28 Sep, 2007

BCHR: Moosa Abd-Ali has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom

The BCHR has recently learnt that Moosa Abd-Ali Mohammed, 26 years, has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom. AbdAli is a known human rights activist in The Unemployed and Low Income Committee living at Eker village . After organizing several demonstrations demanding rights for the unemployed, Moosa was intimidated, abducted, severely beaten and sexually assaulted by masked men thought to be related to the Special Security Forces. His case is recognized by international human rights organizations and also led to public demonstrations in the country.

Mr. Abdali left Bahrain to the United Kingdom and applied for political asylum after reciving more phone calls, threatening not only his safety but also the safety of his family. Eventually Moosa Abd-Ali left the country in fear for his safety.

Background information and Nature of the alleged violation • Abduction • Sever Beating • Sexual assault • Intimidation According to Mr. Abd-Ali, persons affiliated with or acting on behalf of Bahraini security forces abducted him on the night of November 27th 2005. His abductors released him the same night. On November 30 he filed complaints with the police at Isa Town and with the Public Prosecutor’s office in Manama alleging that his abductors beat him severely, assaulted him sexually, and threatened him with further harm unless he ceased his activities on behalf of the Committee of the Unemployed. Mr. Abd-Ali provided the Bahrain Center for Human Rights with copies of medical examinations, one dated November 28th, from the International Hospital of Bahrain, and the other dated November 29th, from the Accident and Emergency Department of Salmaniyya Medical Center, a facility of the Ministry of Health. The International Hospital report noted contusions on both Abd-Ali’s legs and his upper back consistent with his allegation that he was beaten. The Salmaniyya Medical Center report also noted contusions on Mr. Abd-Ali’s legs, and that the alleged sexual assault did not involve penetration, also consistent with Mr. Abd-Ali’s allegations. The Salmaniyya Medical Center report also contained a notation, “Police to be informed.” Description of the incident On Monday November 28th, 2005 early morning at 1:00, five civil automobiles surrounded the house of the activist Moosa Abd-Ali, as he was taking the garbage out. They were all masked, in plainclothes, and armed with batons and personal guns. They introduced themselves as security personnel asking him to go with them. When Moosa asked for an arrest warrant they mocked him with foul language. Detecting their voices and peculiar accents, Moosa was able to realize that they were from the same Special Forces who attacked him and others on June 19th during an unemployment protest. Moosa was severely injured during that protest and underwent medical treatment which has continued until today. When Moosa tried to escape the perpetrators started shooting in the air. He was then handcuffed and driven to an isolated remote spot of Sitra Island Industrial Area, where he first was brutally beaten using batons, then two of the offenders stripped him of his clothes and got on the top of his back one after the other in direct sexual attempt. Due to his resistance they were not able penetrate, but Moosa was left polluted with sperms over his body. Before leaving, they threatened to assault his family members, and told him to carry this message to the other members of the Committee for Unemployed if they still insist on the protest that was to take place the next day. At around 2:30am, they left the scene, leaving Moosa behind worn out on the ground. On December 4th, Lt. Gen. Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa , the Minister of Interior, met with Mr. Abd-Ali, his father, and Nabeel Rajab, vice-president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, to discuss the attack against Mr. Abd-Ali. This meeting followed several days of disturbances in Manama in which police clashed with demonstrators who were protesting about Mr. Abd-Ali’s treatment. At this meeting Sheikh Rashid affirmed that the security services under his authority would fully cooperate with an investigation into the matter that was being conducted by the Public Prosecutor. Several national and international human rights organizations including Human Rights watch , Front line and BCHR urge the government to conduct a thorough, impartial, and speedy investigation into Mr. Abd-Ali’s allegations, to make the results public, and to hold accountable any security officials or other persons found to be responsible for this attack. Mr. AbdAli suspended his cooperation with the authorities in December 13th, 2005. After some time Moosa reported more phone calls, threatening not only his safety but also the safety of his family. Eventually Moosa Abd-Ali left the country in fear for his safety.

