28 Dec, 2007

The Arrests of Two more Activists and Accusing 28 detainees, including 10 activists, with the alleged use of violence

The Arrests of Two more Activists Accusing 28 detainees, including 10 activists, with the alleged use of violence No Visitation Rights for 18 detainees including all the Activists

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned for the continued arrest of activists yesterday and today, in what seems as a crackdown on human rights activists and political groups that are considered responsible for a series of protests related to Economic-social rights and basic freedoms . Apparently the authorities are using the recent unrest to accuse activists of participation in illegal gathering and rioting. The BCHR has received reports that some of the detainees were transferred to the military hospital as a result of beating during arrest or torture.

The two activists that have been arrested last night and today were:

Name: Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan, 26 years, Sitra Affiliations: An active member of the Unemployment Committee who had been previously threatened, kidnapped by masked men, beaten and subjected to repetitive arrests. Details: Hassan was leaving a Seminar with his wife yesterday night at around 11PM, when 3 civilian cars blocked their way and armed individuals in civilian clothes arrested him. The Seminar which Mr. Abdelnabi was taking part in its preparation aimed at highlighting the human rights violations and arrests of activists that have been taking place recently. Hassan was the only senior member of the Unemployment Committee who had not been arrested and was present to share information about the activities of the Unemployment Committee and its members and highlight the fact that they were being targeted for a long time now.

Name: Mr. Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, 38 years, Bani-Jamra Affiliations: A member of the AMAL Political Society and a founding member of the Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee Details: At 11AM this morning Special Security Forces attacked the house of Mr. Alarab, and arrested him. Mr. Alarab, who had been arrested 8 times during the political unrest in Bahrain in the 90’s and was subjected to brutal torture (scars on his hand and forehead are still visible), had 3 months ago participated in a Seminar on “Truth and Reconciliation” organized by several human rights groups including the BCHR in collaboration with Human Rights Watch. Mr. Alarab gave a live witness account of the torture he had been subjected to.

The BCHR has learnt that 18 out of reported 48 detainees were officially accused of illegal gathering, rioting, damaging a police vehicle, theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permits. The Public Prosecutor office had announced that visitation rights will not be given to families of theses detainees. At least ten of the accused are well known activists, who had been arrested during the past 8 days.

Three other detainees were accused of attempted murder while ten more detainees were accused of illegal gathering and rioting. The BCHR is informed by relatives of about 17 more individuals who disappeared, while their arrest has not been announced by the authorities.

The aforementioned arrests took place after security clashes that broke out as a result of the death of one of the participants on December 17, 2007 in a demonstration that was demanding truth and equity for victims of Torture. The death of Ali Jassim Mekki, aged 30 years, was due to the use of excessive force by the security forces .

Attachment: a list of detainees according the information received.

For more information. Please contact: Nabeel Rajab, BCHR Vice-president, Mobile: +973 39699933, Email: boddah88@hotmail.com

List of Detainees, Including Activists Arrested during the Last Nine days

Including Available Affiliation and Accusations

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights – 28 December 2007

Detainees Accused of Illegal Gathering, Rioting, Damaging A Police Vehicle, Theft of a Weapon and Ammunition and Possession of Weapon and Ammunition without Permits

No. Name Area Age Date/Time of Arrest Affiliation 1 Naji Ali Fateel Bani Jamra 32 8:50 am - 21/12/2007 Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) (Senior member) 2 Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais Sanabes 40 2:15 - 21/12/2007 The Committee to Combat High Prices (Head of Committee) 3 Hassan Abdulnabi Sitra 11:00-11:30 26/12/2007 The Unemployment Committee (Board Member) 4 Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna Sanabes 35 The Unemployment Committee (Former Board Member) 5 Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh Isa Town 31 5 pm – 21/12/2007 The Unemployment Committee (Former Board Member) 6 Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali Daih 28 11:30 pm – 23/12/2007 The Unemployment Committee (Former Board Member) 7 Abdullah Mohsen Abdullah Saleh Isa Town 30 8 am – 21/12/2007 The Unemployment Committee (Former president) 8 Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal Hamala 26 4 am - 21/12/2007 The Unemployment Committee 9 Majid Salman Ibrahim Abdullah Al-Haddad Daih/Jedhafs 22 2 pm – 22/12/2007 The Unemployment Committee 10 Isa Abdullah (Isa)Al-Sarah Bani Jamra 25 5 pm - 22/12/2007 Active Member of the Islamic Action Society 11 Mohammed Maki (Ahmed) Tareef Sanabes 12 Hussein Jaffar Tareef Sanabes 20 23/12/2007 13 Hussein Khalil Ibrahim (Al-Madoob) Jabalat Habshi 23 Almost 4:30 21/12/2007 14 Ahmad Abdul-Hadi Ahmad Mahdi Salman Mugshae 17 15 Hussein Shaker Mohammed Fardan Shaker Bani Jamra 35 11:30 pm – 22/12/2007 16 Mohammed Khalil Al-Madoob Jabalat Habshi 27 Almost 4:30 - 21/12/2007 17 Mohammed Hassan Ali Hassan 18 Mahmood Hassan Saleh Karraneh 21/12/2007

