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Ahead of elections: Bahrain govt threatens website owners with prosecution

Website of opposition political party among 8 new sites ordered to be blocked Govt attempts to cover up election rigging scandal BCHR calls on bloggers to highlight Bandargate

Bahrain Center for Human Rights November 2, 2006 Ref: 06110200

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns recent threats by the Ministry of Information to prosecute website owners for discussing the recent Bandargate scandal. The BCHR has also received a copy of a new decree from the ministry, dated October 30, 2006, ordering eight more websites to be blocked, bringing the total number of censored sites to 24 (click here to view the decree). Among the blocked sites are the websites of the BCHR (bahrainrights.org), the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (hrinfo.net), and the website of the National Democratic Action Society (aldemokrati.org), a popular opposition political party.

(See the full list of blocked sites here, and previous press releases about to the recent Internet censorship: BCHR Ref: 06103001 and Ref: 06102600).

Hassan Oun, director of press and publications at the information ministry, wrote in a statement published in the press on November 1:

"The information ministry has decided to close a number of Bahraini and foreign websites ... These sites transgressed a legal decision prohibiting the discussion of the case of the accused Salah Al Bander ... The information ministry will refer the owners of these sites to the judges for not cooperating and complying with the law." [1]

Attempts to cover up election scandal

The statement from the ministry refers to the case of Salah Al-Bandar, which has come to be known as the 'Bandargate scandal' [2]. In early September 2006, Dr Salah Al-Bandar, an advisor to the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, distributed a 240-page report alleging a conspiracy led by certain government officials to marginalize the majority Shia community and rig the parliamentary elections due to be held on November 25. Dr Al-Bandar was subsequently arrested, questioned for two hours, and put on a plane to the United Kingdom, as he is a British citizen. He was later charged (in absentia) with seizing government papers and stealing two private cheques. On October 4, the High Criminal Court issued a gag order banning the publishing of any news, comments or information related to the case against Salah Al Bandar (see BCHR Ref: 06100500).

As of yet, none of the alleged government conspirators identified in the Bandargate report have been charged or suspended from office, and the government has refused to comment on the allegations.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is highly skeptical of the justification for the gag order, as the case against Dr Al-Bandar is to be decided by a judge, and not a citizen's jury. Rather, the BCHR perceives this as a possible attempt by the government to hide the details of the Bandargate scandal, as it may damage the credibility of the elections due to be held three weeks from now. That the government is now threatening to even prosecute website owners who discuss the scandal only further strenghtens this suspicion.

Call for bloggers to highlight Bandargate, and for govt to end net censorship

The BCHR is deeply concerned about the expanding restrictions on freedom of expression in Bahrain, so close to the upcoming parliamentary elections. We reiterate that the right to freely communicate via the Internet is demanded by Article 23 of the Constitution of Bahrain and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We therefore repeat our demand for the government to immediately end its policy of censoring the Internet for political purposes.

The BCHR additionally calls on bloggers and website owners in Bahrain and around the world to continue highlighting the details of the Bandargate scandal until the government reasonably addresses the allegations. While the local press has completely acquiesced to the gag order, the Internet serves as the only remaining medium through which the government can be prevented from covering up the scandal. We recommend that bloggers refer to the 'Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents', issued by Reporters Sans Frontières, for guidelines of how to blog anonymously and the ethical standards one should adhere to.

Notes

[1] Bahrain blocks websites for violating reporting ban, Reuters, November 1, 2006. See also: Banned 'blogs' face legal action, Gulf Daily News, October 31, 2006 and Bahrain clamps down on talks of 'spy' allegations, AFP, October 31, 2006.

[2] A collection of press releases and news articles related to the Bandargate scandal can be found here.

Onslaught on freedom of expression in Bahrain continues

Seven more websites blocked, including Bahrain's most prominent blog

Bahrain Center for Human Rights October 30, 2006 Ref: 06103001

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has received information that seven more websites have been blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Bahrain today, on specific orders from the Ministry of Information. The BCHR condemns the government's continued attacks on Internet communication, as this move comes only days after the BCHR's own website was blocked.

The BCHR was provided with a leaked copy of the decree, signed by information minister Mohammed Abdulghaffar and dated October 29, 2006, in which seven websites were ordered to be blocked (to view the document, click here). Among the newly blocked sites is "Mahmood's Den" (mahmood.tv), one of Bahrain's most prominent weblogs, run by Bahraini Mahmood Al-Yousif. Mr Al-Yousif has openly criticized certain members of government and parliament in the past on his blog, and in recent days has highlighted the Bandargate scandal which the government has sought to ban discussion of by issuing a press gag (see BCHR Ref: 06100500).

The latest action is a continuation of the government's long-standing policy of Internet censorship and violations against freedom of speech in general:

  • Just four days ago, the BCHR's own website was blocked (see BCHR Ref: 06102600)
  • In August 2006 Google Video and and Google Earth were blocked (see BCHR Ref: 08080600 and BCHR Ref: 12080600)
  • In February 2005, three moderators of Bahrain Online (bahrainonline.org), a popular online discussion forum, were detained because of messages posted on the site that were critical of the government.
  • There are now a total of 17 websites blocked by the government, some of which have been censored since before 2001 (for the full list, see here)

The BCHR is especially concerned about the timing of the recent government attempts to restrict freedom of speech, as they come less than a month before the scheduled date of parliamentary elections in the country. The BCHR believes it is essential that the elections take place in an environment of transparency and free expression in order for them to be considered free and fair.

