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US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report 2011 - Bahrain

BAHRAIN (Tier 2)

Bahrain is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Eritrea migrate voluntarily to Bahrain to work as domestic workers or as unskilled laborers in the construction and service industries. Some, however, face conditions of forced labor after arriving in Bahrain, through use of such practices as unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, contract substitution, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. A study by the Bahrain government’s Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) found that 65 percent of migrant workers had not seen their employment contract, and that 89 percent were unaware of their terms of employment upon arrival in Bahrain. Many labor recruitment agencies in Bahrain and source countries require workers to pay high recruitment fees – a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Bahrain. The LMRA study found that 70 percent of foreign workers borrowed money or sold property in their home countries in order to secure a job in Bahrain. Some Bahraini employers illegally charge workers exorbitant fees to remain in Bahrain working for third-party employers (under the “free visa” arrangement). The LMRA estimates that approximately 10 percent of migrant workers were in Bahrain under illegal “free visa” arrangements – a practice that can contribute to debt bondage – while the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry puts the figure at 25 percent. Women from Thailand, the Philippines, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, China, Vietnam, and Eastern European states are subjected to forced prostitution in Bahrain.

The Government of Bahrain does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to investigate and prosecute forced prostitution cases and convicted nine trafficking offenders during the reporting period. In addition, the government assisted 17 victims of forced prostitution. Nonetheless, there were no reports of government efforts to punish forced labor crimes nor any indication that the Government of Bahrain took steps to institute a formal victim identification procedure or otherwise improve victim protection efforts during the reporting period. The government’s lack of efforts to acknowledge and address forced labor remains a key gap in its anti-trafficking response.

Recommendations for Bahrain:

Continue to enforce the 2008 anti-trafficking law; significantly increase the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses – particularly those involving forced labor – and convictions and punishment of trafficking offenders; reform the sponsorship system to eliminate obstacles to migrant workers’ access to legal recourse for complaints of forced labor; vigorously investigate all credible trafficking tips secured through the anti-trafficking hotline; institute and apply formal procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers who have fled from abusive employers and women in prostitution; refer identified victims to protection services; expand the government-run shelter to protect all victims of trafficking, including victims of forced labor and male victims of trafficking; ensure that the shelter does not inappropriately restrict victims’ movement and that shelter staff are qualified and speak the languages of expatriate workers; ensure that identified victims of trafficking are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as illegal migration or prostitution; and extend labor law protections to domestic workers to ensure that they have the same protections under the law as other expatriate workers.

Prosecution

The Government of Bahrain sustained moderate efforts to prosecute sex trafficking offenses during the reporting period, but made no reported efforts to punish forced labor. The 2008 Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes penalties ranging from three to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Government of Bahrain investigated 12 cases of forced prostitution, five of which were prosecuted during the reporting period, resulting in the conviction of nine trafficking offenders; this is generally on par with law enforcement efforts against trafficking in the previous reporting period. In one case, two convicted traffickers received five years’ imprisonment and fines for forcing women into prostitution, while in the other case, seven convicted traffickers received three years’ imprisonment and fines for running a prostitution ring. There were no reports, however, that the government adequately investigated or punished trafficking cases involving forced labor despite common reports of domestic workers facing serious conditions indicative of forced labor. The government also did not report efforts to investigate government complicity in trafficking offenses.

Protection

The Government of Bahrain made no reported progress in improving protection for victims of trafficking over the last year. The government continued to lack a formal procedure to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as migrant domestic workers who have left their employers or women arrested for prostitution. As a result, potential trafficking victims may have been charged with employment or immigration violations, detained, and deported without adequate protection. Most migrant workers who were able to flee their abusive employers were frequently charged as “runaways,” sentenced to two weeks’ detention, and deported. The government continued to fund a 120-bed NGO-run shelter called Dar al Aman, which is described as serving victims of family violence. This shelter reported assisting 17 victims of forced prostitution during the reporting period. The government did not, however, report assisting any victims of forced labor during the reporting period. The majority of victims continued to seek shelter at their embassies or at the shelter of the Migrant Workers Protection Society, an NGO. Many police officers remained unfamiliar with procedures for referring victims of labor abuse and human trafficking to these shelters. In previous years, an international NGO reported that the shelter restricted residents’ freedom of movement, was not staffed with qualified personnel, and did not provide long-term shelter or housing benefits to victims; it was not known whether this was the case during 2010.