Detainees Accused of Attempted Murder

19 Hasan Abbas Mansoor 20 Salman Abdul Adhim Salman Shakoora 22 17/12/2007- demonstration Sanabes 21 Ghasan Mirza Ali Bu Madan Bu-Quwa/Sihla 18 17/12/2007

Detainees Accused of Illegal Gathering and Rioting

22 Khalil Ibrahim Mirza Al-Meshemea Hajjar 26 23 Sadiq Ali Abdullah Al-Mutawa Malkiya 15 8 pm - 15/12/2007 24 Ahmad Saeed Ahmad Saleem Demestan 18 25 Ali Kadhim Saeed Kadhim Malkiya 15 8 pm – 15/12/2007 26 Hasan Ahmad Nasser Juma Sitra – Mhaza 21 8 pm – 17/12/2007 27 Ibrahim Khalaf Ibrahim Malkiya 28 8 pm – 15/12/2007 28 Sayed Ali Mohammed Saeed Mohammed Sihla 21 9 pm – 17/12/2007 29 Mohammed Hussain Yousif Demestan 35 30 Saleh Mahdi Salman Demestan 31 31 Hisham Mohammed Aon

An additional list of “Individuals reported as disappeared while their arrests have not been announced by the authorities” will not be published due to lack of confirmation of the received information.

27 Dec, 2007

BCHR’s President Beaten and Insulted by SSF

Special Security Forces (SSF) use Women Police Officers in the Beating of Women and Forcibly Removing them from the Public Prosecutors Office (PPO) Press Threatened, Searched and Kicked out of PPO

A Report by: The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) 26 December 2007

In a highly disturbing development in the Crackdown on Activists , the BCHR President Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was subjected to beating and verbal insults outside the Public Prosecutors office yesterday afternoon at approximately 3 PM. Mr. Abdulhadi had headed there after receiving news that their were women, family members of the detained activists, being beaten inside after they refused to leave. They were protesting against the refusal of the Public Prosecutor to keep a promise made to lawyers and activists the day before, of arranging visits for them to see their sons as they are worried that their sons are unwell and are being subjected to harassment and human rights violations.

Mr. Alkhawaja approached the gate requesting to enter, he was refused permission and asked to leave, after a brief discussion, a masked SSF officer insulted the president of the BCHR and shoved him away and threatened to have him arrested. He told them to go ahead and arrest him if he was found to have done anything against the law, they surrounded him, but apparently there were no orders to arrest him and the officer in-charge started threatening and using very vile language. Mr. Alkhawaja refused to leave without knowing what was going on inside as there were screams of women being heard. The SSF then began kicking and shoving Mr. Al-khawaja away violently until the end of the street, where he stood for around 5 minutes before they came again and started moving him by shoving him and kicking him on his back for approximately 15 m. This was all done in the presence of a reporter of the AFAQ website Ms. Rabab Marhoon, a women and a child who had been forcibly removed from the Public Prosecutors office, as well as Mr. Al-Khawaja’ s daughter.

During the commotion that was taking place inside the PPO two reporters, Ali Alshehabi (Al-Ayam Newspaper) as well as Hussain Al-Arrayeth (Alwaqt Newspaper) were subjected to threats and were kicked out of the Public Prosecutors office by SSF’s. One of the SSF’s threatened the Alwaqt news reporter that he was going to “Rub his head against the ground” if he does not hand in his phone to be searched, he was then himself searched and forced to delete some files from the phone. Both reporters where then pushed out of the main gate.

