. A number of workers interviewed reported that their results were given directly to them in an open fashion, or collected by their sponsors.

“They give [results] to the sponsor.” (Female Filipina domestic workers)

“They put the papers on a table (indicates with hands ‘spread out’). It was open, not in an envelope. The men had to find their picture and take their result.” (Male Indian garage worker)

Accessibility to treatment, care and support for migrants Confirmatory tests are only undertaken if workers test positive for HIV. Information on workers who test positive for HIV is passed from testing centres to a number of additional institutions. Bahrain’s policy requires that all HIV positive cases detected by health centres must be reported to the Ministry of Health Public Health Department. This is done by filling out a specially created form for reporting HIV positive cases. The Ministry of Health then informs the National Aids Committee, who arranges for a confirmatory test. If the worker tests positive for HIV a second time, the National Aids Committee then arranges the migrant worker’s deportation with the sponsor and the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports and Residence (Immigration).

Test results are available within 7 days of taking the test or, for a higher cost, within one day. There does not appear to be any consultation during the disclosure of results, and most migrant workers stated that they collected the results themselves. This was not the case for domestic workers: all domestic workers interviewed reported that their results were sent to or collected by their sponsor. This is also confirmed by the Doctor in a private testing centre:

“If the result is ok… they will come to the office and take the report. And if it is not ok, they will say ‘call your sponsor’ or ‘give this letter to your sponsor’.”

Supposedly, in the case of a treatable illness, workers will be referred to another health centre or hospital. However, among those migrants interviewed, only two people indicated that they were informed about referral for treatment.

There are three categories under which a migrant is declared as unfit. Workers who test positive for a communicable disease, such as HIV, hepatitis B, malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis or an STI are declared unfit. Those who are found to have chronic conditions such as chronic renal failure, chronic hepatic failure, congestive heart failure, uncontrolled hypertension, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, cancer, psychiatric or neurological disorders and physical disabilities (including colour blindness, deafness) are considered unfit. And pregnancy among female migrant workers is also grounds for being declared unfit.

Migrants found to have active TB are provided with two weeks’ treatment before being deported. Other than that, there was no evidence of a referral system for workers that are declared unfit. While migrants found to be HIV positive are reportedly advised to seek treatment in their country of origin, there was no indication of referral for treatment either through GAMCA centres or otherwise, and very basic HIV counselling is reportedly provided prior to their deportation. Moreover, antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV-infected persons is only available to Bahrainis. A joint campaign by the Ministry of Health and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been launched to raise awareness on HIV as a means of preventing its spread, but it is unclear whether migrant worker communities are targeted and how such activities will reach them.

Treatment for non-communicable and relatively minor illnesses discovered during the mandatory testing is available to migrant workers, although they may have to bear the costs themselves. It was found that very few of the migrants interviewed had medical insurance. Access to health centres poses a problem for workers living in labour camps due to their location. Also, site foremen or middle managers often deter workers from seeking medical help for work-related injuries to avoid incurring costs to the company. Moreover, there are no NGOs or organisations specifically providing health care, support or information to migrant workers. Although some sending countries’ embassies hold regular medical camps, some workers may be reluctant to turn to their embassies out of fear of dealing with the authorities and the consequences of being found unfit.

Impact of results A fit result allows a migrant worker to gain or retain employment in Bahrain, even though this status is dependent upon them maintaining their health. Workers who are declared unfit, on the other hand, face the serious consequence of deportation. Although this is the current policy, not everyone agrees with it, as indicated by this National Aids Committee official:

“Once detected, either through pre-employment [test], check up, or blood transfusion, we have to test again for confirmation. If test results are positive for HIV a second time, the person will be deported. It is my dream that if he is able to work, then he should be able to. He has a right to work if he is able to work.”

Unfortunately, one of the strategies to deal with an unfit status or potentially negative results is to become a runaway or illegal worker. These people notoriously end up in jobs with the worst conditions, including salary, working hours and physical conditions. Fear of deportation because of health problems also prevents workers who may have communicable illnesses from seeking treatment, which may be inadvertently leading to the spread of these diseases. The doctor in a private health centre said:

“I mean once he will come to know he is unfit the authority will ask him to call his sponsor, then he feels that there is something wrong…. They just give the papers [and are told] ‘ok go.’ So those who are living (here) for a long time they know, ok, maybe you are unfit, don’t go back to your sponsor - run away.”

