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Political Naturalization in Bahrain: Various Violations of Citizens and Foreign Workers Rights

Political Naturalization in Bahrain:

Various Violations of Citizens and Foreign Workers Rights

Causes of Worry, Categorizing the Naturalized and General Recommendations September, 2006

REF: 06090302

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned in regards to the progression of the political naturalization. Members of the Representative Council revealed that the authorities might have granted extraordinary citizenships to almost 10 thousand residents, both Asians and Arabs. This number is added to approximately 30 thousand who might have been extraordinarily granted citizenship during the last 10 years[1]. It is also believed that there are political motives behind the extraordinary naturalization campaigns and especially that they are not carried out openly and are based on racial and sectarian basis, and their timing might be related to the elections which will take place in Bahrain in a few months time.

The BCHR's causes of worry are listed in the following matters:

Discrimination and inequality: Naturalization is carried out selectively based on tribal or sectarian origin and not based on the equal right of foreigners in getting the citizenship. [2] Article (6) of the Bahraini citizenship law of 1963 permits granting citizenship with conditions; among them is that the applicant must have residing in Bahrain for 15 years if the applicant is an Arab and 25 years for non-Arabs. However, the basic drawback is in the way the law is enforced: the law does not impose on the authorities to grant the citizenship automatically to those that the law is applicable to, which gives a free scope to discrimination and favouritism in granting the citizenship based on unwritten laws and according to the authority?s tendency and mood, a major problem considering the lack of transparency and accountability.

Abuse of power that is granted exceptionally: A large percent of those that have been granted the citizenship have not fulfilled the regular legal requisites, especially the period of residence, therefore they are granted the citizenship by using an extraordinary authority which the law grants to the king in granting citizenship.

Manipulating the law and the procedures: While many applications that fulfil the requirements were frozen for many years claiming that the requester was not able to prove cancelling his/her original citizenship, in the political naturalization that procedure is either overstepped or by-passed. In addition, the laws of the countries of origin are violated since they do not permit dual?citizenship like India and Saudi Arabia. Whilst the governments of some of those countries overlook the fact that their citizens have obtained the Bahraini citizenship, the naturalized Syrians for example tackle paying fines to their country?s authorities for not carrying out the military service.

Falsifying information: In order to issue a citizenship and identity documents for the naturalized who do not originally live in Bahrain, for example like the Saudi Arabians, or to register those naturalized in certain areas for electoral purposes, the authority?s employees enter fake addresses by confirming addresses in uninhabited areas such as Hawar Islands or by using addresses of houses that are inhabited by other people.

Deprivation of citizenship: Although the citizenship is granted extraordinarily to ones who have not fulfilled the criteria of residence and who already hold citizenships of their original countries, hundreds of people who are entitled to it are deprived from it either due to their ethnic origin or their sectarian background even though they do not have any other citizenship[3]. There still are hundreds of families who suffer from psychological, economic and social effects resulting from deprivation of citizenship, though all the required criteria for citizenship were met. The majority of these families are from Persian origins from both the Sunni and Shi'a sect. Article 15 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that "everyone has the right to a nationality". Moreover, children who come from a Bahraini mother are deprived from the Bahraini citizenship because of their father's different nationality, although Bahrain is a member in The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which states in article 9 that "state parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children." The case of Al-Satrawi's family emerges as an outrageous example of depriving Bahraini families of their right to citizenship and dispersing them as refugees in different countries[4].

Violating economic and social rights of citizens and foreign workers: Bahrain suffers from an escalating unemployment rate, low wages and a housing shortage. A large percent of citizens and foreigners suffer from this dilemma[5]. The government, instead of making economic reforms that include organizing foreign workers? import and improving the status of wages and work circumstances for citizens and foreigners in general, the authority, and for political purposes, turns towards settling foreigners in large numbers which adds to the deterioration of living standards and residential conditions as well as increasing social problems. Naturalizing foreign workers does not necessarily mean guaranteeing their rights and improving their living standards, it rather robs them from some privileges such as residential and emigration allowances. The Bahraini authorities refrain from joining the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and justifies this by claiming that settling foreigners jeopardizes the demographic makeup in Bahrain, however we find that the government is currently granting citizenship extraordinarily to a large number of them, based on political purposes and benefits that will be reaped.

Violating political rights: manipulating elections to reinforce supremacy and tyranny: The timing of the naturalization's process, its degree and the way the beneficiary are chosen, affects the elections directly, which prejudices the rights of the people and raises racial and sectarian discord and that is to the advantage of the authority?s dominance over the state?s institutions. The wide-ranging naturalization process that the authority is performing is associated with changing the law that is related to political rights, so as to granting the naturalized the right to nominate and elect instantly instead of waiting 10 years.

Using the foreigners as mercenaries and granting them privileges[6]: The government recruits workers from other countries of a certain ethnic and sectarian background to work in security and military apparatuses. The government favours them over regular citizens in work privileges and services, and uses them in suppression apparatuses, like the Special Security Force, which is widely accused of using excessive force against citizens in peaceful gatherings. It also provides them with closed residence compounds and extraordinarily grants them citizenships in large numbers.

Arising racial and sectarian tension and hatred towards foreigners (xenophobia): Due to racial and sectarian discrimination in granting the Bahraini citizenship, and the political and economic prejudice resulting from the authority's aforementioned policies, the way is paved for racial and sectarian tension on both the political and social level, which causes inflexibility and hatred towards foreigners in general, which does not exclude those who obtained the citizenship in a normal way.