A BCHR activist, who was inside the building in collaboration with the families, informed the BCHR that after refusing to leave the building, the women were threatened with arrest, beating, and forcible removal. Their response continued to be that the promise of visitation rights be kept. The police forces closed the doors and refused entry to everyone including the press, other families, and even some of the lawyers involved in the defense team. One of the officers, Osama El-Mehry, then ordered the female police officers to forcibly remove the women from the building. The female police attacked one of the girls, Sediqa Haron, and in the process fractured one of her fingers and kicked her mother, who was also present in the building. After this attack the mother passed out and an ambulance had to be brought for her. An ambulance had also been brought for a 12 year old girl, the daughter of one of the detainees, Mohammed Alsingaise, got an anxiety attack. Another, a pregnant woman, Afrah Haron, who had come to demand to see her husband, was also moved to the hospital.

The remaining women in the building, including the human rights activist, were then attacked again by approx. 15 policewomen and dragged outside in front of approx. 20 policemen watching. The women tried to hold on to the benches and were therefore beaten and literally thrown out one by one on the steps in front of the building. (Photos and recorded sound of the disturbing event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBgoYkNt2y8)

The BCHR urges all concerned to call upon the Bahraini authorities: 1. To investigate the incidents mentioned in regards to the abuse and beating of the women inside the building and reminds the authorities that this could have been avoided had these family members been granted their legal, and human right to meet with their sons, husbands and fathers who they have not heard from for over a week 2. To grant family members the right of visitations and to insure that they are done according to internationally acceptable standards 3. To abide by their own procedural law related to appropriate detention protocol as well as international standards, treatment and conventions related to the rights and appropriate treatment of detainees 4. To insure the safety and well being of the activists. The refusal of the PPO to let family members or lawyers meet the detainees is serving to confirm speculations as well as statements made by some family members that the detainees are being subjected to severe abuses 5. To respect the media and the right of reporters to cover such incident and to desist from threatening reporters and members of the media as a mechanism to avoid any documentation of abuses 6. To halt abuses against members of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and other human rights activists and to investigate the attack on the President of the BCHR and hold those responsible for the beatings accountable for their misscondact.

For more information. Please contact: Nabeel Rajab, Vice-president, Mobile: +973 39699933

26 Dec, 2007

BCHR: Crackdown on Activists In Bahrain Continues

Arrests On The Streets Breaking Into Homes: Terrorizing Women and Children - Confiscation of Computers Incommunicado Detention: Preventing Family Visits Preventing Lawyers from Attending Interrogations Reports Of Beating and Torture During Arrest and Investigation

A Report by: The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) 24 December 2007 (Updated)

The arrest campaign that the Special Security Forces (SSF) in Bahrain started in 17 December continues. It was reported today, that Mohammed Al-Tattan, from Jidhafs, was arrested at 4:00 am. Prior to that, Ahmad Jaffar Ali, aged 28, from Jidhafs, a former member of “The Unemployment Committee” was arrested. In the middle of the night, the SSF broke into his apartment and to three other apartments belonging to his mother and two brothers. The apartments were searched by a large number of the SSF who were dressed in civilian clothes and black masks. They were pointing their guns at the tenants including Ahmad Jaffar’s mother, wife and two 7 and 8 years old daughters. The activist’s private papers and computers were confiscated as well as his family’s. This was preceded by the arrest of other members of The Unemployment Committee, of those: Haytham Bader Jassim AlSheikh, aged 31, and Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna, aged 35. Nader’s brother, Hussain, told the BCHR that both him and his brother were insulted and beaten, the house was ransacked and the official computer of the Unemployment Committee was confiscated. Private computers and personal items were also confiscated during the arrest of other activists.