18 Sep, 2007

BCHR: Bahraini Authorities Persistent Campaign Defaming Human Rights Defenders: Signals Possible Crackdown

Bahrain: 19 September 2007 The Bahrain center for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned regarding the objectives and negative effects of the campaign run by the Bahraini Authorities to discredit the BCHR as well as other known activists. The information distributed includes fabricated accusations of relations to acts of violence which occurred in Bahrain during the eighties and nineties, sympathizing with Iran and coordinating with neo-conservatives in the United States!! Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, president of the BCHR has been a main target of the Authorities' defaming campaign (a Biography of Mr. Alkhawaja: See below). The Authorities campaign, which is trying to manipulate foreign media and international organizations, is using, among other methods; sending direct communications, using well known global information websites and launching new websites. Sizable human and financial resources have been allocated to carry out the campaign (Details of the Authorities Campaign: see below). The apparent objective of the campaign is to weaken regional and international cooperation and solidarity with members of the BCHR and other national activists who are considered out of the control of the Authorities. The BCHR’s international relations have in many occasions served as protection for human rights activities and the release from detention of human rights defenders including the President of the BCHR in 2004 and 2007. (BCHR’s Credibility and recent Int. activities: see below) The Bahraini Authorities has a record of defaming activists who report on, or publicly criticize, high ranking officials and Authorities policies, especially if western media and international human rights organizations are involved. The authorities tend to use the national public media in its campaigns while the activists are denied access to defend themselves. (Bahrain Authorities: A record of defaming activists: see below) The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls upon all those concerned to be aware of the misleading information and to do whatever possible to support human rights defenders in Bahrain and to hold the Bahrain authorities responsible for targeting activists. For more details please contact: Nabeel Rajab Vice-president Bahrain Center for Human Rights Email: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org Details of the Authorities Campaign: The BCHR was informed by credible sources that Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa, the powerful Minister of the Royal Court, held a meeting two months ago to speed efforts to encounter the “anti Authorities activities on the regional and international levels”. The Minister, who emphasized specially on the “harm that BCHR inflicting to the image of the country”, encouraged the attendees to contact and influence foreign media and human rights organizations and activists. He assured the participants of “unlimited budget” to carry out the outlined tasks. According to the sources, the meeting was attended by around 50 persons including selected officials from the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Security Bureau and members of two Authorities-operated GONGO’s, namely the Bahrain Jurist Society, lead by Yousif Al-Hashemy and the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society Lead by Shura-Council member Faisal Fulad. Earlier this year, the Bahraini Authorities appointed Sheikh Abdulla Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, a senior security officer and member of the royal family, as the head of foreign-media affairs at the Ministry of Information which “keeps control” on foreign-media reporting on the country. Before his appointment, Sheikh Abdulla was the deputy head of National Security Bureau. The former head of the foreign-media affairs, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa ,who is a member of the royal family, was appointed as the Bahrain Ambassador to the UK to look after and mastermind the Authorities campaign against activities run from London. As a result of the aforementioned, an office was opened in London for the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society to encounter the activities of human rights NGO’s. A group of Arab journalists was formed and two new websites have been recently launched called “Illa Al-Watan” and “Bahrain Forum” which resort to publishing false reports about the BCHR and other political and human rights activists. Among the group working for the new ambassador are two consultants, Hassan Mousa, a former Human rights activist, and Hugh Canavan, a British who worked as an advisor to the foreign media section at the Ministry of Information in Bahrain before taking over the new role in London. Both Mousa and Canavan have been taken parts in activities representing that of the Bahrain Authorities and have been in delegations to Geneva and London to counter the activities of Bahraini human rights defenders, especially members of the BCHR. Mr. Mousa, although presents himself as member of OMCT, he is also a member of the Bahraini Government Delegations in official meetings with treaty bodies of United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) like CERD: Committee of Elimination of Racial Discrimination and CAT: Committee Against Torture. Mr. Canavan participated in House of Lords event about Bahrain, scheduled on December 15th, 2005 taking and defending the postures of the Government of Bahrain. The BCHR has been informed by foreign media reporters and members of International NGO’s that they have received communications aimed at discrediting the BCHR and its president Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. Some of these communications were signed by Hugh Canavan who introduced himself as a British citizen and a former advisor of the Bahrain Ministry of Information. Mr. Hugh Canavan was a main editor of the “Bahrain Brief”, published by the Bahrain Authorities to influence international opinion. By examining the “information” sent by Mr. Canavan, it was found identical to information publicized in English by anonymous sources on well known websites such as Wikipedia.com and open democracy which contain falsified information clearly publicized to damage the BCHR’s credibility and to create a positive image of members of the Al-Khalifa ruling family in Bahrain. Bahrain Center for Human Rights: Credibility and recent activities: 1. The BCHR has maintained strong links and worked closely with international organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Frontline. The closure of the Center in 2004 served to enhance the BCHR’s credibility on the regional and international levels. Post its formal dissolution by the Bahraini Authorities, the BCHR succeeded in securing memberships in well known International organizations such as: FIDH (The International Federation for Human Rights), IFEX (International Freedom of Expression) , and CARAM-Asia (a regional Asian organization working on Migrant Workers Rights). The BCHR was honoured to be frequently invited by the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) to present alternatives (Shadow reports) to Bahrain State reports on Torture to Committees on Torture and Racial discrimination in 2005 and 2007. 