Lack of transparency: Even though the authority denies the existence of selective naturalization for political aims, it refuses to reveal the number of people that have been naturalized, their identities and the countries they came from.

Lack of monitoring and accountability: The government prevented the Council of Representatives from investigating the naturalization policies and practices, and that was done through a decree it had issued which prevents the Council from questioning the government on matters preceding its formation. The representatives and political societies as well as institutions of the civil society are tentative and hesitant in discussing the political naturalization in a serious and sincere way as it might wrong the countries king?s actions, which exposes them to the authority?s resentment and perhaps severe legal pursuing.

Categorizing the naturalized:

In order to evaluate the naturalization case correctly, and in order to pose recommendations and suitable solutions, the naturalized have been categorized into 6 main types:

The first type: those who deserve the citizenship according to international human rights standards: They are the residents, who do not hold any other country's citizenship, and they meet the regular criteria like the period of residence or are born in Bahrain from a father that does not hold the citizenship. They are those that the International Law for Human Rights defends, as it is stated in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights as well as the international conventions that are related to it, that everyone has the right to a nationality. Considering that granting them the citizenship is in accordance with the Bahraini law, their right to a nationality should be secured from both the legal and humane aspects. The Bahraini law should be changed to be proportional with the international commitments in regards to granting citizenship to Bahraini mother's children.

The second type: those who deserve the citizenship by meeting the criteria of the national local law: They are those who hold the citizenship of another country and who came normally to the country to work, and who meet the basic regular criteria such as the period of residence. They, according to the country's law, have the right to request the citizenship. Even though they posses their original country's nationality, their obtained rights, that result from residing for a long period in a new country, qualifies them in getting a legal status and privileges that the natives of the country benefit from.

They have the right get a citizenship automatically as long as they meet the legal criteria. Abstaining from giving them the citizenship should be justified, according to clear standards that are not based on discrimination and the estimations of the authority's employees. In case there is a public policy in limiting the grant of citizenship for public benefit purposes, then that should be done by law and it should include standards and clear procedures that are not based on discrimination, along with asserting transparency.

The third type: residents who do not meet the regular criteria and are granted extraordinary citizenships: They are those who hold another country's citizenship and who came normally to the country to work, but they do not meet the regular basic criteria like the period of residence. The numbers of this type cases were limited in the past until it was disclosed that the authorities were granting them citizenships in large numbers which were estimated in this past August as 10 thousand. The sources say that this might be only the first group. The citizenship is not granted by equality basis, but by lists determined by the authority which perhaps are based on unpublicized specifications like the type of religious sect. Because their naturalization was based on ethnic and sectarian discrimination, and a clear abuse of the exceptional authority therefore, based on the principle: what is based on wrong is wrong; it is essential that their right to citizenship, and everything that resulted from it, gets reconsidered with securing their civil and humane rights as residents in the country.

The fourth type: those that were recruited by the governments from other countries based on the sectarian security policy, however they meet the legal criteria: The individuals of this type also hold the citizenship of their country of origin. Even though this type meets the regular criteria such as period of residence, they were brought into the country based on the sectarian recruiting policy in the security and military apparatuses according to certain racial and sectarian specifications. Their import and employment could be considered as a violation to the constitution which stipulates employing citizens in security and military departments, and they were used for implementing violations against human rights like torture and excessive use of force.

The fifth type: those that were brought into the country among the sectarian security policy, but without meeting the legal criteria: They are the same as the fourth type in regards to holding the citizenship of another country and coming to Bahrain among the sectarian employment policy in the security and military departments, but they do not meet the basic regular criteria such as period of residence. They definitely are not qualified for the Bahraini citizenship, hence, the permanent need for them should be reconsidered, and recruitment in security and military apparatuses should first be open to citizens far from racial and sectarian discrimination.

The sixth type: citizens of neighbouring countries who do not reside in Bahrain: They are citizens of neighbouring countries and share the same tribal origins as the ruling family and its allies. However they have never resided in Bahrain and their countries do not permit dual-citizenship. Moreover, their countries do not deal or implement the same way in granting citizenship to Bahrainis. They lack the residence criteria, and they do not belong to the country in respect to rights or civil, political and economic duties, as well as not having any relation to the society. There is no legal, social or humane reason to grant them the Bahraini citizenship and the rights that result from it.

Recommendations:

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) calls upon the concerned authorities and panels of human rights to intervene and prompt the following:

  • Disclosure and transparency: That the authority announces all information regarding naturalization, especially the number of naturalized individuals and their identities.
  • Permit publicized discussion, debate and finding solutions for this issue.
  • Carrying out administrative reforms in the departments that are related to granting the Bahraini citizenship and hold those in charge accountable of any violations.
  • Amending the naturalization law in a way that determines clearly the extraordinary naturalization criteria, and limits that authority so as to prevent its abuse, and achieves transparency by officially declaring the situations of granting the citizenship.
  • Putting solutions and reconsidering, within a humane enclosure, those that were granted the citizenship extraordinarily without meeting the normal criteria.
  • Implementing laws and procedures to stop any discrimination in granting citizenship and any favouritism towards the new naturalized in employment, accommodation or privileges.
  • Giving the priority to the citizens, without discriminating among them, in getting jobs or promotions in the army and security departments.
  • Giving priority in granting the extraordinary citizenship to those that are deprived of it, to the women who have Bahraini children and to the Bahraini women's children.
  • Hastening the procedures of granting the citizenship to those that are entitled to it, and issuing passports to Bahrainis that are deprived from it such as members of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawi extended family that are until now prevented from returning to Bahrain.