There remained no shelters or other protection services for male trafficking victims provided by the government. The Government of Bahrain encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; however, workers typically did not file court cases against employers due to fear or ignorance of the law, distrust of the legal system, inability to afford legal representation, lack of interpretation and translation provided by courts, fear of losing residency permits during legal proceedings, and to avoid additional maltreatment at the hands of the employer. The government did not provide legal alternatives for the removal of foreign victims to countries where they faced retribution or hardship. The Ministry of Interior continued to operate a toll-free hotline for trafficking victims, but the government did not report how many calls this hotline received or how many victims were assisted.

Prevention

The government made no clear efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. While Bahrain’s Ministry of Labor has pledged for several years to end the sponsorship (kafala) system – which creates vulnerabilities to trafficking – it has not completely abolished this structure to meaningfully prevent trafficking in persons. Earlier reforms of the sponsorship system to regulate labor recruitment and expand worker mobility continue to exclude Bahrain’s approximately 70,000 domestic workers – the group that is most vulnerable to trafficking. In addition, the 2010 labor law also does not afford basic protections to domestic workers. Moreover, the law against withholding workers’ passports – a common practice that restricts the mobility of migrant workers and contributes to forced labor – was not enforced effectively, and the practice remained widespread. The government reported no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or child sex tourism.

state.gov

HRF: Sham Trials in Bahrain Prove Need for Greater U.S. Pressure

By Robert Joyce Human Rights Defenders Program

28 June 2011 On Wednesday a military court in Bahrain announced its latest outrage. Twenty-one activists were sentenced in a “sham trial” with eight receiving life sentences and the remanding 13 given between two and 15 years. Among those sentenced was Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights activist. There has been word from family members that he had been beaten both before and after his sentencing. His daughter was violently removed from court after she shouted in response to the sentence. She was charged with contempt of court and later released. In a recent Twitter post she says: “Just got news that my father was severely beaten after court yesterday! He was hit mostly on his face, on the already fractured bones!” Other defendants also show evidence of torture on their bodies.

A national dialogue is set to begin on July 1st, but former MPs have already denounced it while the Bahraini government continues to sentence and arrest human rights activists, host Gulf Cooperation Council troops (mostly from Saudi Arabia), and violently put down protests. Trials are continuing around the country, with an estimated 400 people charged in relation to calls for democracy, including 47 doctors and nurses arrested for treating those assaulted by security forces. Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley was refused entry to one of these trials on his recent visit to Bahrain on May 12th.

The U.S. Government has continued its relatively muted line on Bahrain. While many say the United Sates has privately increased pressure, it’s time for that pressure to become public. Naming Bahrain as a violator of human rights is one good step, but another could be a discussion of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. It has been previously suggested that the fleet be moved or even disbanded.

The U.S. Government must make clear that its relationship with Bahrain is not unconditional – that it does not want to be seen as friends with torturers. And that to be a partner of the United States, Bahrain must act in a responsible way. The partnership needs renegotiating, and the future of the Fifth Fleet ought to be part of that discussion.

humanrightsfirst.org

Freedom House: Ongoing Abuses in Bahrain Delegitimize Upcoming National Dialogue

Washington June 28, 2011

With Bahrain’s national dialogue fast approaching, Freedom House expresses its deep concern about the ongoing arrests, intimidation, and in some cases torture of political activists speaking out in favor of democracy. These incidents constitute a pattern of repression that belies any promises of reform and honest political discourse by the government or the ruling family.

“By continuing to proceed with hasty prosecutions in military courts of leading opposition political figures and pro-democracy activists, the Bahraini government is in effect removing its political competition,” said Charles Dunne, Freedom House’s senior program manager for the Middle East and North Africa. “These actions strongly suggest that the National Dialogue will not be an opportunity to advance political freedom in Bahrain, but rather a ploy to prevent criticism of its human rights record.”

Bahrain’s National Dialogue is scheduled to begin on July 1 in Manama. However, hundreds of Shi’ite political leaders are currently languishing in prison and the largest opposition bloc, led by political party Wefaq, has not confirmed its participation.

On June 22, a military court convicted eight Shi’ite activists for plotting to overthrow the monarchy and sentenced them to life in prison. Thirteen other activists were also convicted of the same charges and received harsh sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison. Many of those sentenced were prominent political and human rights figures, including Hassan Mushaima, leader of the opposition Haq Movement, human rights activist Abdul Jalil al-Singace, and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, co-founder and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Ibrahim Sharif, leader of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) was the only Sunni convicted. He received a sentence of five years.