2. Despite its closure (Official dissolution) in September2004 and the various abuses and harassments against its members, BCHR activities have shown distinguished enhancements in volume and type of internal and international activities. Among the recent activities this year were an international campaign staged by the BCHR in Washington, New York, Brussels and Geneva, highlighting the different gross human rights violations in Bahrain. The Authorities may have been further provoked when one of BCHR members took part in the latest international media coverage by CNN, BBC, and well known newspapers highlighting: corruption of the ruling family in Bahrain, poverty, sectarian discrimination and failed democracy in Bahrain. Furthermore, the president of the BCHR addressed the 5th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2007 on the issue of corruption and failure in housing policies. 3. BCHR was successful in highlighting and blowing the whistle on many human rights violations, represent distinguished diversity of tasks. Some of these issues are: a. Freedom of expression and assembly b. Labour and migrants rights c. Activists and human rights defenders d. Victims of Torture e. Religious Freedom f. Political Naturalization g. Discrimination and Favoritism h. Corruption i. Poverty and Economical rights j. Women Rights k. Violating Legislations l. Guantanamo prisoners Bahrain Authorities: A record of defaming activists: The Bahraini Authorities has a record of defaming activists who publicly criticize high ranking officials and government policies, especially if western media and international human rights organizations are involved. Abdelraouf Al-Shayeb, the president of the Committee of Victims of Torture was arrested twice on allegations relating to “sexual relations with a female domestic worker” and “promoting prostitution”. The charges were dropped in the first case, but he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in the second. The two cases were brought against Al-Shayeb after a trip to meet with international organizations in Geneva and the United Kingdom. Mr. Abdelrouf was granted political asylum in the UK in 2006 as a result of those cases and other harassments. Another case was of Musa Abdali, member of Committee of Unemployed, who was abducted by persons affiliated with or acting on behalf of Bahraini Security bodies beat him severely, assaulted him sexually, and threatened him with further harm unless he ceased his activities. As a result of such atrocities, Mr Abdali was granted political asylum in the UK starting August 2007. Ghada Jamsheer and Suad Mohamed, chairperson and member of the Women Petition Committee, were the target of a defaming campaign this year after traveling to Geneva and participating in an interview in Al-Hurra TV Channel. Another example was the BCHR Vice-President Nabeel Rajab who was subjected to intensive smear campaign by unknown sources using mobile messages as well as by post. A report by a former government consultant revealed information that link the campaign with a secret web lead by high officials. The campaign against Mr. Rajab is believed to be a reaction to his role in publicizing the scandalous Bandar gate report. Mr. Rajab was summoned and questioned by the National Security in relation to the case. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: Biography of the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Based on his activities and credibility, Mr. Alkhawaja has taken many roles and positions in regional and international organizations. He is currently a member of the International Advisory Network in the Business and Human Rights Resource Center chaired by Mary Robinson, former UN High commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Alkhawaja is also member of the Advisory board of the ““Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies”. He is an expert and member of the coordinating committee of The Arab Group for Monitoring Media PerformancePerformance which has monitored media in the last election in Bahrain and in six other Arab countries. Mr. Alkhawaja was a part of Amnesty international’s fact finding mission in Iraq. He was assigned as a researcher and project consultant by Amnesty international and other International organizations. His struggle for human rights was acknowledged at the International conference of Human Rights Defenders in Dublin and was chosen by the Arab Program for Human Rights Defenders to be awarded as the activist of the region in 2005. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: History of struggle and Human Rights Activities: After finishing high school in Bahrain in 1977, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja traveled to the UK for further education. In 1979, he joined student activities in London reacting to demonstrations and arrests in Bahrain. Many students abroad, including Alkhawaja, were denied passport renewal and were asked to return home. In the summer of 1980, fellow students of Alkhawaja were detained and interrogated under torture for their activities in London. Alkhawaja’s family’s house was ransacked and searched. Fearing detention, Abdulhadi decided to stay abroad. In 1981 the Authorities staged a crackdown on dissidents of the Government, alleging the uncover of a coup attempt by the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. Hundreds of civilians, most of them were students, including minors, were detained and exposed to torture. Seventy Three (73) of the detainees were brought before the notorious, now abolished, , State Security Court which accused them of memberships in an illegal organization and attempting to use violence, eventually sentencing them to 7-25 years of imprisonment. During the Eighties and Nineties, The Islamic Front was one of four main opposition groups operating in exile. However, since 2002, the group has been operating in Bahrain as a registered political group under a new name: The Islamic Action Society (AMAL). Some members of the Islamic Front have been appointed in high rank positions since their return to Bahrain. Until 1989, Mr. Alkhawaja had been a member of the Islamic Front and consequently an active member of the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners in Bahrain (CDPPB), which was active in Damascus, London, Paris, and Geneva working mainly on arbitrary detention, torture, unfair trial, deprivation of nationality and coercive deportation. During the Eighties, The CDPPR adopted the case of the 73 political prisoners and cases of other detainees and groups. In 1991, Mr. Alkhawaja was granted political asylum in Denmark which became the base of the Bahrain Human Rights Organization (BHRO) that was established by Mr. Alkhawaja and other Bahrainis living in exile in the Scandinavian countries and the UK. The formation of BHRO followed Alkhawaja’s resignation from the CDPPB and the Islamic front in 1992. During the period 1992-2001 The BHRO gained mounting respect for it's persistent, professional, and non-partisan activities at the international level which contributed to the political changes that took place in Bahrain when the new ruler came to power in 1999. After his return to Bahrain in 2001, following a general amnesty, Alkhawaja was a main founder and the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) which was officially registered in June 2002. However, because of his human rights activities, Mr. Alkhawaja has been subjected to detention, unfair trial, and physical assaults. The well documented <a hrefhttp:="" hrw.org="" photos="" 2005="" bahrain="" "="">physical assaults against Mr. Alkhawaja in March 2002, June/July/September 2005, have not been investigated despite pledges by UN bodies and international NGO’s. The closure of the BCHR in Sep. 2004 and the abuses against its members including Mr. Alkhawaja attracted wide protests and reactions both inside BAHRAIN and on the international level. Because of such reactions the king was obliged to “Amnesty” Mr. Alkhawajaon two occasions: September 2004 and May 2007 to release him from detention and to call off the unfair trials on charges related to his criticism of the regime on issues of corruption and human rights abuses.