The BCHR reiterates its demands for the government to unblock all of the currently blocked websites, and take steps to ensure the freedom of Internet communication, as guaranteed in Article 23 of the Constitution of Bahrain and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also call upon civil society, NGOs and the media to take up the cause in demanding an end to Internet censorship.

BCHR website blocked by Bahrain government ahead of elections

Bahrain Center for Human Rights October 26, 2006

Ref: 06102600

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has learned today that its website (bahrainrights.org) has been blocked by Batelco, Bahrain's main internet service provider (ISP). The BCHR is especially concerned that this latest move may be part of an attempt to stifle criticism of the government ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, due to be held in less than a month's time. The Center demands that the website be unblocked and renews its calls for the government to end its long-standing practice of censoring the Internet for political reasons.

The BCHR has reason to believe that the move is an attempt by the government to prevent discussion or awareness of the recent Bandargate scandal, in which several government officials have been accused of forming sectarianism and planning to unfairly influence the upcoming parliamentary elections. Following the revelations of the scandal, the higher criminal court issued a press gag on all information, news or comments surrounding the issue (see BCHR Ref: 06100500) and the government has refused to make any comment on the allegations (see BCHR Ref: 06101300). In the following week, a number of activists and journalists who had been highlighting the Bandargate scandal received anonymous phone threats to cease their activities (see BCHR Ref: 06101201). Despite the press gag and the threats, the BCHR continued to highlight the issue, so this may be one of the reasons for the government's decision to block the website.

In addition to the BCHR's site, it should be noted that at least eight other Bahraini news and discussion websites are already blocked by Batelco (for the full list, see here). This latest move comes less than three months after the government attempted to block the Google Earth and Google Video services (for details, see BCHR Ref: 08080600 and BCHR Ref: 12080600). Also, in February 2005, three moderators of Bahrain Online (bahrainonline.org), a popular online discussion forum, were detained because of messages posted on the site that were critical of the government.

The BCHR recalls that Article 23 of the Constitution of Bahrain and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the right to receive and impart electronic information without hindrance. These obligations should be all the more apparent to the government, as Bahrain currently sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council. We therefore call upon the government to:

  • Immediately unblock the BCHR website, as well as all other blocked sites, and permanently end its practice of censoring the Internet.
  • Lift the press gag on the Bandargate scandal, and guarantee the freedom of speech on all issues ahead of the upcoming elections.
  • Launch a transparent investigation into the allegations of the Bandargate scandal, and punish all officials who are found to be guilty. (For detailed recommendations see BCHR Ref: 06101300)

BCHR:Another worrying development in the Guantanamo

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights expresses its concern over recent moves by the US government to limit contact between those individuals unlawfully held at Guantanamo Bay, and their American lawyers.” We are aware that the United States government is trying to pass some rules that will limit the number of times lawyers can visit the detainees, restrict the topics that they can discuss in meetings and put limits on the information the detainees and their lawyers can share," BCHR Vic-president Nabeel Rajab said. "This is yet another worrying development in the Guantanamo issue. "The contact these lawyers have with the Bahraini detainees Juma Al Dosari and Isa Al Murbati is the only way we - and their families - can know what is happening to them. "I am also sure it is an important way of giving them hope, that after five years of being held without trial there is still a chance that they will be dealt with in a just way,” he added. "We really urge the Bahraini government to continue with the positive steps taken for the return of Salah Al Bloushi, and push for the release of Juma and Isa."

Grave allegations of a hate-attack against a migrant worker confirms BCHR's worries in the aftermath of illegal naturalization

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights: Grave allegations of a hate-attack against a migrant worker confirms BCHR's worries in the aftermath of illegal and secret naturalization and systematic discrimination in Bahrain.

The BCHR is extremely concerned about information suggesting that an Indian barber in Bahrain has suffered a serious attack on his life for reasons that could be motivated by racial hatred or political reasons.

Mustafa Hamza, 30, told the Gulf Daily News that his five Bahraini attackers said he did not deserve a Bahraini passport and that Indians "should work here like dogs" during the attack in which he was slashed with a carpet knife. He also claimed that attacks on migrant workers are common in the Manama area where he was attacked and that Indian and Pakistani men are often "terrorized" by locals, including youth who throw stones at them.

The BCHR strongly condemns the horrific abuse of Mr Hamza and denounces the apparent hateful or political motivation for such a gruesome act."It is important that the relevant authorities realize the serious nature of this attack and work swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure that the victim receives redress," BCHR vice-president Nabeel Rajab said. The police handling of the case must also be free of discrimination, he said.