When asked about the impact of negative test results, respondents described financial ruin, emotional distress, familial suffering and stigmatisation within their community as results of being declared unfit and deported.

“You think so much about your money, you spent the money and then nothing. You’re going back. It’s for nothing, you don’t have money.”

And again,

“Some people put the land for [sale] because they want money to go to Bahrain or whatever, and then they go back and they don’t have their land. No house, nothing. That is true.” (Female Filipina domestic workers)

“Uh, I have seen some people, those who wanted to commit suicide. What else [can I] say? How will he face his family, how will he return the money, what will he do now? And maybe all his family, he’s scared [of] his family. We don’t know what is going on there. But this man who came here by this amount of money and [is] unfit here, he is, I mean he is a dead person in his country, I can say this, I saw so many people like this.” (Doctor, private health centre)

REINTEGRATION Official parties in Bahrain appear to bear no responsibility for the impact of an unfit result on workers once they have been deported. There is no referral to health care or support providers in the workers’ home countries through the GAMCA network or otherwise, although there are reports of community groups involved in aiding workers through legal assistance to ensure proper compensation or by providing financial assistance on their return. The only concern of the Bahrain Government seems to be to secure its position, and any attempt by the unfit migrant to return through official channels will be thwarted by the GAMCA shared database. A GAMCA Official explained:

“A number of GAMCA centres are linked electronically to the main office in Riyadh (share a database). Bahrain’s Ministry of Health is moving towards an electronic system for processing migrant workers’ files as part of a labour market reform programme.”

Action to be taken

Actions for governments in origin and destination countries

• All origin and destination countries, especially destination countries, should ratify the UN Migrant Workers Convention.

• Governments of origin countries need to unite in order to affect changes in the policies and practices of labour recruitment that will benefit and protect migrant workers’ rights and health.

• Governments of origin countries should fulfil their inherent responsibility to protect their nationals, rather than consider these people as economic units, by negotiating for the rights of their migrant workers with destination countries.

• Destination countries need to discard HIV status as an exclusionary condition, and cease and desist in the practice of forcibly deporting HIV positive migrants to prevent the further stigmatisation and marginalisation of migrant workers living with HIV.

• Bilateral agreements and MoUs between origin and destination countries should specifically address the health rights of migrant workers, including migrant workers’ rights with regards to health testing, access to treatment and inclusion under insurance policies. It is urged that bilateral agreements and MoUs specifically define the elements of migrant-friendly health testing in the content of these agreements

• Institute specific laws and policies that are in accordance with the principles of migrant-friendly testing and that explicitly mandate the inclusion of informed consent, confidentiality of testing and test results, pre-test and post-test counselling and a proper referral system as components of health testing for migrants.

• Institute an independent monitoring system that establishes standards and regularly monitors both government and private facilities in their implementation of informed consent, pre-test and post-test counselling, gender and cultural sensitive health staff, confidentiality of test results and a functioning referral system for all migrant workers.

• Decentralise high-quality health testing centres or develop support packages in order to reduce the additional costs that migrant workers pay for transportation and accommodation when seeking health testing for employment abroad, and provide compensation for lost wages for time spent testing in destination countries.

Actions for health testing facilities:

• Strictly enforce confidentiality of test results by not giving out any details on the exact results of the health tests to third parties such as recruitment agencies, employers and others.

• Adhere strictly to the practice of informed consent where a person learns the key facts about the health test, including its risks and benefits, its consequences and implications before deciding whether or not to participate.

• Integrate pre-test and post-test counselling that includes information regarding HIV transmission, prevention of HIV and the meaning of the HIV test results, as well as prevention-counselling by jointly identifying a client’s unique circumstances, vulnerabilities and risks when migrant workers have to undergo a HIV test.

• Ensure that pre-test and post-test counselling for migrant workers is provided in a language the migrant worker can understand, and in a cultural and gender-sensitive manner.

• Conduct post-test counselling individually regardless of the test result, or as a standard minimum for HIV positive results, in a way that does not stigmatise the individual.

• Provide independent translation services when needed or requested by migrant workers.

• Be provided with the necessary information (for example, a list of addresses) for referral to treatment, care and support services.

• Ensure that health staff are continuously trained on gender and cultural sensitivity.

• Ensure that both male and female doctors are available and that migrant workers are presented with a choice of either a male or female doctor.