31 Aug, 2007

BCHR Vice President is part of FIDH international fact finding mission to the Philippine

Terrorism must not be used as an excuse for human rights violations! http://www.fidh.org/article.php3?id_article=4646 Philippines

Thursday 30 August 2007

Preliminary conclusions from an international fact-finding mission to the Philippines led by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) find that torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are common practice there in the context of the US-led “war on terror”.

Testimonies collected from victims during the mission confirm that torture occurs frequently when the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the National Police arrest someone suspected of terrorism or of being an “enemy of the State”.

In most cases, victims are arrested without a warrant and with no explanation. They are blindfolded and handcuffed before being brought to a military camp or a secret location, where they are forced to admit that they are members of “terrorist groups” like the Abu Sayyaf Group or the New People’s Army (NPA). The majority of those arrested are punched in the chest, beaten with rifles and threatened with death. Certain victims also reported suffocation with a plastic bag, electrocution, deprivation of sleep and threats against relatives. Suspects are often required to sign a testimony under duress before being brought to a prosecutor.

Mechanisms and initiatives put in place to ensure respect for human rights do not seem to be effectively implemented. As an example, very few perpetrators of extrajudicial killings (and no high-ranking officials) have been prosecuted so far, whereas the estimates vary from 100 to more than 800 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since 2001.

While condemning unreservedly human rights violations perpetrated by non-State actors, FIDH and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) call upon the Filipino authorities to ensure that “terrorism” is not invoked as an excuse for human rights violations.

The mandate of the FIDH mission was to examine whether the Filipino government abides by its commitments to respect international human rights standards while fighting terrorism, in particular the absolute prohibition on torture. The three FIDH experts, Mr. Nabeel Rajab (Bahrain), Mr. Mouloud Boumghar (France) and Mr. Frédéric Ceuppens (Belgium), visited the Philippines from August 13 to 23, 2007. The team conducted most of its work in different areas of Metro Manila and in the island of Mindanao. In conformity with a well-established practice of FIDH, and in order to ensure objectivity, they met with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) together with the Chief of Staff of the Philippines National Police, a representative of the Commission on Human Rights, members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, local authorities, the Joint Enforcement and Monitoring Committee to Implement the Peace Agreement between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, representatives of civil society, victims of torture and members of their families, detainees suspected of belonging to insurgent groups, as well as representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). FIDH welcomes the cooperation of the authorities and warmly thanks PAHRA for its precious support. More generally, FIDH extends its thanks to all the persons met by the mission.