Activists from various other groups were also arrested, amongst them: Naji Ali Fateel, aged 32, a prominent member of the Bahraini Youth Society for Human Rights. Also, Mohammed Abdullah Al-Sengais, aged 40, the head of The Committee to Combat High Prices, and Abdullah Mohsen Abdullah Saleh, 30 years old, the former elected president of the Unemployment Committee. Isa Abdullah Al-Sarah, aged 20, a member of the Islamic Action Society was also amongst the activists arrested after he was dragged out of his car and beaten on the main road beside Burger Land restaurant. This was done by seven masked security men, dressed in civilian clothes, this is according to eyewitnesses, amongst them the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Najji Ali Fateel, 32 years, an active member of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and closely related activist to the BCHR documentation team, was seen leaving the Public Prosecutors office after officials at the office bluntly rejected family members claims that he was at the Public Prosecutors office. The BCHR Legal Coordinator had coincidently met Mr. Fateel briefly before he was taken away and describes him as looking fatigued and incoherent. He was still, after two days of arrests and despite the increasingly cold weather still dressed in the undershirt he was arrested in. Family members have still been unable to meet Mr. Fateel.(You-tube video of Mr. Fateel leaving the Public Prosecutors Office )

The aforementioned arrests took place after security clashes that broke out as a result of the death of one of the participants on December 17, 2007 in a demonstration that was demanding truth and equity for victims of Torture. The death of Ali Jassim Mekki, aged 30 years, was due to the use of excessive force by the security forces . The authorities have apparently taken advantage of the unrest to wage a crackdown on activists that have connections with public protests during the last few years in regard to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms.

In an unprecedented manner, the use of special armed and masked militia forces has been documented . Not only are they used to disperse protests and to track down participants and physically abuse them, but also to break into homes and destroy properties and terrorize women and children while carrying out arrests. The majority of these forces speak in Pakistani language or Yemeni, Syrian or Iraqi dialect. They did not in any of the previous cases show any warrants of arrest or inspection.

Although a week has past since the arrest of the detainees, only seven detainees have been granted a 3 minute meeting after protests and threats that the families would not leave. The meetings were brief and attended by members of the Public Prosecutors office. The families complained that the activists were not given a chance to speak about anything relevant. Some family members complained to the BCHR that the defendants looked tired, had not eaten and one mother came out shouting that her son had been beaten. Until the publication of this report the BCHR has not learnt that any other detainee has been granted permission to meet their families or their lawyers. All detainees were brought to the Public Prosecution Office in a disclosed manner and their lawyers were prevented from attending investigation. Reports has been received from the families regarding transporting some of the detainees to the Military Hospital due to reported beating and torture. Some families complained that the security authorities deny the presence of their missing sons in custody so the families say that do not know whether they are alive or dead.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern regarding all the stated violations, and calls upon all concerned to protect human rights and to embark upon the following: - to guarantee that arrests are carried out in integrity and legal manner up to the International standards - To insure the safety of the activists. The refusal of the Public Prosecutors Office to let family members meet the activists in addition to the recent video of Mr. Fateel, is worrisome and raises questions as to the well being and treatment of the activists - To halt the attacks on individuals and members of activists families, the violation of the privacy of activists and other detainees and to call for an end to the destruction and confiscation of personal properties or information documents and equipments - To cease the systematic targeting of activists in defamation campaigns and arbitrary arrests in order to suit an underlying agenda of attempting to intimidate them and halt their activities - To allow families and lawyers to meet the detainees from the beginning of the arrest to ensure their safety and rights - To release the detainees immediately, or to issue formal charges that do not contradict international standards - To stop the use of excessive force against peaceful activities and the work of human rights defenders, and to reform the strictive laws related to civil liberties - To put an end to the use of civilian militias and request a proper investigation into claims of their abuses.

Attachment: a list of detainees according the information received as well.

For further reference and information, please contact: Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja – Phone no.: +97339400720 – email: abdulhadi61@hotmail.com

The List of Names of Detainees in Bahrain during the Last Seven days The Bahrain Center for Human Rights – 24 December 2007

(The BCHR has interviewed some of the relatives and is documenting the majority of the cases) Due to the lack of transparency on the Public Prosecutor part the list is not yet Finalized