• Make available separate restrooms and separate cubicles for physical examinations.

• Abolish all unnecessary health testing and related practices that are not required standards, such as providing women with Depro-Vera injections or full-naked body-checks.

• Conduct confirmatory tests free of charge, with a new blood sample by an independent hospital.

Actions for the private sector:

• GAMCA’s well-established monitoring system on the technical quality aspects of health testing both in origin and destination countries should be broadened by an equally strict monitoring of the principles of informed consent, pre-test and post-test counselling, the confidentiality of test results, and a proper functioning referral system.

• Recruitment agencies need to provide a full list of the costs involved when a migrant worker applies for work abroad. These should be fully transparent and consistent. The costs for health testing need to be specified and standardised, along with stipulations of costs potentially forfeited or borne by the migrant in the case of an “unfit” result.

Actions for embassies:

• Assistance should be provided for migrant workers who get repatriated due to health conditions, including direct referral to health facilities and treatment in the country of origin.

• Embassy staff should be versed in the related migration policies of the destination country and should receive sensitivity training on issues of health, especially regarding STIs, HIV and AIDS. In this way, they will be able to assist their countrymen and women with proper health referral and can assist in dignified repatriation.

Actions for NGOs and CBOs:

• Work on sensitising third parties such as employers and recruitment agencies about migrant-friendly testing, and advocate appropriately for changes in current testing standards.

• Challenge stigma and discrimination (including in the media) against migrant workers and advocate for the protection, respect and fulfilment of their health rights with regards to health testing through policy and legal reform.

• Support associations or informal groups of migrant workers and assist them with integrating HIV awareness and related policies into their work.

• Establish culturally and linguistically appropriate HIV outreach programmes targeting both documented and documented migrant workers that can also assist with referral to related health services.

Actions for international partners:

 Implement the framework for migrant-friendly testing, which needs to be firmly rooted in bilateral, regional and multilateral mechanisms, in terms of both formal and informal cooperation.

 Ensure meaningful participation of migrant workers in international forums on health testing and HIV issues.

 Stimulate both quantitative and qualitative research on health testing and its effects on the well-being of migrant workers.

 Increase and maintain awareness on issues of migration and HIV, and promote the rights of migrants through formal campaigns, multilateral conferences that bring migrants and policy makers together, and by stimulating donors to support related activities.

29 Oct, 2007

BCHR ALERT: Journalist and editor fined in defamation case

30 October 2007

SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama

(BCHR/IFEX) - On 28 October 2007, the Supreme Criminal Court of Appeals convicted journalist Hesham Al-Zayani and the editor-in-chief of "Akhbar Al-Khaleej" newspaper of smear and defamation against the President of Arabian University, Dr. Rafia Ghabbash. They were fined a liability of BD 1000 (approx. US$2,650) in addition to court fees. The initial conviction was made on the basis of article no. 15 of the 1976 Penal Code and no. 47 of the 2002 Press Code.

On the same day, the High Criminal Court postponed the case against journalist and writer Jaffar Al-jamry of "Al-wasat" newspaper until December 2007. Mr Al-jamry was accused of smear and contempt by a female official of the Ministry of Health.

As per a statement by the president of the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) in a TV broadcast on 22 October, the number of cases brought against journalists has reached 25. Statistics from BJA show that in 2006, the total number of cases brought against journalists was 27, of which only 7 (26%) were adopted by the Public Prosecution (PP). In 2007, and as per the same source, the total number of cases against journalists is 32 of which 12 (38%) have been moved by the PP, which shows the dramatic deterioration of freedom of expression in general and journalism in particular. BJA, acting as mediator, was successful in amicably convincing many individuals, mostly government officials, to drop their cases. This role played by the BJA, however, has not reduced the number of cases brought against journalists.

The charges in the cases formed against journalists were based on both Press Decree Code no. 47 of 2002 and Penal Decree Code no. 15 of 1976, which have been condemned and criticized, locally and internationally.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the Bahraini Authorities: - urging them to stop the deterioration of freedom of expression and journalism by amending Press Decree Code no. 47 to ensure conformity with international human rights standards - asking that they abolish the Penal Code and cease using it to prosecute journalists and writers, or amend it to ensure conformity with international charters and covenants

APPEALS TO:

His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa King of Bahrain Riffa, Bahrain Fax: +973 1721 1363

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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