Notes:

[1] Refer to the attached report: "BCHR: Manipulation of Process and Results of the Coming Elections in Bahrain", August 1st, 2006

[2] Refer to the attached report: "Discrimination In Granting Citizenship In Bahrain", March 2004

[3] The 'Deprived of Citizenship Committee' keeps documented files of hundreds of people who are deprived form the citizenship despite their entitlement to it and their existence in Bahrain for decades.

[4] Refer to the attached: "The case of Al-Haj Saleh Al-Satrawi's family as an example of violating the law and the discrimination in granting the citizenship", January 22nd, 2004.

[5]For more statistics and details refer to the report: "Poverty and Economic Rights in Bahrain: Increasing crisis threaten the political and social stability", September 2004. Half of Bahraini Citizens are Suffering from Poverty and Poor Living Conditions

[6] The United Nations appointed a Special Rapportuer to study the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights, and which governments may use in facing threats by opposition groups. The International Organization has faced complications, amongst them when mercenaries are granted the citizenship with the purpose of not distinguishing him/her from the citizen.

BCHR: Freedom of Opinion under Attack in Bahrain

The Prime Minister Publicly Threatens Activists and Members of Parliament

September 3rd, 2006

REF: 06090301

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned by the threats made by the Bahraini Prime Minister against activists and members of parliament in relation to two main developments:

The disclosing of information by members of the Council of Representatives claiming that the authority is engaged in a campaign to extraordinarily grant the Bahraini nationality to 10 thousand non-Bahrainis in a step to further enforce demographic change and manipulate the coming municipal and parliamentary elections[1], and a campaign carried out last month in the United States and the United Kingdoms by the “HAQ” movement, during which the representatives of the movement submitted a petition to the office of the United Nation Secretary General, signed by 82,000 Bahrainis calling for a new constitution[2].

The prime minister, warned against “raising controversial issues which may drive wedges in the community and serve narrow personal interests”. "Democracy, openness and freedom of opinion should not be used as a pretext to violate the law, sow sectarian sedition, or falsify truths in international arenas, claiming internal liberties are curbed," .."Bahrain's opinion platforms are open in total tolerance to accommodate all stances and trends as long as they serve the national interests rather than personal designs," the Premier said. He also expressed his support for the parliamentary experience, which, he said, crowns the national project led by His Majesty King Hamad. However, he warned against misusing the parliament to raise controversial issues which could only smear the legislative lustre.[3]

Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, a powerful member of the ruling family, has been serving as Prime Minister even before the independence of Bahrain in 1971. He played a major role in dissolving the elected National Council and the semi-democratic life that took place during 1973-75. The government he was leading imposed absolute rule by assuming exclusivity of the judicial, executive and legislative powers, which led to vast human rights violations resulting in unrest and loss of lives specially in mid nineties.

During the period from 2001-2003 a reform project was declared by the new King during which Bahrain had witnessed a new era of freedoms and a decrease of human rights violations. However, in the past two years there has been a severe decline in respects to freedoms and human rights legislations and practices. The Prime Minister, holding office for a record 36 years, who is the uncle of the king, has played a major role in reinforcing old laws and manipulating the half-elected parliament to issue new restrictive laws. [4]

[1] Refer to BCHRs recent report on the issue: “The Political Naturalization in Bahrain: Various Violations of Citizens and Foreign Workers Rights- August 2006

[2] On the issue: IGA Hosts the Organizers of the Grassroots Constitutional Petition in Bahrain

[3] Gulf Daily News, Sep 3. 2006

[4] Refer to: Freedom House: Countries at the Crossroads 2006 - Bahrain report and other international reports