For the full text of the preliminary conclusions of the mission, see: The report

12 Aug, 2007

BCHR: Welcoming the release of Isa Al Murbati

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights: Welcoming the release of Isa Al Murbati, calling for compensation and care

The BCHR welcomes the return of the last Bahraini detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Isa Al Murbati, after five years of incarceration without trial or charges at the US Military facility. Once again, the BCHR is delighted to see the results of a sustained campaign by local and international activists, American lawyers representing the Bahraini detainees at Guantanamo Bay. "This is a happy ending to a long chapter of human rights violations against these men and their families," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said.The BCHR calls on the Bahraini government to uphold their responsibility in assisting Mr Al Murbati's integration into normal life. We ask the authorities to ensure that he is treated in the way he was released - as a free man - and calls for him to be compensated for losses incurred during his unlawful detention. "As much as we are happy at the news of his return, we stress that the government's work must continue in providing compensation and care for Isa," Mr Rajab added. "We must remember that his family have been living on the generosity of relatives for the last five years while Isa was detained.

"Isa himself was on hunger strike at the prison for more than five months before being brutally force fed to break his protest. This, of course, has had a negative impact on his health. "We call on the Bahraini government to fulfill their duties to the Al Murbati family as Bahraini citizens, and to take his health and his family's wellbeing into their hands."

24 Jul, 2007

Brief Arrest Of Three Journalists On The Arrival Of A British Torturer,Preventing Journalist From Event Scenes

Brief Arrest Of Three Journalists On The Arrival Of A British Torturer Preventing Journalist From Event Scenes

Bahrain - July 24, 2007

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BHRO) is concerned for the continuance of harassment of journalists when covering various issues that are considered “sensitive” by the Bahrain authorities.

Zainab Abdul-Nabi, 24 years, a female reporter for Al-Alam Stalite TV channel, told BCHR that she and two other journalists from Al-Ayam daily newspaper, were arrested at the arrival-hall at Bahrain international Air-port at 7:30 pm. on July 22, 2007.

“A police officer approached me, Batool Al-Sayyed and Ali Majeed asking for the reason whey we were at airport. We replied that we do not need a reason to be in a public place, however, we told him that we are journalists and that we came to report on the reason why the airport area is under heavy security measures at that evening” Miss Abdul-nabi told BCHR. “The police officer took us to the Airport police Station where we were questioned by deferent police officers asking mainly if our presence is to cover a protest at the airport related to the arrival of Lut. Ian Henderson” she added. The three Journalist were released at the same day but only after phone-calls and intervention by a high officials at ministry of Interior.

Worth noting that Lut. Ian Henderson, British, is the former head of the Bahrain security police who is accused of torture and gross human rights violations during the period from 1966-2000. His case is under investigation by the British Scotland-yard while the Bahrain Authorities has granted him the Bahrain nationality and immunity protecting him from judicial persecution by several thousands of victims of extra judicial killing, torture and forcible exile. (Attached is a link to a documentary by BBC: The Butcher of Bahrain: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8207296200885546643&q=ian+henderson

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights consider the brief arrest of the three journalist as yet another act of violation of freedom of the press in Bahrain. It is an act of harassment and to make an example to prevent the press form covering any protest activities in order to control the role of the press. In previous events, Journalists were beaten and cameras were broken or confiscated. In Malkia, a village where protests took place last month, the special security police ordered Bill Law, a well known British BBC journalist, to leave the area: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/6908274.stm.

The BCHR calls upon all concerned to do what ever convenient to hold the relevant Bahraini authorities responsible and to secure free work of the press and the safety and integrity of journalists in accordance with international standards.

22 Jul, 2007

An Investigation into the award granted to Bahraini Prime Minister by the United Nations Habitat Programme

An Investigation into the award granted to Bahraini Prime Minister by the United Nations Habitat Programme Bahrain Centre for Human Rights:

1. Background

Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa has been Bahrain's Prime Minister since the country's independence in 1972 and held power through a period of extreme repression, intimidation, arrests, torture, and forced exile of political dissidents in the 1990's.

According to Human Rights Watch, "Shaikh Khalifa and his late brother, Shaikh Isa, the country's emir,suspended the country's first constitution and partially elected parliament in 1975 and set up a system of State Security Courts that,until the new ruler abolished them in 2001, sentenced thousands of suspected dissidents to long years in prison, many on the basis of confessions obtained under torture." see (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/07/01/bahrai16334.htm)

On July 2, 2007 the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon presented the UN Habitat Programme's Special Citation of the Habitat Scroll of Honor Award "Outstanding Achievement for 2006" to Shaikh Khalifa at a ceremony in Geneva. The UN Habitat programme is mandated to "promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all".

According to UNPHS's officials, Shaikh Khalifa was a result of "his outstanding efforts in raising living standards for all Bahrainis through an active focus on the alleviation of poverty and modernization of the country while preserving the cultural heritage of the country"

2. Current situation: The Government of Bahrain violates United Nations standards with regard to urban planning and addressing poverty.