Meanwhile, the government is proceeding with the trial of 28 doctors and nurses on openly political charges of allegedly aiding and abetting the protestors and spreading false information. On June 27, witnesses for the defense were denied permission to testify. A separate trial of another 20 medical professionals accused of plotting against the government is also proceeding in a military court.

In addition, credible reports of the torture of political activists at the hands of Bahrain security forces continue to surface regularly. Among these is Dr. Nada Dhaif, a dental surgeon and sister of journalist Lamees Dhaif, who was arrested after providing medical support to wounded protestors and reportedly tortured while in jail because of her sister’s outspoken criticism.

“Freedom House calls on the Bahraini government to cease its intimidation and mistreatment of political opponents and to use the opportunity presented by the National Dialogue to initiate genuine and far reaching political reforms,” continued Dunne. “Furthermore, the U.S. government should hold Bahrain fully accountable for the ongoing repression and insist both publicly and privately on specific, measurable reforms to advance freedom and human rights in the country.”

Bahrain is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.

For more information on Bahrain, visit:


freedomhouse.org

Abuses and Trials Continue in Bahrain

The POMED WIRE June 27, 2011

The trial of 28 doctors and nurses resumed today, with the judge refusing to allow defense witnesses to testify. The state-run Bahrain News Agency reports that a representative of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was present at the trial today, which is untrue according to reports from the centre. The next hearing for the doctors is scheduled for July 6th, and for the nurses on July 10th. Several doctors have been summoned to the Ministry of Health for a disciplinary hearing, with some of them being suspended. Reports indicate that numerous doctors, teachers, and school security guards have been suspended for sectarian reasons in the past two weeks. And the Ministry of Health has stopped recruiting Shia medical professionals, requesting that they look for other jobs.

According to initial reports, the appeal of 21 prominent opposition figures convicted last week will be held on Wednesday. Their trial concluded with 8 of the activists being sentenced to life in prison. Among those sentenced was prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi AlKhawajah, who has been taken to a military hospital after being beaten after his sentence. The regime appears to be targeting Alkawajah, holding an event at Riffa Mall today to acquire signatures for a petition against the activist.

Ministry of Social Development head Fatima AlBaloushi recently told Gulf Daily News that with normalcy returning to Bahrain, cases not yet tried before tribunals would be transferred to civilian courts. Yet reports indicate that military trials continue despite official claims that these trials have been abolished. For example, writer and researcher Abbas AlMurshed was presented to military court today.

The POMED WIRE

A serious escalation in the campaign against the trade unionists in Bahrain

"The big companies” give the Secretariat of the General Federation of Labor the option of resigning or prosecuting

First published on June 13, 2011 Bahrain Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned over the ongoing campaign on the on the trade union movement and unions in Bahrain. The latest was the threat by the big companies’ joint committee in Bahrain, to prosecute the Secretariat of the General Federation of Trade Unions members if they refused to resign voluntary.

It is noteworthy that the committee gathers big companies which are owned by the government and it has full or substantial part of its shares.

The committee has threatened the Secretariat of the Union members in a letterletter sent by its president asking them to resign or they it raise criminal and civil actions against them, the compensation estimated by the committee to 16 million Bahraini dinars [1].

This, however, synchronizes with the extensive campaign of segregation and harassment directed at the trade unions leaders in Bahrain, and it is a part of an ongoing campaign against unionism and workers which until the 9th of June 2011 resulted in the dismissal of 1858 workers from both public and private sectors, according to the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain [2], whereas the actual number is more than that, this statistic includes the workers who registered with the General Federation only.

The violations against workers and trade union movement in Bahrain involve dismissing union leaders and undermining the role of trade union organizations, which could threaten the existence and the independence of trade unions in Bahrain.