"The victim of this attack has said that incidents of abuse are common but "nobody bothers to complain because they don't expect results". "This shows a worrying attitude on behalf of the authorities, who do not seem to deal with, attacks on these poor workers effectively. It also casts a shadow of doubt on the way the Bahraini judiciary handles cases involving abused workers, and whether it can be relied on by those seeking justice." However, the authorities will have to work on the underlying reasons for this attack if such incidents are to be successfully prevented, Mr Rajab added.

"This incident confirms one of our worries over the Al Bandergate and other recent incidents. "Mr Hamza is first of all the victim of his attackers, and secondly a victim of seriously flawed government policies and actions which have given rise to racial and sectarian tensions. It is important to tackle this issue at its roots.

The reason many Bahrainis are angry about foreigners holding jobs is because they see others being brought to the country to do jobs while they are unable to find employment and often live in poverty .

The reason many Bahrainis are angry about foreigners being granted citizenship is because the process is shrouded in secrecy and appears to be part of a larger policy working to keep the Shia majority disenfranchised, and eventually make them a minority ."Although these contributing factors do not justify the attack on Mr. Hamza, it is important to understand the simmering tensions that motivated such a hateful attack," said Mr. Rajab. "These are genuine grievances and those who are suffering attack people who they see as representing these problems, even though it is not the workers' fault.

"The BCHR reiterates that violence is not the correct way to act because of real grievances - but we can say for certain that such attacks will not stop unless these government policies are dropped."

Recommendations:

  • The authorities immediately investigate this attack and bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Authorities take responsibility for Mr Hamza's safety and ensure that he is compensated for the time he has been unable to work because of his injuries and any treatment required.
  • Bahrain's top political leadership step forward and abandon practices such as illegal and politically motivated naturalization, and sectarian discrimination, and take measures to address people's real grievances.

BCHR:In the Context of "Al-Bandar Scandal": New measures to place NGO's Under governmental control

Bahrain, October 10, 2006

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is following with great concern continued measures by the Bahraini government to speedily and systematically tighten its control over local NGOs.

Today the Minister of Social Development will launch a center for "supporting NGOs" that will be run under the auspices of the Ministry [1].

The stated objectives of this center are to provide training, resources and expertise for NGOs (totaling more than 400 societies).

However, the BCHR is concerned that the Ministry's absolute management and supervision of this Center will allow it to fully control social and civil societies.

The unmitigated role of this Center will be in line with Society Act no. 21 of 1989 that, by large, is strangling the work of these societies.

It also grants the Ministry of Social Affairs significant authority that includes power over societies' registration and closure as well as direct intervention in internal affairs of the aforementioned societies.

In addition, the Ministry will also limit and constrain societies' freedom to conduct overseas activities and obtain financial resources without prior agreement.

Because of this, most societies that have legally registered suffer from organizational difficulties and inadequate financing.

For the aforementioned reasons, societies will be under the power of and at the mercy of the Center which is completely controlled by the Ministry, and dependent on financial resources derived from public funds and the private sector.

A UNDP spokesperson in Bahrain (which assisted the Social Development Ministry in establishing the Center) has maintained that it will be run "in accordance with International Standards".

However the UNDP did not reveal the methods of evaluating and monitoring the center in relation to:

  • full compliance and adherence to International Standards,
  • guaranteeing the neutrality and impartiality of the Center and that it will not be used by the Government as a tool to dominate and manipulate civil society organizations
  • misuse of the UN's name and accreditation should this Center adopt the UNDP name in order to gain legitimacy in spite of working against UN criterion and objectives.

The government initiative to establish this Center followed the formation of the Political Development Institute (PDI).

The PDI's prime objective was to wield power over political societies and members of the Consultative and Representatives Councils under the pretext of "building constructive skills, abilities and Abilities and Training Institute by appointing its members (all of whom are partisan to the Government) and also by connecting it with the government-appointed members of the (non-elected) Consultative Council.

On the other hand the government has prohibited other organizations with a similar role to the PDI from proceeding, including expelling the American National Democratic Institute (NDI) and obstructing a private institute intended to operate with the same role.

The "NGO Support Center" is launched in coincidence with and in connection to the Bandargate Scandal.

In the Al-Bandargate incident a British consultant employee at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs compiled documentary evidence revealing (among other things) a sectarian plan and a secret government web working to penetrate civil and social societies in order to control them.

The plan includes a role for the Political Development Institute - to wield power over independent societies that are fully non-governmental or else to create alternative ones.

The Al Bandargate documents describe the chairperson of the Bahrain Jurists Society - who is a leading member of the Political Development Institute - as playing an essential role in this plan and web.

Furthermore, the Minister of Social Development is currently in charge of societies' affairs has alleged connections with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose senior members are implicated in this web. The report's author has raised serious questions over and this group's role in the underground government web, and in Bahrain.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges:

  • a guarantee of independence for institutes that are financed with public funds in order to avoid governmental control over political and civil societies. This can only be obtained if the management of concerned institutes are appointed by societies themselves or by elected parliament members.
  • the Government to acknowledge the right of private and independent institutions to provide consultative and training support to political and civil society organizations.
  • the UNDP to undertake the supreme responsibility for monitoring and evaluating any governmental exploitation of societies, and to avoid granting legitimacy and support to institutions which do not act within International standards.
  • Political and Civil Societies to promptly campaign for their right to receive support and training. However, this support should not be tied to conditions which allow for Governmental manipulation and control.