BCHR and Arab NGOs:It is time to freeze Israel's membership in the UN

Statement It is time to freeze Israel's membership in the UN

The undersigned Arab human rights organizations and centers salute the UN human rights council for its impartial analysis of the war crisis in Lebanon and its release of a statement condemning the Israeli crimes of war. We consider that this position is an important step to establish a new objective attitude towards events in the Middle East, which monitors the accumulating Israeli violations and aggressions as one ongoing continuum and differentiates in its decisions between a party which has been the aggressor for several decades and until now (Israel) and a reaction that aims for self defense against this aggression and exercises a resistance that is, beyond doubt, a legitimate right. In this context and along the lines of the council's statement, the undersigned Arab organizations and centers consider that any attempt to isolate the repeated Israeli aggressions into separate actions, taking them out of their holistic historical context, is but an attempt to ameliorate the effect of those aggressions on the international community and western peoples and is therefore an attempt that is neither just nor acceptable. The war launched by Israel against the state of Lebanon is but a new addition to its long heritage of violation of international law, supported by an international silence and/or obvious complicity that constitute a betrayal to all human rights principles. The Israeli aggression continues since 12/7 and until this very moment despite resolution 1071 of a seize fire, the last of a series of resolutions that are constantly ignored by the Israeli government creating a scene of extraordinary contradictions, which even the most cynical would fall short of describing: Israel captures tens of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese amidst total international silence; however when the Lebanese resistance captures two Israeli soldiers, the US and some Western governments consider it a state of emergency!! The Lebanese resistance captures two Israeli soldiers to exchange them with its POW; Israel responds with an immediate bombing of Lebanese civilians, bridges and infrastructure!! For the second time Israel bombs Qana, deliberately killing children, women, the elderly and disabled; and the governments of the "civilized world" consider that it is the existence of the Lebanese resistance and its defense of its land and self which is an act of terror!! The wounded and displaced are helped out of the affected Lebanese villages, so Israel bombs a Red Cross convoy several times as well as the UN check point and kills 4 of its staff, while the US works towards postponing a seize fire for several weeks!! The US insists that "democratization" of Palestine and the Middle East is the only solution and when the Palestinian people chose Hamas through democratic and transparent elections, Israel kidnaps its members and ministers, while the world continues to accuse the Palestinian resistance of being terrorist!! Israel continues to be supported with money and weapon while it continues to violate all UN security council resolutions, while the 7th provision of forcefully imposing the UN resolutions is applied to Iraq and Libya!! Since its establishment Israel has continued to commit massacres and mass aggressions starting from the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948, followed by Sabra and Shatila, Jenin, Qana, Gaza, Ain El Helwa etc., a phenomenon which deserves some contemplation: A state which continues to breach international law as a solid base of its daily behaviors cannot be accepted as a member of the UN and should be on top of the list of international terrorist organizations. Since Western governments of the "civilized" world cannot see beyond their political and economic interests and fear the wrath of the American administration, we appeal to all human rights organizations to join us in our call for a total isolation of the state of Israel until it submits to UN resolutions and stops blackmailing the international community for impunity and lack of accountability. We especially appeal to our colleagues in human rights organizations in those European countries which refused to endorse the UN council's resolution, to remind their governments and peoples of their historical struggles against their occupants and for their own independence. The undersigned organizations (in alphabetical order) "Ahalina" Center for Family Support and Development (Egypt) Amal center for the treatment and rehabilitation of victims of torture (Sudan) Aman network of centers of rehabilitation of victims of torture Arab Commission for Human Rights (Paris) Arab European Coalition for Rights and Liberties (Paris) Arab Network for Human Rights Information (Egypt) Arab program for human rights defenders (Egypt) Association for Environmental Health and Development (Egypt) Bahrain center for human rights (Bahrain) Center for Appropriate Communication Techniques in Development (Egypt) Center for Egyptian women's issues (Egypt) Center for the Rights of Egyptian Child (Egypt) Center for Trade Union workers services (Egypt) Committee for the Defense of Liberties, Tagammu party (Egypt) Committee for women's declaration (Bahrain) Community Development Institution (Bashayer) (Egypt) Coordinating committee of popular committees (Bahrain) Cultural renaissance association (Bahrain) Damascus Center for Theoretical Studies and Civil Rights (Sweden) Daughter of the Nile association (Egypt) Daughters of Fatma Mansour (Algeria) Egyptian Association against Torture (Egypt) Egyptian association for the promotion of community participation (Egypt) Egyptian Center for women's rights (Egypt) Egyptian Committee against Torture (Egypt) Egyptian Institution for family development (Egypt) El Khiam center for victims of torture (Lebanon) El Nadim Center (Egypt) Follow up Committee of Lebanese POW in Israeli prisons (Lebanon) Gaza Community Mental Health Program (Palestine) Habi center for environmental rights (Egypt) Health for All (Sudan) Heya institution for family development (Egypt) Hisham Mubarak Law Center (Egypt) Housing Rights Center (Egypt) Human right legal aid association (Egypt) Human Rights Center for Assistance of Prisoners (Egypt) Human rights first (Saudi Arabia) Human Rights Monitor (Marsad) (Sudan) Institution for Freedom of Thought and Expression (Egypt) International Office of Humanitarian and Charity Associations (Geneva) Journalists for human rights (Sudan) Karama Association for The Defense Of Human Rights (Geneva) Khartoum center for human rights and environmental development (Sudan) Land Center for human rights (Egypt) Medical association for rehabilitation of victims of torture (Morocco) New Woman Research Institution (Egypt) Research and information center for human rights (Egypt) Torture Rehabilitation Center – West Bank (Palestine) Truth and reconciliation committee (Algeria) Union of Arab Lawyers Youth center for human rights (Bahrain)

Detainees Held Incommunicado for 5 days Following unfair Trial & Complain of Police Brutality and Mistreatment

Family Members Protest against Brutal Beating of the “Dana Mall Detainees”

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

REF: 06082201

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned upon receiving information from the “Dana Mall” (BCHR REF: 06081701) defendants families, that since Tuesday the 15th of August, the detainees had been held incommunicado. All contacts with the detainees were cut and visits were not permitted until this past Sunday morning. The BCHR was informed that the defendants were moved to a different location by the police and later moved back to the Dry-Dock Jail where they were originally detained. Family members claim that the defendants had been on hunger strike since the Court session last Tuesday and their health had deteriorated leading to more than three being moved to hospital over the past week.

Relatives confirmed that some of the defendants, namely Mr. Moosa Abdali, aged 25, Activist of the Unemployment Committee, Hassan Al-Afoo, aged 20, and Hassan Hamada, aged 16, were moved to the hospital. One family member told the BCHR that when he visited his son last Monday, he noticed signs of beating on his sons body. Others have made the same claims and told the BCHR that the beating came after the detainees staged a protest against another postponement of one month by the Court Judge last Tuesday. The authorities, the families allege, have been stalling and extending the trial while refusing to release the defendants on bail.

The Detainees have since broken the strike after negotiating with the authorities for better treatment. The BCHR received a letter from the detainees which conveyed the specifics of the incident(kindly find a translated copy attached). The Detainees complain of harsh treatment, brutal beating and sexual harassment of a minor detainee, and if these allegations prove to be true, the BCHR fears for the safety of the detainees as their detention continues to be extended, and the same Police Officers continue to supervise and enforce a questionable method of prison regulations long scrutinized for its failure to protect the rights of the prisoners.