The total dismissed Union leaders reached 52 unionists until Sunday 12nd June 2011, 8 of them are members of the Secretariat of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, the list also included another 44 dismissed trade unionists , who are the chairman of the trade union at Bahrain Petroleum (BAPCO) and 9 members of its Board of Directors, chairman of the trade union at Gulf Aluminum Rolling Mill Company, Al Darfala (GARMCO) and 9 members of its Board of Directors, chairman of the trade union at Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard Company (ASRY) and 7 members of its Board of Directors, chairman of the trade union at the telecommunications company (Batelco) and 2 members of its Board of Directors, chairman of Gulf Air's trade union and 2 members of its Board of Directors, chairman of the trade union at Air Hosts and 2 members of its Board of Directors, chairman of TRAVCO's trade union and 2 members of its Board of Directors, chairman of the trade union at Bahrain Aviation Fuelling Company (BAFCO), chairman of the trade union at Bahrain Airport Services (BAS) , a member of Board of Directors in Hotel's Association Board, a member of Board of Directors in Bahrain National Gas Company's (Banagas) who is currently detained. Most of these dismissals were based on the unionist participation in the demonstrations and rallies demanding reform and democracy in Bahrain, which began on 14 February.

The companies managements hampered on the dismissed unionist activities by not allowing them to enter the union's headquarters which are usually located in the companies buildings, which led to disrupting many of the labor issues that were pursued by trade unions, as well as, some companies has failed to abided the prior agreements on contributions of members of the trade unions which deducted the workers’ wages upon and agreement signed by the worker. Also, Bahrain Airport Services (BAS) has stopped the workers deducted contributions and transfer it to the union accounts.

In the same context, The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain is going through a large campaign of defamation and threaten on Bahrain's TV and through newspapers and statements by the representative members of the parliament who are close to the government[4], one of them demanded to punish the leaders of the trade union movement by "adhere the law strictly without indulgence or gracious or sympathy" and the deterrent is "the language of force, handcuffs and swords" [4], The Labor Minister accused the union in participating in a conspiracy against the Kingdom of Bahrain [5].

The International Trade Union Confederation and The European Trade Union Confederation issued several statements to the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, expressing their concerns for the trade unionists personal safety in Bahrain due to this campaign [6].

The Committee on Freedom of Association working under the International Labor Organization has confirmed in more than one range that the trade unions should be able to exercise their activities in a climate full with freedom and security to have useful contribution and confidence source [7], Also, the committee stressed that there could not be a free union movement unless there is a regime that guarantees the fundamental rights, including the right of trade unionists to hold meetings within the union's headquarters and exercising freedom of opinion rhetorically and in the press [8]. Based on this, the violation against trade union action is in contrary with Bahrain's obligations to the International unionism:

1. ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work, including convention (98) Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, and Convention (No. 87) Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, which emphasize that the state should provide enough guarantees to the trade union to practice their duties without any pressure, knowing that Bahrain has signed an agreement in March 2010 with ILO on Decent Work Agenda, which emphasizes the need to apply the basic principles at work [9]. 2. Convention (No. 111) concerning Discrimination in respect of Employment and Occupation, ratified by Bahrain in 2000.

Due to this data, we appeal the unions and trade union organizations to issue statements and appeals to Bahrain's government calling for:

1. Return all the dismissed to their jobs, including union's leaders. 2. Provide official protection to The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions and all other trade unions. 3. Enable trade unions to exercise their trade union role and defend its interests and rights of workers within international standards. 4. Urge Bahrain to ratify international conventions No. (87) And (98) concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining.

[1]Big companies letter to the GFBTU [2]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3198/news/read/565426/1.html [3]BTV Show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkbVoY1qgB8 [4]Alwatan newspaper Snapshot AlBilad newspaper http://www.albiladpress.com/d.. [5]Statement of the minster of Labor http://64.226.254.54/articles.aspx?articleid=438727 [6] ITUC Statments http://www.ituc-csi.org/bahrain.html
[7]Committee of trade union freedoms (report 270, issue 1500, paragraph 326, and the report 297, issue 1773, paragraph 533) [8] Summary of 1985, paragraph 73. [9]http://www.ilo.org/public/..

The Systematic torture in Bahrain continues with full impunity on torturers

26th June, 2011

The prohibition on torture has been considered a peremptory norm of jus cogens (Latin for ‘compelling law’) international law since this body of law was first conceived over a century ago.

“A peremptory norm of general international law is a norm accepted and recognised by the international community of states as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted.”[1]

Bahrain ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 1998. Article 2 of the Convention requires states “to take effective measures to prevent [torture] in any territory under its jurisdiction”. The effect of peremptory norms in that states will never admit that they violate such basic moral principles. Which state would admit to piracy, genocide, slavery, racial discrimination or torture, even if it did in fact commit such acts?