A Petition From A Hundred Prominent Figures And Activists To The King Of Bahrain

Regarding the Claimed Sectarian Plan, the Secret Organization that is Running it, and the Role of the Royal Court and Sectarian Political Groups in Setting and Accomplishing that Plan

(Sent on 13 October 2006)

His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain,

We are addressing your Majesty to express the enormity of our shock regarding the dangerous sectarian plan and the existence of a secret organization that is running it, as was revealed by a report published by Dr. Salah Al Bandar, the Strategic Planning’s Chancellor at the Council of Ministers Affairs.

The significance of this case lies in the direct involvement of a high government official in this plan and in heading the secret organization that is operating it. This official is the Minister of State for the Affairs of Council of Ministers Sheikh Ahmad bin Atiyat Allah Al Khalifa. The same minister heads one of the most crucial departments in the country which is the Central Department of Information, as well as being the direct supervisor of the Civil Services Council which controls the country’s public sector and the fate of approximately 40 thousand employees. In addition, he occupies a position that is related to the most critical side of the political process which is the executive committee that supervises the elections. That is during a period of wide suspicions and worries of counterfeiting the desires of the participants in the coming elections.

As your majesty knows… a significant amount of documented information came in the 240 pages of payments that were estimated to be more than 2 million B.D were given to government employees, personalities in the local newspapers, members of the Council of Representative, parliament candidates, civil society associations, lawyers, bank employees, a Jordanian investigation team (consisting of 4 officers with a lieutenant colonel rank and an officer with a major rank) and a member of the Shura council.

Five of the main people in this secret organization work in the government and are paid inducements that are estimated to be 5000 B.D a month. These five leaders are in charge of financing election campaigns, supporting one of the new-established daily local newspapers with a sum of 100 thousand B.D, supporting the program of the sectarian transmission, intelligently supervising political activities, leading an Internet campaign to rouse sectarianism as well as distributing monthly inducements to a number of people.

The report also named four civil society associations involved in this plan (the Jurists’ Society, the “Bahrain First” Society, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, the Bahrain Political Society). A sum of 3000 B.D was set aside for a member of the current Council of Representatives from one of the Islamic blocs, 2000 B.D for one of the known parliament candidates and 3000 B.D for the society’s building.

Hence, the most crucial amongst the information that was revealed by the report is that which suggests an essential role of high officials in the Royal Court in vital parts of this plan. The secret plan included, in its most important articles, the manipulation of the demographic makeup of the country, by granting citizenship selectively, with the pretext of creating a sectarian balance and with the aim of weakening a certain sect of the society. And this is what has been going on; especially in the last few years and which has been raising increasing opposition and protest. While, we know that the regular naturalization decisions are not issued without the approval of the Royal Court, and the selective naturalization is not carried out without using the extraordinary authority which the law grants to your Majesty.

On the other hand, the information part of the sectarian plan appears in the Al Watan newspaper, which persisted in rising sectarian sedition. Al Watan is supervised and partially funded by the Under Secretary Assistant in the office of the Chief Director of the Royal Court. The report stated that the mentioned Under Secretary Assistant is related to the naturalization committee in the Royal Court. In addition, the information consultant of the Chief Director of the Royal Court is the supervisor of the information group in the secret organization, as well as being in charge of the affairs of the Chief Editor of the Al Watan newspaper.

The report also states the name of a an Egyptian journalist who works in the Royal Court at same time as being the field supervisor of the “Egyptian” information group which was formed by the secret organization, and a center was established for its activities. The “Egyptian” information group are 8 people who work for the Al Watan newspaper, the Ministry of Information, the Central Department of Information and for the “Centre of Public Opinion” which was also established by the same secret organization.

Furthermore, regarding the lands that were granted to participants in that dangerous secret organization, it is a regulation that they could not be granted without the Royal Court’s approval. As an example of these lands is the land in Al Seef district and whose price is estimated to be more than half a million B.D. which is registered under the name of the president of “Bahrain Awallan Society”, which was established as apart of the same plan.

Thus, the important question still lies without an answer: Who is putting all these large sums of money in the Kuwaiti Bayt-Al-Tamweel account, which is transferred to an account at the Al-Shamel Bahraini Bank, through which the plan and the secret organization is funded and the wages and bonuses are paid to executive officials? It is worth mentioning that Sheikh Ahmad bin Atyat-Allah, the minister accused of leading the secret organization, is the brother of Sheikh Mohammed bin Atyat-Allah Al Khalifa, the chief director of the Royal Court.

What makes the report create a lot of uproar is that the 5 main persons in the secret organization, and who are influential in the government and in the Royal Counrt, are amongst the persons who are adherent to the Islamic Brotherhood and Salafi organizations which gives the case a dangerous political and sectarian characteristic. According to the report, the right hand of the leader of the secret organization, who is the manager of the statistics department in the Central Department of Information and a member in the executive committee of the elections, does not hide his sympathy for the Al Eslah society and its political wing the Islamic Menbar.