The BCHR calls for an investigation into claims of beating and mistreatment of the detainees. The investigation has to be done and supervised by an independent entity, which must secure the safety of the prisoners should they choose to convey any information relating to any mistreatment. The BCHR also calls for the immediate release of those detainees with no viable evidence that justifies their detention, specifically the minors and the activists held on this case.

A translation of a letter from the detainees of the Dana incidents regarding the assaults they were exposed to by the riot police inside ((Dry-Dock)) prison.

The latest events: On August the 15th, 2006 we were presented to a mock trial as usual, the session was adjourned with the excuse that witnesses, members of the Security Special Force who claim to have been assaulted, did not attend. Hence, we announced our resentment towards what is happening to us of injustice and oppression. Based on that, we decided not to cooperate by not attending any more trial sessions and going on a hunger strike. When we went back to prison we performed our prayers, read the Koran and supplication and were surprised by the presence of the riot police. We were attacked and hit brutally and violently, our hands were tied up behind our backs and we were taken outside to the station’s square. We were laid down with our faces to the ground under the heat of the sun for more than two hours. We were hit with sticks and kicked with shoes until our bodies started bleeding, and some of us had their arms and legs injured, or broken and fainted. What is more important besides all that, is that one of the prisoners who is 16 year old was laid down on his stomach and one of the riot police officers came to him and told him, “If you go on a hunger strike again and you cooperate with the rest of the prisoners I will disgrace your honor and dignity and I will do so and so.” He molested him, as he took pleasure in touching his private parts and he tried to pull down his clothes until he started screaming and crying for help. The officer left him after he started crying in front of the other detainees, the policemen, the police in charge of the station, the officers and the officer who ordered bringing the riot police. After that we were taken to the cells with our hands tied up, the officers came to us and started showering us with offensive words and indecent insults. All our personal possessions and even the blankets we sleep on were confiscated. Some of us were separated; they took five of us to Al-Hid prison, and the rest stayed in Dry-Dock prison. All of us were prevented from going on the same day to hospital for treatment, as well as preventing us from calling our families or getting visits and talking to the police so that news of the assaults and humiliation does not reach outside. Both the detainees in Al-Hid prison and in Dry-Dock prison held on to the hunger strike, and after two days of the strike we demanded being gathered in the previous prison (Dry-Dock) and facilitating our matters. It was agreed upon that, on the condition of ending the strike. We agreed on that and we were gathered in Dry-Dock prison. We were surprised by the harassments of the officers and policemen in the prison. As well as being prevented from everything, even going to the restroom or going out to perform the ritual of ablution and prayers was done under harassments. When one of us was taking a shower we were prevented from going out even if it were for a necessity. Also, when anyone asks to go to hospital, he is only allowed to do that after hours of being fainted. Therefore, we went on strike again and our condition continued like this for five days. After that, a compromise was made and in accordance with it we were to end our strike, our circumstances in prison was to be facilitated and the situation was to be returned as it was before the last court session …. However, our demand to be released and end the trial sessions was not fulfilled.

In consequence of this, we demand that we get released right away because we have not committed any felony and we are political detainees and are not criminals or ravagers as the government claims. Therefore, we will continue our non-violent and repetitive pressures until we are released. We will not retreat and we will not accept to be disgraced, we are determined to continue in all which we are able to do…

((The relief is coming hopefully))

The Dana incident’s detainees

Dana Mall Incidents: 19 citizens – among them four minors and three activists – are held in custody since five months

Dana Mall Incidents Case: “Unauthorized Gathering”

19 citizens – among them four minors and three activists – are held in custody since five months while the Unfair trial sessions are at the beginning

Urgent: The Police use force to deal with the detainees protesting prolonged detention

August 17th 2006 Ref: 06081701

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) followed the hearings of 19 accused citizens in the case that is known as the Dana Shopping Mall case, case number 7 / 2006 / 2152 / 7. Nabeel Rajab, the vice president of the (BCHR) attended the court session on August 15th. Mr. Rajab stated that he noticed a positive improvement in allowing the families of the detained to attend the session, as well as allowing a short meeting between the defendants and their families directly after the session. However, later in the day the BCHR received information that the defendants protested against continuation of their imprisonment. A special police force was allegedly brought to them and took them by force to deferent detention centers. The defendants’ families expressed to the BCHR their worry about the safety of the detained.

The first supreme criminal court, decided to postpone the hearing until the 14th of September. The court rejected for the third time a plea by the lawyer Abdulla Al-Shamlawi to release the detained on bail. The continuation of holding the defendants since March 10th raises great concern as these citizens have been held in custody for more than 5 months until now, which is looked at as a punishment that has been imposed on them before proving them guilty.

In regard to 17 of the of the 19 defendants, who were held in Dry-Dock detention Center, the lawsuit files against them lack any evidence related to them committing any type of violations, except the charge of participating in the set-in to demand the release of detainees in a previous case. The authorities documents on the case implied that the set-in was authorized in the morning but was not so in the evening and that was way they separated it by force. While the organizers say that the authorization prolonged until dusk, and that they stopped to perform the Friday prayer, and that the special security forces separated the protesters by force with no prior warning, in contradiction with the 1972 Bahraini law on assembling.

The two other defendants, Mohammed Ali Ebrahim and Essa Abd-Ali Rabe’, complain of isolation in Um-El-Hassam police station. The prosecution accuses the two of assaulting a security man in during the incidents that took place in Dana Mall after separating the protesters. These two accused demanded the judge in the last session to be transferred with the other defendants and to insure their rights as innocent until proven guilty.