Dr Saqer Al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, wrote a blogpost in which he plays down acts of torture as rare and not officially sanctioned.[2] He tacitly admits that acts of torture occurred in prison, saying that “We hear a lot of cases of over-reactions on the street and some times in prisons. Seeing someone detained in jail who ordered or literally killed a friend dear to you requires an enormous amount of self-control not to throw a punch at least. It was a mistake to keep close friends of the deceased policemen near those responsible for their murder.” This refers to the case of Ali Saqer, the only death in custody which has been officially investigated, and does not explain the prevalence of such claims.

Because torture is a peremptory norm of international law, Al-Khalifa frames his admission of torture in a way which makes it seem rare, justified and an exception to the rule. This denial of a state policy to torture political opponents can be seen in official government statements also.[3] Whether or not torture is state sanctioned, states signatory to the CAT are required to prevent torture occurring within their borders.

Since February 14th, four people have died in Bahraini police custody with obvious signs of torture apparent on their bodies[4] . Human Rights defenders like Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, opposition politicians like Ebrahim Sharif and government critics like Abdulla Isa Al Mahroos[5] have also been suffered abuse in prison[6]. Furthermore, “Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), alleges that security forces... regularly beat hospital patients who had injuries that could have been sustained during the rallies that started in February.”[7]

In many cases brought against protesters and opposition leaders, confessions by the accused are the only evidence brought by the prosecution. Human Rights groups are extremely concerned by the possibility that many of these are coerced confessions, with one many who died in custody having made a televised confession that he killed a policeman.[8] The UK Foreign Office has expressed concern about the non-transparent nature of trials and apparently coerced confessions.[9]

Body of Ali Saqer, died in custody 9 April 2011

The Ministry of the Interior has stated that they will carry out investigations into the officers responsible for the death of Ali Saqer[10] , but the majority of less well-publicised cases are not being investigated whatsoever. Furthermore, 2 months after his death and no official has been sentenced for the murder of Saqer. On the contrary, the government has been protecting officers known to have committed torture by changing their positions[11] , or re-criminalising defendants previously acquitted of having killed a policeman to protect those who extracted their confessions under torture.[12]

BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to allow credible international human rights investigators from OHCHR and ICRC who currently have has promises of future visits but without concrete dates. It is worrying that ICRC[13] , Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International seem to be prohibited from entering the country to investigate cases of torture and political imprisonment. Bahrain should allow these delegations access to prisons and those claiming abuse so that it can comply with its legal obligations under international conventions on torture and civil and political rights.

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights London, June 26, 2011

More information on

[1] Article 53 of the Convention on the Law of Treaties. [2]Keep Your Eye on the Ball [3]Minister of Human Rights dismiss credibility of photos which shows torture marks on body of Ali Saqer [4]HRW: Bahrain: Suspicious Deaths in Custody [5]Updates: Harsh sentences to 21 prominent oppositional leaders and Human Rights defenders [6]Amnesty International: Bahrain: Bahraini opposition leader feared tortured, Ebrahim Sharif Bahrain: Front Line fears for life of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja amid credible allegations of torture and sexual assault [7]The Independent: Bahraini leadership faces new claims that torture took place in hospital [8]BYSHR: A man died in custody confesed on television that he had killed a police men [9]http://www.fco.gov.uk [10]Interior Ministry Arrests Five Prison Guards [11]To evade prosecution of involvement in crimes against humanity: Concealment and Rotation of Torturers in Security Establishments [12]Re-criminating the Innocents of Karzakan to Acquit the Criminals of the Security Apparatuses [13]ICRC wants more access to detainees in Bahrain

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) 'concern' at plight of medics

June 25, 2011 JAMIE SMYTH Social Affairs Correspondent

THE ROYAL College of Surgeons in Ireland has expressed “deep concerns for the rights of detained medical personnel” in Bahrain in its first public statement criticising the actions of the ruling regime in the kingdom.

The college, which has invested €70 million in a medical campus and university in Bahrain, also calls for “dialogue and reconciliation” following civil protests that erupted earlier this year.

At least 29 people died in the protests, which were inspired by the “Arab Spring” demonstrations sweeping Tunisia and Egypt. And in a move condemned by the UN and human rights groups, Bahrain security forces arrested 47 medics – some of whom were trained in Ireland by the college – accusing them of inciting the violence and mistreating patients.