As to the left hand of the leader of the secret organization, who is the General President of the Information Technology and the Vice-President of the Executive Committee of the elections, is known to be related to the same society. The report gives documented information that this person is directly responsible for the message campaign which spread widely few months ago in order to ruin the reputation of recognized religious men, activists, politicians, oppositions and human rights defenders. Yet, the third person who is in charge of the secret organization, who is the chancellor for information affairs of the chief director of the Royal Cour, is the former chief editor of Al Elslah (brotherhood) magazine.

While the fourth person in charge of the group, who is an employee in the Central Department of Information, is fully engaged in the activities of the Islamic Education Society as a manager of its projects and social affairs and it is supplementary to the Islamic Asalah Society (Salafist). He is incharge in the secret organization of the group that incites the Sunni sect against the Shi’a sect. Finally, the fifth person in charge in the network, the Under-Secretary of the Chief Director of the Royal Court, who supervises the project of the Al Watan newspaper, is strongly related to the Salafi movements in Bahrain and in the Arab Gulf states.

What rises great concerns is that the report, which is the source of the aforementioned information, had reached your Majesty and the prime minister since the beginning of the September 2006, and instead of starting a neutral interrogation in its contents and publicly questioning the persons involved and bringing them to justice, harsh measures were taken against the government chancellor who leaked the dangerous information by confiscating documents and information he had and deporting him instantly from the country on September 13th 2006.

We as citizens of this country, who belong to various classes, political drifts and sects, address this letter to your majesty appealing to you to give a public speech to the common citizens to answer all those dangerous queries and to announce what will be done in regards to that sectarian plan and secret organization that is implementing it. We fear that keeping quiet about that case and the people involved in it will destroy what is left of trust between the regime and the citizens and it will create hateful sectarian discord, and this is something that no loyal citizen of this country would wish for.

Yours Sincerely,

Signatories:

  1. Abdul-Hadi Marhoon - First Vice-President of the Representative Council
  2. Ali Jassim Rabi’a - A former parliamentarian - Board member of ‘Haq Movement’
  3. Zahraa Mohammed Muradi (Ms.) - Political activist
  4. Layla Khalil Dishti (Ms.) - Human rights activist
  5. Sheikh Isa Al-Jawdar - Board member of ‘Haq Movement’
  6. Jalal Fairouz - Board member - Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  7. Abdul-Nabi Salman - Member of the House of Representatives
  8. Hasan Ali Hasan Mushemea - Secretary-general of ‘Haq Movement’
  9. Jassim Hasan Abdul-Aal - Member of the House of Representatives
  10. Jawad Firouz Ghlum Firouz - Member of the Northern Municipality Council
  11. Abdul-Hadi Abdula Al-Khawaja - President- Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
  12. Abdul-Jalil Al-Sangais - Board member of ‘Haq Movement’
  13. Abdul-Aziz Hasan Abul - Political activist- Head of Constitution Coalition
  14. Ghada Yousif Jamsheer (Ms.) - President of the ‘Women Petition Committee’
  15. Mohammed Abdul-Nabi Al-Masqati - President of the ‘Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights’
  16. Nabeel Rajab - Vice-President of the ‘Bahrain Centre for Human Rights’
  17. Ahmad Sultan - Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
  18. Khalid Shehab - Independent Activist
  19. Mohammed Hajji Al-Shehabi - The Brotherhood National Society
  20. Redhwan Al-Mousawi - Board member - ‘Islamic Action Society’
  21. Jawad Al-Asfoor - The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
  22. Abbass Ahmad Al-Bahari - The Democratic Progressive Forum Society
  23. Abbass Busafwan - Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  24. Abdul-Amir Al-Laith - Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  25. Abdul-Nabi Al-Ukri - Bahrain Human Rights Society
  26. Ebrahim Kamal-Eddeen - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  27. Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Al-Naimi - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  28. Sheikh Hamza Ali Jassim - Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  29. Ali Nasser Al-Ghanami - Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  30. Jassim Abdullah Ashoor - Independent Activist
  31. Mohammed Ahmad - Independent Activist
  32. Ahmad Al-jad - Independent Activist
  33. Ali Saleh Abdulla - Independent Activist
  34. Mahmood Ebrahim - Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  35. Haytham Al-Shehabi - Independent Activist
  36. Sayed-Hadi Jawad Al-Aali - Board member of ‘Haq Movement’
  37. Sonya Taher (Ms.) - Head of the ‘Deprived of the Citizenship’ Committee
  38. Sayed-Jafar Sayed-Kadhem Al-Alawi - President of the ‘Islamic Resala Society’
  39. Abdulla Mohammed Janahi - Vice-President of the central committee in the National Democratic Action Society
  40. Sanad Mohammed Sanad - Member of the Consultative Panel of the National Democratic Forum Society
  41. Hasan Al-Aali - The National Democratic Forum Society
  42. Mahmood Hmaidan - The National Democratic Forum Society
  43. Abdul-Jalil Al-Nuaimi - The Democratic Progressive Forum Society
  44. Hasan Ali Ismaeel - The Democratic Progressive Forum Society
  45. Hafedh Ali Mohammed - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  46. Nawal Zubari (Ms.) - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  47. Fawzia Zenal (Ms.) - Transparency Society
  48. Najeeba Ahmad (Ms.) - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  49. Jafar Yousif Mohammed - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  50. Mohammed Al-Ahmad - Journalist
  51. Batool Al-Sayyed (Ms.) - Journalist
  52. Nada Al-Wadi (Ms.) - Reporter
  53. Malek Abdulla - Journalist
  54. Ismael Mohammed Ali - Independent Activist
  55. Mohammed Hasan Mohammed Jawad - Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  56. Yousif Al-Muharaqi - Independent Activist
  57. Amir Al-Shakhouri - The Democratic Progressive Forum Society
  58. Hajji Ebrahim Buhajji - Independent Activist
  59. Maki Mahdi Ayad - The Democratic Progressive Forum Society
  60. Abd Al-Aziz Ebrahim Fakhroo - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  61. Hasan Ahmad Mahmood - Independent Activist
  62. Ja’far Ebrahim Al-Wedaee - The Democratic Progressive Forum Society
  63. Mohammed Kadhem Abdul-Hussain Al-Shehabi - Columnist - political activist
  64. Hasan bin Hamad Al-Hadad - Human rights activist
  65. Hussaain Mohammed Hasan Jawad - Vice-President -‘Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights’
  66. Abd Al-Kareem Mohsen - Political activist
  67. Ahmad Amr-Allah Fath-Allah - Shura Council-Alwefaq National Islamic Society
  68. Ali Salem Al-Orayyedh - Head of Legal Committee- Public Liberties Society
  69. Nasser Mulla Hasan Zain - Journalist
  70. Jalal Abdul-Wahab Al- Orayyedh - Artist
  71. Fawzia Rabia (Ms.) - Head of “Partenership to Compat Violance Against Women”
  72. Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Khalifa - Physician
  73. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi - Physician
  74. Abdulla Al-Durazi - Vice Secretary-General – Bahrain Society for Human Rights
  75. Sayed-Adnan Jalal Ahmad - Bahrain Society for Human Rights
  76. Resala Salman Ali (Ms.) - Member in the ‘Public Liberties Society’
  77. Rasha Ali Al- Kooheji - Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
  78. Mohammed Jafar Hasan Al-Mutawa - Lawyer- Bahrain Society for Human Rights
  79. Abdulla Rashed Mutaiwea - Public relations employee
  80. Khalil Ahmad - Independent Activist
  81. Mohammed Jassim Isa Al-Durazi - Engineer- Independent Activist
  82. Jafar Saad Hasan - Businessman
  83. Adnan Ebrahim Maaraj - Retired employee
  84. Ramla Jawad - Human Rights activist
  85. Sayed-Hussain Hashem Ahmed - Trade-unionist
  86. Zaynab Abdunabi Hassan Jassim - Journalist
  87. Muhsen Al-Muqdad - The Committee for Victims of Torture
  88. Abdul-Ghani Khanger - The Committee for Victims of Torture
  89. Fatma Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja - Human rights activist
  90. Sabika Ali Abdula Al-Bin-ali - Women Petition Committee
  91. Khulood Abdulla Jamsheer - Women Petition Committee
  92. Suaad Fath-Allah Mohammed Ahmad - Women Petition Committee
  93. Salwa Buchiri - Women Petition Committee
  94. Elham Al-Ansari - Activist
  95. Maheen Ahmad Nadhar Mohammed - Women Petition Committee
  96. Mohammed Abbas Al-Shaikh - Member of the House of Representatives
  97. Abbas Abdul Azeez Nasser - Haq Movement
  98. Zaynab Al-Durazi - National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
  99. Shaikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad - Clergyman
  100. Shaikh Mirza Al-Mahroos - Clergyman
  101. Shaikh Hani Al-Muqdad – Clergyman

BCHR: Concern over the lack of an official response to Al Bandergate

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

October 13, 2006 Ref: 06101300

A devastating report leaked last month alleged that a secret organisation led by a senior government official is working to ensure that Bahraini Shias remain disenfranchised and unrepresented in government, and to maintain sectarian mistrust.

The report contained around 200 pages of purported evidence, including cheques (which have been confirmed as authentic), receipts, bills, expense breakdown charts, and letters. (For details about the report, see: "Al Bander-Gate": A Political Scandal In Bahrain)

Today, one month after the man who compiled the report was hastily deported, and just under six weeks before the elections, there has still been no word or action from the government.

While the subject has dominated the media (until it was censored, see: Bahraini Higher Criminal Court: Banning Publication of News or Information Related to the “Bandar-Gate” Scandal), discussion among civil societies and the Bahraini public, the only response from the authorities has been a continuing silence.

Officials implicated in the report continue to hold their positions of authority, and continue to be a part of the electoral process.

The BCHR is concerned at the evidence suggesting the practice of systematic sectarian discrimination in Bahrain.

This has been investigated in our 2005 report on discrimination, and appears to have been proven by the Al Bander report.

The BCHR is concerned with the lack of a response from the authorities to questions raised by the Bahraini people. This has the effect of undermining national unity, which could lead to a loss of faith in the electoral process and reform programme as a whole.