On June 30 2007, a public rally marched towards the United Nations in Manama. It was organised to coincide with the announcement of the award.Government repression of civilian's right to freedom of peaceful expression began prior to the demonstration with an Interior Ministry campaign in local newspapers warning organisers not to go ahead with the rally. On the day of the rally the planned location was surrounded by special riot security forces armed with live ammunition, who have in the past used excessive force against unarmed civilians on demonstrations.However, in some villages protests took place and burning tires and garbage containers [2].

Both Bahraini and International human rights organisations proceeded with a campaign protesting against the granting of the award to the Prime Minister.The Bureau of the Middle East of the International Habitat Organization raised its concerns with the United Nations Program on Human Settlements (UNPHS) with regards to the objections on the nomination. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights presented a letter (includingdocuments and evidence) to the UN secretary-general. These documents demonstrated explicitly the grave failure of housing policy, corruption implication and plundering of lands by the Prime Minister [3].

On June 12, 2007, during the debate on the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur concerning Adequate Housing a speech was delivered on behalf of the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies [4] detailing the same issues - Bahrain's failing housing policy, corruption, and the plundering of public land.

Human Rights Watch also issued a statement strongly objecting to the fact that the United Nations is honoring a person who is directly responsible for massive violations of human rights - a key figure in a regime with record of human rights violations including torture, extrajudicial killings, unfair trials, forced deportation, and the abolition of democracy [5].

3. Political issues and Bahrain's Eligibility for the award

Based on this asessment, the BCHR believes that international institutions have been influenced by public funds used to promote the image of government officials. The BCHR has come to believe that institutional and personal interests played a key role in the Prime Minister's candidacy.

a) The Political Dimension:

The Prime Minister provided US $1million the programme according to information published by the United Nations Programme on Human Settlements. Executive-Director of the UNPHS, Anna Tibaijuka, visited the Kingdom of Bahrain from 6-8 February 2007 in response to the invitation from the Minister of Cabinet Affairs. Ms. Tibaijuka was then received by the Prime Minister himself, who conveyed to her that the Bahraini government would make a donation of US $ 1million towards strengthening the activities of UNPHS [6].

Behind the scenes political activities:

Individuals at the UN have allegedly worked behind the scenes in order for the organisation to provide Bahrain's Prime Minister with the award. This includes individuals who have had accusation of corruption and collaboration with the oppressive and violent Bahraini regime in the 1990s.

The individuals allegedly involved are:

1- Faisal Abdul-Qader, who lived in Bahrain for a period of six years. During this time Mr Abdul-Qader acted as co-coordinator at the United Nations Development Program in Bahrain. A formal letter of complaint was sent by local human rights organisations to the United Nations during Mr Abdul-Qader's time in office after he was implicated in passing video and written documentation of the State Security Apparatus' human rights violations to the Bahraini government rather than the UN.

Ostensibly as a reward, Mr Abdul-Qader was granted Bahraini citizenship which is illegal under Bahraini law and against United Nations standards. He was also granted a large plot of land in Hamad Town, which is currently under construction. 2- Ali Shaboo, head of the Arabian Technical Cooperation for the United Nations Habitat Programme. Mr. Shaboo is known to be a close acquaintance of Mr Abdul-Qader. He paid an unannounced visit to Bahrain prior to the granting of the award to the Prime Minister. It is believed that the prime objective of his visit was to evaluate the candidates for the prize.

b) Technical dimension:

The Award is granted on the basis of two criteria: 1- The standard of urbanization 2- Eradication of poverty through sound urban planning

1 – Regarding planned urbanization Bahrain does not meet a number of the required criterion, following some shortcomings documented by UN agencies:

- Failure to protect the environment and specially the costs - Failure to preserve historical monuments, especially the Aali burial mounds of which two thirds were separated and granted as private land gifts to individuals - Failure to preserve natural water springs, such as Um Al-Sejoor and Al-Safahiya - Neglect of the water stream drawing a dividing line between the Bahrain Fort and the sea. This water stream would have vanished if concerned foreign universities did not interfere in its destruction. - Destruction of historical monuments such as old houses in the villages and cities except those of the ruling family and some other houses. However, after the violations became very flagrant, a member of the royal family and Information Ministry officials endeavored to rectify the matter and forestall the scandal by restoring old houses.This work is still limited to specific regions and families. - The Green Belt: vast areas of lands have been given out as gifts under the urban development plan. The Sanabis sea was reclaimed and Seef Mall was erected on it. The same land was left deserted for sometime then it was sold, to the benefit of the ruling family. - Flawed planning of streets and cities. - Failure to preserve the religious identity of Bahrain especially concerning the Shiite sect through the protection of shrines of prominent historical and religious figures such Shaikh Maitham Al-Bahrani and Yusuf Al-Tublani.