The medics, who are facing military trial in Bahrain, have denied the charges. At least one of the doctors, who was trained in Ireland, has alleged he was tortured in prison to extract confessions.

In a letter published in The Irish Times today , college chief executive Cathal Kelly writes that “punishing doctors or nurses for treating patients, irrespective of their background, is completely unacceptable”.

“Governments should not infringe upon the duties of medical professionals and should not target or punish those who seek to uphold these internationally recognised principles,” he says.

The letter from Prof Kelly follows strong criticism of the college’s public silence on the fate of the medics from fellow medical professionals over several weeks.

Amnesty International has asked the college to use its influence with the authorities in Bahrain to secure the medics’ release.

In his letter Prof Kelly says the college’s approach to date of minimising public statements in Ireland has been guided by what it judged to be most effective in Bahrain. But he says he has met senior government ministers in Bahrain on six occasions since February to discuss the matter.

“The focus of these meetings was to express our deep concerns for the rights of the detained medical personnel,” he writes.

The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland has also written a letter to The Irish Times today supporting calls for justice for the doctors in detention in Bahrain.

“Hospitals should be neutral sanctuaries for the care of the ill and the injured and should not be used as political platforms or targets for military activity,” it says.

Full text of the letter

Treatment of medics in Bahrain

Sir, – The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) fully respects the unequivocal right of all doctors to practise as enshrined in the Geneva Convention. We are very aware of and concerned about the plight of those detained in Bahrain.

RCSI is a not-for-profit organisation. Our mandate is to focus on education in the health sciences. We are internationally-focused, working in Africa, the Middle East and Far East as well as in Ireland. Many of the countries have very different cultures and are at different stages in their political evolution. This diversity is a challenge that faces all organisations that work overseas.

Since the beginning of these events we have endeavoured to ensure the safety of our 900 students and 100 staff in Bahrain, to enable our students to complete their programmes and to advocate for the rights of the arrested healthcare professionals. Our approach has been guided by what we have judged to be most effective in Bahrain. In support of this approach we have chosen to minimise public statements in Ireland.

We have attached considerable importance to ensuring the continuity of the education of our students. When the situation first escalated in February, we temporarily suspended teaching and staff continued to attend the university maintaining it as a focus for our students. We developed an evacuation plan and when the situation deteriorated we evacuated students and staff who wished to leave. A core group of staff remained in Bahrain to maintain the university and to set up and staff a temporary AE unit for the local population in Muharraq. We developed contingency plans to ensure that irrespective of political unrest, our final medical year students would graduate on time. A delay in graduation for this class would mean a full year of lost employment at a pivotal time in their careers.

Last week 53 medical doctors and 70 nurses graduated as originally scheduled. It was important that the graduation take place as a tribute to the commitment and courage of these young people. Many of these students are the first members of their family to attend a university and to obtain a degree. This degree is an avenue to an infinitely better future for them and their families.

Medical practice is a privilege which carries rights and responsibilities. Doctors have a responsibility to treat all patients, irrespective of their background, to the highest possible standard, under all circumstances.

Hospitals must be politically neutral. Society has a responsibility to allow doctors and nurses to treat all patients in need. The protection and care of people wounded in conflict is a basic right guaranteed by the Geneva Convention. Punishing doctors or nurses for treating patients, irrespective of their background, is completely unacceptable. The World Medical Association’s International Code of Medical Ethics and its Medical Ethics Manual define the duties of physicians as including the administration of emergency care and adhering to principles of non-discrimination. Governments should not infringe upon the duties of medical professionals and should not target or punish those who seek to uphold these internationally recognised principles.

On six separate visits to Bahrain since February I have met senior Bahraini government ministers. The focus of these meetings was to express our deep concerns for the rights of the detained medical personnel.

The future for Bahrain has to be one of dialogue and reconciliation. Our own national story tells us that this will not be resolved quickly. We will continue to contribute through education and continue to advocate for just outcomes. – Yours, etc,

CATHAL J KELLY, Chief Executive/Registrar, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

Sir, – The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) is supporting calls for justice for doctors arrested in Bahrain.

Within the past week, the president of RCPI visited Bahrain with two specific objectives. First, to attend the conferring ceremony for graduating students of the RCSI medical school in Bahrain. These young doctors have managed to complete their undergraduate medical studies in extremely difficult, even dangerous circumstances.