In an earlier session, the court had decided to release on bail the defendent Qanea Saleh AbdAl-Nabi, 25 year old, an activist in the “Committee to Defend the Infected with Hereditary Blood Diseases”, due to the continued decadence in his health condition because of his suffering from the sickle cell disease. On the other hand, the BCHR followed with concern the public prosecution’s decision to continue the imprisonment of another activist, Ali Majeed Alawi, a member of “Families of Detainees committee, although he was acquitted of the accusation of participating in the December 2005 protest in Bahrain Airport. The prosecution included his name to the accused in the Dana Mall case and ordered to continue his custody. The third human rights activist who is detained in this case is Mousa AbdAli, 25 year old, a member of the “Unemployed Committee”. Few months befor his detention, Mousa AbdAli was abducted and subjected to sexual and physical abuse by allegedly security forces. His case is still under “investigation” by the public prosecution with no result until now, while he remains in prison with the accusation of participating in the Dana protest.

Prosecution files related to Dana mall case, as well as BCHR documentations of witness testimonies, and also the photos and films that the Centre possesses indicate the following:

  • The set-in was organized by the “Families of Detainees” committee on March 10th demanding the release of the detained. It was peaceful and a large number of women and children participated in it. The organizing committee notified the security panels about the protest and got its approval.
  • The special security forces, with no prior warning, and almost before half an hour from ending the protest used force – which includes tear gas and rubber bullets – claiming that the sit-in was authorized in the morning only.
  • The protesters – who the security report estimated their number to be 150 – turned to the Dana Shopping Mall to protect themselves from the rubber bullets and the tear gas as there was no other near place.
  • The mall’s management tried to prevent the special security forces from entering the mall. But it anyway entered the mall and shops and used tear gas and pursued the ones it suspects are participants in the protest.
  • The defendants were randomly arrested inside Dana Mall, none of them were arrested red-handed in the acts of violence that took place outside the shopping mall after breaking up the protest by force.
  • The prosecution presented photos of few protester assaulting a security man who entered to pursue the protesters in the second floor of the mall, claiming that two of the defendants were among the assaulters. Apart from these two defendants, there were no evidences whatsoever that connect the defendants to the alleged injuries of security men and damages upon some of the cars in the area surrounding the mall.
  • The police, press and the prosecution had used photographs that show the assault of a police, while many other photos from the same source are kept hidden because they show the nonviolence of the set-in and the brutal assault which the special security forces carried out against the citizens inside the shopping mall, and which caused the injury and suffocation of tens of people among them women and children.
  • The owner of the shopping center in where the assaults and arrests took place testified that the confrontation started only after the entrance of the special security forces to the mall, and that they confiscated the video tapes that belong to the shops. When the lawyers requested in court session to include those tapes to the case files, the prosecutor denied its existence. This might indicate the intention to hid an important proof in the case, and to cover up the use of excessive force by the special security forces during the pursuing and arrest.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the instant release of the detained, and especially those that there is no proof against them of using violence, among them three human rights activists. If there is anything that requires convicting those of the offense of participating in an unauthorized assembling, then that does not prevent releasing them while proceeding with the trial.

The BCHR demands especially the release of four of the defendants who are under the age of 18 and who are school students, adhering to the standards of human rights and the international convention on the rights of the childe which Bahrain is a state member of and should complies with.

Bahrain ratifies ‘counter-terrorism bill’ despite pleas by UN, Amnesty, Front line and ICJ

Concerns of possibility of torture and threats to freedom of speech and association

Bahrain Center for Human Rights 14 August 2006

Ref: 14080601

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) welcomes the recent decision by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to approve ratifying Bahrain's accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The BCHR hopes that the government will now take the necessary action to guarantee the civil and political rights for the Bahraini people, in both law and practice, as laid out in the Covenant.

However, the BCHR is disappointed and distressed by HM King Hamad's simultaneous decision to ratify the 'Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts' bill, against the advice of several international legal and human rights bodies, concerned that it is prone to abuse.

The United Nations “Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”, Martin Scheinin, wrote in a press statement on July 25, urging HM the King NOT to ratify the law:

One of the main concerns is the overly broad definition of terrorism which is seen to be at variance with the principle of legality enshrined in several human rights instruments, including Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which represents a universal standard also in respect of countries that have not yet ratified the Covenant.

Among the many concerns of Amnesty International was that the law would transfer authority normally vested in the judiciary to the public prosecutor:

The Bill grants the Public Prosecutor excessive discretion and heightens the risk of torture or ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention.

Article 27 allows for extensive detention before charge without judicial review. It only demands that the public prosecutor reviews the detention of any individual held for more than five days if the arresting authorities seek to extend the detention period. This can be for another 10 days. The public prosecutor is not a judicial authority and lacks the requisite independence to be a check against arbitrary detention. Furthermore, Article 28 of the Bill allows the security services to ask for extension of pre-charge detention (as specified in Article 27) on the basis of secret evidence which the detainee has no access to and cannot challenge.

A press release from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) stated:

“The exclusion of judicial safeguards in the Bahraini law carries a serious and foreseeable risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment”, said Mr Staberock [Director of ICJ's Global Security and Rule of Law Programme]. “It will reverse some of the recent reforms undertaken by Bahrain and runs counter the conclusions of the UN Committee Against Torture, which had urged Bahrain to bring its counter-terrorism law into compliance with the Convention Against Torture”, he continued. The ICJ therefore strongly urges the authorities to reconsider the adoption of the law and to ensure that it fully complies with Bahrain's international obligations, and in particular the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The BCHR concurs with the opinion of the aforementioned bodies that the new law allows for the possibility of torture, and threatens freedom of association and expression for legitimate citizens, which is especially concerning as Bahrain now sits on the new UN Human Rights Council. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore urges HM King Hamad to repeal the law, or modify it to provide legal safeguards, making it consistent with the recently ratified Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international human rights standards.