2 - Regarding the eradication of poverty in Bahrain through sound urban planning:

- All the previously issued United Nations reports concerning urban planning in Bahrain describe it as a grave failure. - Many institutions have been banned from addressing poverty in Bahrain. The officials excuse for this is the pretext that there are no poverty pockets in Bahrain. Despite numerous reports highlighting an increasing rate of poverty and widening gap in wealth distribution, there is no predetermined plan to fight poverty. This reveals the lack of a national plan for development.

Based on the above the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for:

+ All civil and governmental institutions to cease from using public resources towards publicity and public relations for government executives, including penetration of international organizations.

+ All concerned individuals to be held accountable for corruption and the looting of lands, and the destruction of the natural environment.

+ A review of the issues related to the failure of government policyon the natural environment, historical monuments, housing, and poverty.

The BCHR calls on the United Nations to investigate the allegations of misconduct related to the granting the award of human settlements to the Prime Minister of Bahrain.

We ask the UN to scrutinize its regulations and standards to ensure that the future recipient of such an award will not be an individual with a black record of corruption and human rights violations.

[1] Source: Official Website for Mowal: United Nations Habitat program & Human: http://77.245.0.19/

[2] Refer images published by AP news agency dated 2nd July 2007

[3] Refer text of the speech posted on the Bahrain Center for Human Rights website: www.bahrainrights.org

[4] Refer text of the speech and video clip on the Website of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights: www.bahrainrights.org

[5] Refer the Statement of the Human Rights Watch dated 1st July 2007.

[6] Source: Official Website for Mowal: United Nations Habitat program & Human: http://77.245.0.19/

9 Jul, 2007

The Smart-Card in Bahrain:A Move Towards Greater Surveillance Rather Than Greater Rights

The Smart-Card in Bahrain:

A Move Towards Greater Surveillance Rather Than Greater Rights Monitoring And Targeting Of Opposition Figures And Human Rights Defenders

Bahrain Center for Human Rights – 10 July 2007

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy..." Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

1. Introduction:

The Bahrain government, through the widely discredited and mistrusted Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) is implementing measures to create a national database of personal and sensitive information about citizens, through a Smart Card programme.

Marketed as a 'service', the Smart Card contains a microchip carrying information from individuals' drivers licenses, Citizen Population Registration (CPR) cards, passports, medical records, banking details, educational data, and a digital fingerprint.

According to CIO officials, citizens can use the cards to pay bills, for financial transactions, and to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections.

The information on the Smart Cards will be stored on a national database managed by the CIO.

2. Background on the CIO:

At the centre of the 'Bandargate' (Ref: 07022501) scandal of last year, the head of this organization Shaikh Ahmed bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa has been accused by a former consultant to the Bahrain government of financing a secret web of officials, activists and other individuals working to manipulate the results of national elections, maintain sectarian distrust and division, and to ensure that Bahrain's Shi’a citizens remain oppressed and disenfranchised.

As a result of leaking the information in a 216-page report containing cheques, receipts, letters, bank statements and accounts sheet, its author Dr. Salah Al Bandar (chancellor of strategic planning at the Council of Ministers Affairs) was deported to the United Kingdom as he is a British citizen.

The CIO is also responsible for the widely opposed e-voting scheme which was scrapped prior to last November's national elections following the incriminating revelations of the 'Bandargate' report.

3. The Smart-card - an international perspective:

"Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her." (Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Article 8, Clause 1)

Campaigners in long-established and well developed democracies (such as the United Kingdom) have resisted the imposition of Smart Cards.

Key issues include the protection of individual's privacy under human rights law against the potential use of unchecked executive powers, and the risk of forgery and identity theft.

According to International NGOs such as Privacy International (www.privacyinternational.org) ID cards can "invariably" be forged. The higher the value of cards (ie. the more sensitive information they contain) the greater potential for criminal activity with regards to them - they become a target for more sophisticated and organized criminal groups.

Another question raised in the UK is the British government's technological capacity to manage and protect such a high security national database of information. The information stored in ID or Smart Cards can be used by authorities or individuals other than those advertised as being in charge of the database.

In many countries, law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been given significant exemptions allowing the violation of individuals' privacy.

The United States State Department's Annual Review of Human Rights Violations counted 90 countries which illegally monitor communications of political opposition figures, human rights workers, journalists and union workers. (See Privacy and Human Rights, An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Practice: http://www.gilc.org/privacy/survey/intro.html)

Among Western democracies with a better record of transparency, checks on executive powers, and respect for human rights serious concerns have been raised about national ID or Smart Cards.