No. Name Area Age Date/Time of Arrest Other Details 1 Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais Sanabes – house 76 40 2:15 - 21/12/2007  They searched for him at his home in the morning but no one was there, they arrested him in his parents’ home.  Criminal investigations - Adliya 2 Naji Ali Fateel Bani Jamra 32 8:50 am - 21/12/2007  Member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights  He was arrested at his house  Criminal Investigations – Adliya 3 Akbar Jaffar Jassim Jidhafs 19 18/12/2007  Was beaten harshly 4 Saeed Ali Janusan 21/12/2007 5 Hussein Khalil Ibrahim Jabalat Habshi 23 Almost 4:30 21/12/2007 He was arrested at his house 6 Mohammed Khalil Al-Madoob Jabalat Habshi 27 Almost 4:30 - 21/12/2007 He was arrested at his house 7 Hussein Ali Mansoor Al-Bash Mussala 18 21/12/2007 8 Mahmood Avon Hasan Malkiya 19 9 Hisham Jassim Malkiya 15 10 Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal Hamala 26 4 am - 21/12/2007  There is a filming of entering his house by force  Member of the committee of the unemployed people  Criminal investigations - Adliya 11 Khalil Ibrahim Mirza Al-Meshemea Hajjar 26  Qudhaibiya and then Nuaim police stations 12 Osama Ahmad Abdullah Rabea Naim 33 4 am - 21/12/2007  His whereabout is unknown yet 13 Sadiq Ali Abdullah Al-Mutawa Malkiya 15 8 pm - 15/12/2007  Hamad Town – was arrested on the main road in Malkiya with four others 14 Isa Abdullah Al-Sarah Bani Jamra 25 5 pm - 22/12/2007  He was arrested after making him step out of his car and beating him on the main road beside Burger Land. 7 masked security forces dressed in civil clothes  Member of Amal Society 15 Abdullah Mohsen Abdullah Saleh Isa Town 30 8 am – 21/12/2007  The former elected president for The Committee Of The Unemployed  Criminal Investigations - Adliya 16 Hasan Ahmad Nasser Juma Sitra – Mhaza 21 8 pm – 17/12/2007  Arrested in Sitra  Transported to the Central Stations 17 Ibrahim Khalaf Ibrahim Malkiya 28 8 pm – 15/12/2007  Arrested in Malkiya, roundabout 17 18 Hasan Ali Abdullah Malkiya 28 8 pm – 15/12/2007  Arrested in Malkiya, roundabout 17 19 Ali Kadhim Saed Malkiya 15 8 pm – 15/12/2007  Arrested in Malkiya, roundabout 17 20 Ibrahim Abdullah Maki Dalal Karrana  21 Mahmood Dar Kulaib 22 Sayed Ali Mohammed Saed Mohammed Sihla 21 9 pm – 17/12/2007 International Hospital 23 Mohammed Al-Tattan Jidhafs 4 am – 24/12/2007 24 Ghasan Ali Bu Madan Bu-Quwa/Sihla 18 17/12/2007  Arrested in Daih – International Hospital  He was not participating, but only passing by – Budayea Station 25 Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna Sanabes 35 26 Mohammed Maki Tareef Sanabes 27 Hussein Shaker Mohammed Fardan Shaker Bani Jamra 35 11:30 pm – 22/12/2007  Arrested at his house 28 Hussein Jaffar Tareef Sanabes 20 23/12/2007  Arrested at his house after breaking and destroying 29 Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh Isa Town 31 5 pm – 21/12/2007  Member in the committee of the unemployed people  Arrested at his house and had his computer (laptop) confiscated  Criminal Investigations - Adliya 30 Salman Abdul Adhim Salman Shakoora 22 17/12/2007- demonstration Sanabes  They asked about him in the central station and they told him he was not there 31 Ahmad AbdulHadi Ahmad Mahdi Salman Mugshae 17  Detained – his family asked about him in the investigations and the station but without any trace, he was found in the police station and was arrested because of the incidents 32 Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali Daih 28 11:30 pm – 23/12/2007  Member in the committee of unemployed people  They took the computers that were at his house  He was arrested in front of his mother, wife and daughter 33 Abdullah Saleh Isa Town 34 Majid Salman Ibrahim Abdullah Al-Haddad Daih/Jedhafs 22 2 pm – 22/12/2007  His house was blockaded  Place of arrest: Sar roundabout 35 Sadiq Maki Jidhafs 36 Mohammed Saed Abdul-Aziz Jannosan 21/12/2007 Place of arrest: Al-Sadiq Mosque 37 Hussein Abbas Hussein Mansoor Hajjar 29 17/12/2007 38 Hasan Mansoor  Khamis Station 39 Saleh Mahdi Salman Demestan 31 40 Mohammed Hasan Yousif Demestan 35 41 Ahmad Saeed Ahmad Demestan 18