Google Earth unblocked, but Google Video and other websites remain censored

BCHR calls on media and civil society to continue highlighting state-sponsored Internet censorship

Ref: 12080600 12 August 2006

Following public pressure applied on the government by civil society, supported by newspapers, the Bahrain Center for Human is pleased to note that the previously blocked Google Earth (see Ref: 08080600) has become accessible again for Internet users in Bahrain. Cases such as this demonstrate that when civil society, media and international actors apply pressure together, they can be a very effective force for human rights causes, so we encourage them to continue playing this role.

However, the BCHR is still very concerned about continuing reports that the Google Video and Google Maps websites remain blocked by government-owned Batelco (Bahrain's only residential Internet Service Provider), something that is not discussed in recent press coverage about Internet censorship in Bahrain. This is in addition to the numerous Bahraini websites that have been blocked by the government for several years due to their political content, such as Bahrainonline.org, a popular discussion forum (for a full list click here).

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights once again recalls Article 23 of the Constitution of Bahrain and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which guarantee the right to receive and impart electronic information without hindrance. The BCHR calls upon the relevant government authorities to unblock the aforementioned websites immediately, and urges civil society and the media to continue applying pressure and shedding light on the issue until this happens.

For background details, please see BCHR communique Ref: 08080600.

BCHR: Manipulation of Process and Results of the Coming Elections in Bahrain

Discrimination and Spread of Feelings of Injustice and Distrust Pave Way to Instability

Thirty Thousand Tribal Saudis and Arabs Take Part in Bahrain’s Elections A New Law Permits the Deprivation of Activists and Dissidents from their Political Rights Government Runs the Elections with No Neutral Supervision Electoral Districts Based on Tribal And Sectarian Discrimination The Elected Council Of Representatives Unable To Carry Out Its Duties Independently

11 August 2006

While unofficial sources mention that the parliamentary and municipal elections will take place before the end of this year, and as the political opposition associations announce the end of their boycott to the elections, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights follows with concern the policy of the Bahraini authorities in manipulating the process of the elections and the possibility of manipulating its results. In doing so, the government uses a whole system of policies, laws and procedures that contradict international norms and standards related to democracy, transparency and human rights.

Saudi Arabians vote in Bahrain’s elections:

The BCHR fears that the government’s insistence on using an electronic voting system in the coming elections, in addition to the possibility of forging the results, is to hide the participation of 15 – 20[1] thousand Saudi nationals in the election without them needing to come to Bahrain, a country which they have never lived in. In the last few years, the Bahraini authorities have granted Bahraini nationality to Saudi citizens from the Al-Dawaser tribe because they share the same tribal origin and Sunni sect as the ruling family which came to Bahrain from the Arabian Peninsula in 1783. Some of those closely related to the authorities justify giving the nationality to those Saudi citizens in that their grandparents lived in Bahrain decades ago, before moving away to Saudi Arabia again. However, there are no answers to the question of why this large number of people was given nationality in this period particularly, and not openly, or why they were registered under fake addresses in different areas in Bahrain. Although Saudi law does not allow dual nationality, the Saudi authorities are overlooking what is happening. Despite the fact that the Bahrain authorities have not revealed the actual number of Saudis who have been naturalized, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has irrefutable documents that show the truth of this case.

The Right to nominate and vote is granted to 30 thousand who were extraordinarily naturalized:

The Bahraini authorities have issued a decree that gives the instant right to nominate and vote to everyone who receives the Bahraini nationality, in contrast to the previous rules which would deny these rights until ten years after the person has been naturalized. In addition to the Saudi Al-Dawaser tribe which has been mentioned above, most of the 10-15 thousand tribal Syrians, Yemenis and Jordanians who have been recruited specially to work in the military and the Security Special Force also benefit from this law. Many of them have been granted Bahraini nationality, despite having not fulfilled the required legal residency period.

Hence, the authorities in Bahrain have granted nationality extraordinarily and collectively to an estimated number of 25-35 thousand non Bahraini persons, believing that they are politically loyal to the ruling family as they belong to the same origin and sect, i.e. tribal Sunnis. This number can change the election’s results, considering that the electorate in Bahrain does not exceed 180 thousand votes, which is already divided according to ethnic, sectarian and political lines.

A New Law permits the government to deprive Activists and dissidents from their political rights:

The outgoing council of representatives and Shura council passed a group of laws that restrains rights regarding political activities, organization, gathering and opinion. They also passed an anti-terrorism law that violates human rights. The two councils have also passed a law, put forth by the government, which deprives anyone who has been sentenced to a prison term of 6 months to 3 years from his or her political rights for ten years. It also deprives, for life, all citizens who receive a sentence of 3 years or more, from their right to run in the general elections. Taking into consideration the laws that punish for the practice of basic rights and freedoms, the aforementioned law permits the government to pursue human rights and political activists by depriving them of their political rights, especially when given that the judiciary is still under the government’s power and control. If it gets decided that this law shall be carried out with retroactive effect, then the government will be able to deprive most of the human right and political activists from their political rights because of verdicts that have been pronounced against them in the past period.