4. Concerns over the Smart Card in Bahrain:

It stands to reason then, that these same concerns are much higher in a country such as Bahrain where the government has a record of routine human rights abuses, unchecked exercise of executive powers, and the monitoring and targeting of opposition figures and human rights defenders.

As well as the sharing of sensitive personal information among government agencies, a significant concern is the Bahraini government's technological capacity to protect such a high value database from hackers or criminals.

The distinct lack of legislation in Bahrain regarding data protection is another concern. Even if such legal protection did exist, given the Bahraini authorities' record of violating human rights, it is questionable as to how adequate such a law would be, and how well it would be enforced.

In March the BCHR received complaints regarding an alleged attempt by the Bahraini government to place a video monitoring device in the home of well-known women's rights activist Ghada Jamsheer (Ref: 07031701).

Also in March, vice president of the BCHR Nabeel Rajab was called before the Criminal Investigation Directorate for interrogation. During the course of the interrogation, security officials produced printouts of Mr Rajab's private email correspondence.

With such incidences of the violation of privacy by government officials and agencies it stands to reason that the implementation of a national Smart Card marks a move towards even greater surveillance of individuals rather than the greater freedoms promised by Bahrain's 'democratic' developments.

Recommendations:

1. The BCHR calls for the national Smart Card programme to be scrapped. If it is to remain in place, it should not be under the auspices of the widely mistrusted CIO.

2. Smart Cards should be optional and not mandatory - citizens should be allowed to renew their traditional CPRs and driver's licenses.

3. If the Smart Card scheme remains in place, data protection laws must be drawn up, implemented and respected by the authorities.

4. The government must be able to provide assurance from an independent party that its national database is technologically secure.

5. The Bahraini authorities must ensure that personal information stored in the national database will not be used by any agencies without the explicit consent of the individual.

6 Jul, 2007

More official measures in Bahrain which discriminate against expatriates

More official measures in Bahrain which discriminate against expatriates Bahrain Centre for Human Rights:

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is disappointed and concerned by a newly implemented policy which bans foreign students and expatriates working in 'menial' jobs from being eligible for drivers licenses.This policy has been described by officials from the General Directorate of Traffic as a measure to ease congestion on the roads. It follows the passing of legislation by the House in April this year which proposes removing expatriate bachelor labourers from Bahraini communities by housing them in segregated industrial areas. "Instead of taking practical measures to ease congestion - such as investigating a public transport system and encouraging better road practices such as car pooling - we are extremely disappointed to see that our government has chosen once again to target the most vulnerable communities of people in Bahrain," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said. "Practicing and promoting discrimination through legislation and policies should not be the behaviour of a country which sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council," he added. "This measure is an 'easy way out' of a problem which the government needs to give serious consideration too - especially because of the high number of development and construction projects in the country. "We have seen time and again that the government takes a free hand in violating the rights of expatriate workers because they are the most vulnerable and least able to defend their rights." The BCHR calls on the Bahraini government to revoke this policy as well as the law banning expatriate bachelors from residential areas. We call on the government to put and end to discriminatory and divisive policies which serve only to further tensions between various communities living in Bahrain, which historically have lived in an integrated and peaceful manner. We demand and end to the attacks on the rights of migrant workers, who suffer from lacking legal protection as well as social and official discrimination.

1 Jul, 2007

Reporter and Cameraman Arrested and Subjected to Interrogation Following Anti Prime Minister Rally

Reporter and Cameraman Arrested and Subjected to Interrogation Following Anti Prime Minister Rally

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

Ref: 07063001

Ms. Zainab Abdulnabi, 24 years, Isa-Town a reporter for the Al-Aalam Newschannel along with her cameraman Mr. Seyed Ali Al-Najjar, 20 years, Hamad Town, were arrested today and interrogated only to be released later after signing a statement.

According to Ms. Abdulnabi, they were in the area close to the United Nations Building when they were approached by a white car, in which there were several men in civilian clothes. A police jeep was called and Ms. Abdelnabi was asked to get in, in order to be taken to the Hoora Police Station, a demand she refused bluntly as she objected to being treated like a criminal. The officer took her card and confiscated her camera and demanded that she follow them in her own car. At the Interrogations office, both the reporter and the camera man were subjected to interrogation and were released later that night, the camera was also returned.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights concern towards the authority’s treatment of activists is only enhanced now that reporters are also being treated in this provocative manner. The BCHR calls upon the Bahraini authorities to respect basic human rights and to guarantee the safety of reporters and activists who practice their rights to freedom of expression and gathering.

www.bahrainrights.org