Second, it was hoped that this visit to Bahrain would provide an opportunity for RCPI to gather some first-hand, albeit limited, knowledge within Bahrain itself, rather than basing an opinion solely on third-party and media reports.

In doing so, RCPI believes it may be better-positioned to understand the situation in Bahrain, and less likely to place others in danger as a result of ill-informed commentary.

Based on the conclusions we reached as a result of this visit, our communication with RCSI, and the range of recent international coverage of the situation in Bahrain, RCPI would like to make the following comments: It is clear that there are conflicting and trenchantly-held views on what actually happened in Salmaniya Hospital and the reasons for the arrest of the doctors in question. On the one hand, there are allegations that doctors abused their position and refused to provide care to patients because of their ethnicity. On the other hand, many respected international bodies, including the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, have rejected this position and have strongly asserted these doctors are innocent and that they were arrested for providing medical care to protesters.

Either position, if proven, is unacceptable. A doctor’s first and most important responsibility is to care for all patients equally, regardless of their political or religious views. This responsibility is at the core of their professional obligation. Equally, it is unacceptable that a state would arrest and prosecute doctors and other healthcare workers for carrying out their professional duty of care to any patient.

The events of the past few months in Bahrain have been shocking. Unquestionably, this has damaged the international reputation of Bahrain and, sadly, has undermined the efforts towards modernisation and reform, particularly in relation to healthcare that have been underway in Bahrain in recent years.

Hospitals should be neutral sanctuaries for the care of the ill and the injured and should not be used as political platforms or targets for military activity. Doctors, nurses and all healthcare professionals should be free to treat the sick and injured in accordance with professional ethics without fear of intimidation, assault or imprisonment.

In the interests of all the people of Bahrain, and in particular those awaiting trial, it is essential that the judicial process now underway is unequivocally fair and just, and clearly seen to arrive at the truth of what happened. Anything less than this will do irreparable damage to Bahrain, its international reputation and the practice of medicine there. – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DONOHOE, President; Prof JOHN CROWE, President-Designate; Prof FRANK MURRAY, Registrar; Prof CONOR O’KEANE, Treasurer; LEO KEARNS, Chief Executive Officer, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, South Frederick Street, Dublin 2.

irishtimes.com

FIFA ask Bahrain to explain jail term

25 June 2011

The Bahrain Football Association faces being frozen out by FIFA after Bahrain international Mohamed Hubail was imprisoned on Thursday.

The Bahrain Football Association faces being frozen out by FIFA after Bahrain international Mohamed Hubail was imprisoned on Thursday. Hubail, capped 52 times for Bahrain, was sentenced to two years in prison by Bahrain's secret security court after being convicted of attending anti-government demonstrations.

Alaa Hubail, Mohamed's brother and international team-mate, is under trial in the same closed-doors court, established under Bahrain's martial law regime to crack down on dissenters.

The siblings were detained by authorities in April for their participation in Shiite-led protests against Bahrain's Sunni monarchy.

More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees have been suspended since martial law was imposed in March.

The United Nations human rights office in Geneva said on Friday that the trials of the Hubail brothers 'appear to bear the marks of political persecution' and ignored the due process rights of the defendants.

In response, FIFA has requested Bahrain officials provide details of all cases involving footballers and football officials.

The governing body has the power to suspend Bahrain if it suspects political interference in football affairs.

Such a sanction could prevent Bahrain from participating in the next round of Asian Olympics qualifiers, which gets underway in September.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, the Bahrain FA president, is also a member of the ruling royal family.

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HRF: Bahraini Students Forced to Choose Between Loyalty to the Regime and an Education

24 June 2011 By Stephanie El Rayess Human Rights Defenders Program

Noor al-Derazy, who participated in a women’s leadership program funded by the US Department of State, tells the story of her expulsion from Bahrain Polytechnic University in a letter addressed to the CEO of her university.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Education has revisited its decision to stop funding the education of students who allegedly took part in what it refers to as “anti-Bahrain” protests. The U.K.-based newspaper, The Guardian, reported in April that the Bahraini regime revoked the grants of U.K.-based students who were photographed attending peaceful rallies in solidarity with the country’s pro-democracy movement and was harassing their families back home.