23 Dec, 2007

JOINT URGENT APPEAL: Arrest of Human Rights Activists from their Residence

Reports of Wide Arrests and Excessive Use of Force by Special Security Forces Friday 21st December, 2007

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) are highly concerned for the wellbeing of three activists. It is confirmed that today morning Friday the 21st of December, 2007, Special Security Forces (SSF) headed by security officers in civilian clothes have broken into the residences of the three activists arresting them and confiscating their information files and CD’s. The armed security officers did not permit the arrestees or the women residing in the houses to change their clothes. Until this moment their families could not get any information concerning their whereabouts. The three activists are: 1. Najji Ali Fateel, 32 years, active member of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) 2. Maytham Al-Tamar, 33 years, active member of the Unemployment Committee 3. Abdulla Mohsen, 27 years, Political Activist Other activists have also reportedly been arrested, of them: 1. Osama Ahmed Rabea, 29 years, Political Activist 2. Mohammed Al-Singais, 35 years, Political Activist and Head of the Committee to Combat Inflation in Bahrain 3. Shaker Mohammed Al-Hamali, member of the Unemployment Committee According to Maytham Al-tamar’s brother Hani, SSF’s forced their way into the residence of Maytham father house, arrested Maytham and seized several computers. Najji Fateels wife informed the BCHR that a similar manner was used in his arrest at around 9am this morning. Mohammed Al-Singais’s sister informed the BCHR that SSF’s broke into his house this morning, ransacked the house but made no arrests as he was not at home. Later at approximately 2:15 PM SSF’s forced their way into his father’s house where the family had gathered for lunch, lined the men up by the wall at gunpoint and arrested Mohammed. The activist Najji Ali Fateel, worked closely with the BCHR and the BYSHR in the collection and documentation of arrests and assaults in the previous three years. Since the beginning of the unrest, his name and mobile number were published in internet forums and community places as a contact person for relatives to submit information to. The BCHR and the BYSHR would be grieved to find that this was an indirect attempt by the Special Security officers to crack down on activists related to the Centre, in order to cut down the information received on violations, by neutralizing activists who provide reliable information. Background Information: This comes after Riot police as well as heavily armed masked officers in civilian clothes blockaded several villages following some skirmishes which took place between some demonstrators and riot police at the end the 3rd day Vigil of Ali Jassim Makki, 32 years, Jidhafs who died, according to reports, as a result of riot polices excessive use of force during a demonstration which took place on Monday the 17th of December, 2007. The demonstration is an annual commemoration of Bahraini Citizens who were killed through excessive use of force and torture during the period of political unrest in Bahrain. The BCHR and the BYSHR calls on all Organizations and Societies working towards the protection of Rights activists to do all that is in their power and within their means to secure:

1. The unconditional release of the activists 2. Guarantees from the Bahraini authorities that the activists are not subjected to any sort of harassment or human rights violations during interrogation and detention. 3. The halt of these barbaric and overly exaggerated armed arrests which are done with little or no sensitivity towards the privacy of the activists or their family. 4. The protection of other Human and Civil Rights activists in Bahrain who we fear may be arrested as a result of the recent chain of arrests and crackdown.

23 Dec, 2007

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact :

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

OMCT : Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39

11 Dec, 2007

Postal union activist suspended from job over media statement

10 December 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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

8 Dec, 2007

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

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

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

Political Background and Main Concerns:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Failure of the National Assembly to Promote Human Rights

Restrictive Laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women Rights and Female Migrant Domestic Workers

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

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

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

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

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

Arbitrary Detention and Unfair Trials

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

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

The BCHR: An Intensive Case Study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Issues and References:

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

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

4 Dec, 2007

BCHR: Bahraini Human Rights Defender at Risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 Nov, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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

17 Nov, 2007

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

Enhancing social protection of Bangladeshi migrants Dhaka, Bangladesh Nabeel Rajab

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

Section 1: The Situation

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

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

What are the problems faced ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section Two: Violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section Three: Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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