"The lack of response from the authorities to very serious allegations - which seem to prove that a policy of systematic sectarian discrimination is practiced in Bahrain - raises grave concerns about how far back the chain of command for this operation goes," BCHR vice-president Nabeel Rajab said.

"It also raises fears that these policies could in fact be sanctioned at the highest level of government.

"It is important that the authorities take swift and decisive measures to answer questions raised by the Al Bander report, and to investigate the allegations contained within it.

"It is only by doing this that this incident will be prevented from becoming yet another grave setback undermining the spirit and promises of the national reform programme since its launch in 2001." Measures are also needed to win back people's trust in the reform and elections process, he added.

Recommendations to deal with Al Bander report:

  • A committee consisting of credible members of Parliament, human rights workers, activists and political societies' members should be formed to investigate the findings of the Al Bander report.
  • All officials implicated in the report should be temporarily removed from their positions of authority and from their involvement in the elections, pending the duration of the investigation.

Further recommendations to make amends to the damaged trust between people and government, and to convince people of the genuine nature of the reforms:

  • Put the constitution into action by creating a law that criminalises the practices and policies of discrimination.
  • Heed calls made by Bahrain's public for a number of years, and redraw electoral voting districts to ensure fairer representation of people at the polls.
  • Heed calls made by local and International activists and suspend restrictive laws including the gatherings code and anti-terror bill ratified this year.
  • Heed calls made by local political societies and open up the political arena to further public participation by creating a law for political parties, since the law for political societies is restrictive in this regard.
  • Answer peoples' questions regarding allegations of a politically-motivated naturalisation process, put an end to this practice, and ensure that the naturalisation process is carried out in a transparent and fair manner.
  • Revoke the gag placed upon media outlets in the country over the Al Bander report, which undermines freedom of speech in the country as guaranteed in the constitution and suggests the authorities' lack of trust in the media to play its role in Bahrain's democratic process by providing accurate and important information.

BCHR: Activists and journalist receive threats for highlighting Bandargate scandal

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

October 12, 2006 Ref: 06101201

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is distressed upon receiving information that a number of journalists and human rights activists who have been highlighting the recent Bandargate scandal have been threatened with violence if they do not cease their activities.

Mohammed Al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, received an anonymous call on his mobile phone on October 11. The caller told Mr. Al-Maskati to stop issuing statements about the Bandargate scandal, or else he will face bad consequences. The caller told Mr. Al-Maskati to pass on the threat to other human rights activists working on the issue, including BCHR vice-president Nabeel Rajab and Hussain Jawad, vice-president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. It is worth mentioning that a few weeks ago, a falsified version of the Al Bandar Report was anonymously distributed to local newspaper offices, which attempted to implicate Mr. Al-Maskati, Mr. Nabeel Rajab and Mr. Hussain Jawad in the scandal [1]. (Dr Salah Al-Bandar, the author of the original report, dismissed the falsified report [2]).

On October 9, Mr. Hussain Mansoor, reporter for the Al-Meethaq daily Arabic newspaper and Mohamed Al-Othman columnist from Al-Wasat newspaper received a similar anonymous call to their mobile phone threatening them with the same if he does not stop publishing reports about the Bandargate scandal.

Also on October 6, Ghada Jamsheer, a prominent women's rights activist and head of the Women's Petition Committee, received a similar anonymous call and was told to stop issuing statements about the scandal .

It should be noted that these threats coincide with a recent court order prohibiting the publication of information related to the Bandargate scandal, despite pleas by civil societies and the local Press to reconsider the decision [4].

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the recent threats, as in the past, several other human rights activists who have received similar anonymous phone threats have subsequently been targeted and beaten by security forces. Among them are Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab of the BCHR, and trade unionist Abbas al Omran, who were attacked by the paramilitary police in July 2005 at the scene of a planned demonstration [5]. Also related is the case of Musa Abd-Ali, an activist for the Committee for the Unemployed, who was beaten and sexually abused by masked men outside his home in November 2005, and told to cease his activities with the Committee [6].

In light of these facts, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights considers the threats against the mentioned activists and journalists very seriously. The BCHR calls on the government authorities to immediately investigate the origin of the threats and prosecute the individuals involved. The BCHR also urges the government and courts to rescind the recent Press gag on the Bandargate scandal, as it violates the people's right to information as stipulated in the International Human Rights Conventions.

Background

The Bandargate scandal centers around a 200-page report published by the Gulf Centre for Democratic Development, and authored by Dr Salah Al-Bandar, a Briton working as a consultant to the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs in Bahrain. The report documented a secret organization within the Bahrain goverment that was allegedly attempting to foment sectarianism and unfairly influence the upcoming elections. The organization is allegedly headed and financed by Shaikh Ahmed bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa, chief of the Central Informatics Organization. Following the dissemination of the report, Dr Al-Bandar was forcibly deported to the United Kingdom by the Bahrain authorities. For more details see the BCHR report: "Al Bander-Gate": A Political Scandal In Bahrain.