The government runs the elections with no neutral supervision:

The entire process of the elections is subjected to the executive authority and not to an independent panel that would guarantee independence and integrity in the elections. It is expected that the process of the coming elections will be made in the absence of any real supervision, as the authorities have rejected any exterior supervision until now, as well as controlling the internal supervision which in essence lacks capacity and experience.

Gerrymandered electoral districts are based on tribal and sectarian discrimination:

The authority deliberately defined the electoral districts in a geographically distorted way to guarantee that the districts which are loyal to the ruling family benefit from a majority in the council of representatives. For example, a citizen’s vote in the southern district, which is inhabited by people belonging to the tribal-Sunni minority, has 33 times more electoral power than a vote in the northern district, inhabited by the Shiite majority, which the government regards as basis for opposition.

The Elected “Council of Representatives” is unable to carry out its duty independently:

Although all aforementioned laws and procedures guarantee a majority in the National Assembly for those loyal to the ruling family, the newly-declared constitutional amendments by the king, which caused considerable disagreement, ventured upon depriving the elected council from its ability to carrying out its essential duties independently. The king originated an appointed “Shura Council” which was granted equal legislative power as the elected council, and even surpasses it by having the right to chairmanship when the two councils meet. The authority also set up a system which prevents the Council of Representatives from calling the prime minister to account, and which gives priority to draft laws initiated by the government. It also gives the government the role of drafting any law proposed by council members, and the council cannot call the government to account or investigate corruption and transgression cases which predate the council’s work period which started in December 2002.

Based on that, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is concerned about an escalation of tension, instability and disturbance as a result of discrimination and the spread of feelings of injustice and distrust. The BCHR calls upon the national and international bodies and organizations to carry out a more efficient role in pressing for:

  • Adjusting the situation of the gerrymandered electoral districts to achieve the most possible equality between the citizens.
  • Permitting the reformation of the constitution of 2002 whereby the representatives of the people are given full jurisdiction in legislation and supervision.
  • Forming an independent credible body to supervise the elections.
  • Permitting independent and effective local and external monitoring of the election.
  • Revealing information in regards to those that have been extraordinarily granted nationality, whether inside or outside Bahrain, and reviewing the legitimacy of their participation in the elections.

________________________________________ [1] This number is taken from the answers of the naturalized Saudis shown in an independent documentary film. To read the film script click here.

Bahraini Authorities Block Access to Google Earth and Google Video

Call for an End to State Enforced Censorship on Internet

Bahraini Authorities Block Access to Popular Internet Services Call for an End to State Enforced Censorship on Internet Sites for Political Content

Bahrain Center for Human Rights Ref: 08080600

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is concerned upon receiving reports that the Bahraini government has issued orders to all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block the “Google Earth” service. A report published in the Al Wasat newspaper yesterday stated that the Bahrain Internet Exchange (BIX) will block the service, and that the Bahrain Telecommunication Company (Batelco), the country's predominant ISP, is considering taking the same step.

Google Earth is a free service provided by the US Internet company “Google” which allows users to view high-resolution satellite images of the Earth on the Internet. Since Monday 8th August, users of Batelco and BIX ISPs have reported that Google Earth has been inaccessible, or only intermittently available. In addition, it has been reported that websites for Google Maps (a web-based site similar to Google Earth) and Google Video, a popular video hosting and sharing service, have also been inaccessible.

Internet sources have suggested that the reason for the Bahraini government's order to block Google Earth is because it allows users to see the lavish palaces and illegal coastal reclamations on land privately owned by members of the Al-Khalifa royal family, images which would otherwise be inaccessible to regular citizens. Moreover, it has been suggested that Google Video has been censored due to a number of videos hosted on the service that are critical of the Bahraini government.

It should be noted that prior to this latest act, several Bahraini websites were already censored by the government due to their political content, including the popular forum Bahrainonline.org whose moderators were arrested for two weeks in late February 2005.

Article 23 of Bahrain's constitution states that electronic communications "shall not be censored or their confidentiality breached except in exigencies specified by law and in accordance with procedures and under guarantees prescribed by law". Similarly, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers".

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore calls upon the relevant authorities in the government, the Telecommunication Regulation Authority and the ISPs to immediately restore access not only to Google Earth and Google Video, but also to the numerous Bahraini websites that are currently being censored.

2 Months Sentence for False Statement

Victim of Attack Imprisoned while Perpetrators Remain at Large

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

Ref: 06080600

The BCHR would like to inform you that Mr. Abbas Abdali, (BCHR ref: 07070600) was sentenced to two months imprisonment on Tuesday the 8th of August, by Court Judge Manna Al Buflaseh, of the Bahraini Lower Court, for giving false statements to the authorities. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights had previously issued a detailed report on the issue (BCHR: Abbas Abdali Case) and voiced its concern over the proceeding of the investigation and hearing of the case. The Court Judge had previously refused five requests by the defense lawyer which included; the release of Mr. Abduali, to present the housemaid, her sponsor and Abduali’s friend, Mohammed, who was with him on the night he was attacked, as witnesses, to prevent the domestic worker from leaving the country until the cross-examination was completed, to allow his client to be taken to hospital for medical examination and to receive a copy of the complete file on his client. Significantly, the Individuals who assaulted Mr. abdali remain classified as “unknown” by the Public Prosecution.

The BCHR would like to stress upon the need for an independent evaluation of the case and its outcome, as the Bahraini Judiciary and the Public Prosecutor have repetitively proven to be far from independent. Cases such as these, whereby a gross violation of the defendants right to a fair trial takes place, is regretfully becoming a trend practiced as a norm, and only serve to highlight the incompetence of the Bahraini Judiciary.