The ministry’s ‘reviewed’ decision was to pay the university fees of students who did not play a direct or significant role in the protests. As for the students who took part in the demonstrations, they were asked to sign a “loyalty pledge,” along with their parents, stating that they will obey the law. The statement by the Minister of Education, Dr. Majid Al Nuaimi, also includes stipulations for students currently abroad: they should either submit their signed pledge to Bahrain’s embassy in their country of residence or have their parents meet the ministry’s scholarship administration if they were living in countries that do not have Bahraini embassies. According to the Ministry of Education, the payments of “only 100” students, of the 7,400 students receiving government-sponsored scholarships for studying in Bahrain and abroad, were “temporarily” stopped.

“Going back is a great risk and staying here is difficult,” says Noor who believes she was identified as being part of the demonstrations in London through the pictures she posted on Facebook: http://www.youtube.com/v/jAK3b69iMJ0

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has voiced its concerns over the severity of the measures taken by the Bahraini government towards university students. The Center reported several violations to the right to education, including the dismissal of more than 160 students – mostly from the University of Bahrain, the arrest of 78 students, the revoking of the scholarships of students studying abroad, and 500 withdrawals (as of May 25) of students from the University of Bahrain due to the “politicized” and “hostile” environment on campus since classes resumed on May 2.

The Bahraini officials do not attempt to conceal the students’ right to education was violated because they openly expressed their political opinions. “The Bahrain Polytechnic has taken action against a number of students for political violations,” said Dr. Mohammed Al Asiri, the government-owned institution’s Vice Chief Executive Officer. According to the statement on the official website of the Ministry of Education in a ‘latest news’ article titled, Students Expelled, the duration of the expulsions ranged between a semester to a year, written warnings were issued to groups of students and no action was taken against students who “were not proven guilty” by specialized committees formed to investigate the case.

In her comments on Bahrain Polytechnic’s expulsions and warnings to a “few” students, Ministry of Education spokesperson Lubna Selaibeekh felt the need to point out that each student “costs the college” 60,000 Bahraini Dinar to complete his/her four-year program. She added that the government also covers 94% of Bahrain University’s tuition fees and provides full scholarships to over 2700 students through the Student Support Fund. Her message is clear: the Bahraini government is financially supporting the main educational institutions and expects students to “serve their kingdom” in return; the students owe the regime their loyalty and have to pay the price of expressing their solidarity with anti-regime protests.

Bahraini students, male and female, have been actively participating in demonstrations. This is hardly surprising for young educated adults with political and economic grievances. They have been among the targets of the most violent government crackdown on demonstrators as a result. What is surprising, however, is the Ministry of Education’s justification for violating the students’ right to education.

humanrightsfirst.org

URGENT ACTION:After Being Sentenced to Life Imprisonment Mr.Alkhawaja gets Beaten after He Speaks in Court

Reports that other Activist Sentenced were beaten as well after Speaking

23 June 2011 The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) expresses its deep concern after receiving confirmed reports from a reliable source that Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Former MENA Coordinator of Frontline Defenders and Former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human rights (BCHR), was beaten severely after court yesterday (22 June 2011). Mr. Alkhawaja’s daughter who had attended the trial had previously tweeted: “After the sentence was read, my father raised his fist & shouted “WE SHALL CONTINUE ON THE PATH OF PEACEFUL RESISTANCE!” they started violently shoving my father out of the court room.”

The BYSHR has learned that Mr. Alkhawaja was beaten severely, mostly to his face that is still healing from 4 fractures sustained from the brutal beating he received during his arrest as well as in the incident when he had banged it against the floor to avoid being sexually assaulted in detention.

The BYSHR has learned from family members that Mr. Alkhawaja still has increasing pain in his jaw and that he could not eat or smile properly because of the pain. Mr. Alkhawaja is said to be taking painkillers constantly to ease that pain and that his face was numb (in the area where he had sustained injuries).

There are also reports that other activists sentenced also received a beating after they had yelled “Peaceful Peaceful” while being dragged out of the court. Unconfirmed reports that Mr. Mirza AlMahroos, Prominent cleric and Political activist also sentenced to life, reportedly sustained an injury to his eye.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) calls for immediate intervention in this case and is extremely worried as to the well being of Mr. Alkhawaja especially given the injuries he has already sustained. The BYSHR calls on the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to take urgent action.

Note: Mr.Abdulhadi Alkhawaja’s family received a letter from him highlighting his medical condition, the letter is available in Arabic and English.

byshr.org