Notes

[1] Human Rights Associations plays Suspicious Roles in Handling National Issues, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, 27 September 2006

[2] Row over 'fake' Bandargate report, Gulf Daily News, 25 September 2006

[3] "Al Bander-Gate": A Political Scandal In Bahrain, BCHR, September 2006 and "Bandar-Gate" and the Dangerous Role Played by Some Human Rights Societies and its Relation to the secret organization , 10 October 2006

[4] Bahraini Higher Criminal Court: Banning Publication of News or Information Related to the "Bandar-Gate" Scandal, BCHR, 5 October 2006 and Societies call to lift Press gag, Gulf Daily News, 9 October 2006

[5] Investigate Police Beatings- Attack Follows Decrees Closing Political Society, Independent Rights Center, Human Rights Watch, 22 July 2005 and Use of force against demonstrators, Amnesty International, 19 July 2005

[6] Violations against a human rights defender, BCHR, 4 February 2006

“Bandar-Gate” and the Dangerous Role Played by Some Human Rights Societies and its Relation to the secret organization

A Statement by Bahraini Human Rights Activists

Regarding the “Bandar-Gate” Scandal and the Dangerous Role Played by Some Human Rights Societies and its Relation to the Secret Governmental secret organization

We the undersigned – Bahraini Human Rights Activists and defenders – express our deep concern on what was included in the report made by Dr. Salah Al-Bandar, the Strategic Planning’s Chancellor of the Bahraini government; a British citizen of Sudanese origin. Dr Al-Bandar was dismissed and arrested and lately forced to depart from the country because of the report he compiled. The Al-Bandar report discussed the existence of a dangerous secret organization within the government headed by a member of the royal family, the Minister of State of Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Ahmad bin Ateyatalla Al Khalifa.

The goal of this secret organization is eliminating and marginalizing Shias, weakening them in elections and steering them to sectarian clash with the Sunni sect. As well as ruining the reputation of political activists, oppositions figures and independent human rights activists. It also aims at ruining the electoral process and creating false civil society institutions or penetrating the already existing and independent ones.

According to the mentioned report, high governmental panels, members from the Municipal and Representative Council, politicians, news reporters, a Jordanian intelligence team, an Egyptian media group and Human rights activists or societies, have all contributed in this organization. A large sum of money estimated to be millions of dollars was dedicated for achieving this project.

What raises our concerns is the mention of two human rights societies in this report which is supported by documents, copies of cheques, bank statements, receipts and some letters related to carrying out this secret dangerous plan. Among the societies that were mentioned in the report is the “Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society” which is headed by Mrs. Huda Azra Nono but actually run by the member of government appointed Al-Shura Council Mr. Faisal Foulad with the help of Mrs. Ahdiya Ahmad, who recently was appointed as an official spokesperson for the 2006 elections as well as Tareq Jalil Al-Safar. The Bahrain Jurists’ Society was also mentioned and which is headed by the lawyer Mr. Yousif Hashemi, a member of the Bahrain Institute for Political Development with the help of the lawyer Mrs. Massoma Abdul-Kareem, the legal affairs chancellor at the Prime Ministers Cabinet Council and 2006 election committee vice president . The report indicated that these two societies have received money from governmental panels in order to weaken and ruin the reputation of the Bahraini human rights organizations and activists working in the human rights field through the participation in national and international conferences and forums dedicated for human rights. Mr. Faisal Foulad, one of the main members in this organization opened an office for his society in London.

The documents that were leaked by Dr. Al-Bandar indicated that this society received large sums of money and conspired to weaken “The Parallel Conference for the Forum of the Future”. The “Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society” repetitively clashed with non-governmental human rights panels and organizations, through issuing false reports and sending them to international organizations in order to ruin the reputation of the independent Bahraini human rights panels in those regional and international quarters, as well as spying on their work outside Bahrain.

In addition, the representative of the society Mr. Faisal Foulad was dismissed from the meeting which was held at the UN Anti-Torture Committee in Geneva with Bahraini human rights organizations, after suspecting his role in spying on the human rights organization and activists and handing the information over to the government.

We the undersigned, would like to bring to your attention the seriousness of dealing with members of this secret organization or departments working in it, such as the “Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society” and the “Bahrain Jurists’ Society”, as these societies played their role in ruining the function and reputation of civil society institutes in Bahrain via governmental funding.

The report can be downloaded from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights’ (BCHR) website: www.bahrainrights.org/node/528

The Undersigned:

  1. Mohammed Al-Masqati – President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
  2. Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja – President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
  3. Nabeel Rajab – Vice-President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
  4. Fawzia Rabea – Coordinator of the Civil Association for Anti-Violence against Women
  5. Dhiya Al-Layth – Liberties Society and Promoting Bahraini Democracy
  6. Abd Al-Nabi Al-Ukri – Bahrain Organization for Human Rights
  7. Nasser Alber Destani – Bahraini Alliance for the Criminal Court
  8. Sonya Taher – Coordinator of the “Deprived from the Bahraini Citizenship” Committee
  9. Ghada Jamsheer – President of the Women Petition Committee
  10. Raoof Al-Shayeb – National Committee of Torture Victims
  11. Abduljalil Alsingace - Human Rights Activist
  12. Ramla Jawad - Human Rights Activist