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Report Details Abu Ghraib-style Abuse in Guantanamo Bay

Bahrain Center for Human Rights Wednesday, August 4, 2004

The Statement on Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay has been compiled by the three young men from Tipton -- Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed. They have put an enormous amount of work into the report, and expect no benefit from it. They have completed it solely to let the world know the truth about what is happening in Guantanamo Bay. Their intention is that Human Rights groups and lawyers may use this information to ensure fairness for the prisoners there. The report has been compiled by the Tipton men, and their attorney, noted British civil rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

The report details the several weeks that Rasul and Iqbal were held in open cages at Camp X-Ray, allowed out for only a few minutes each week for one shower, and otherwise left to swelter in the Cuban heat. Scorpions and snakes were allowed to roam the cells, and many prisoners were bitten. The US marines who ran the camp were “very brutal.”

The report reflects a sophisticated effort to tailor abuse to the weaknesses of the individual prisoner. For example, the report discusses the sexual humiliation of the prisoners. This began when General Miller, later of Abu Ghraib notoriety, came to Guantanamo. For example, the prisoners would be stripped naked and forced to watch videotapes of other prisoners who, in turn, had been ordered to sodomize each other. The sexual humiliation was reserved for those who would be most impacted by it, those who had been brought up strictly in their Muslim faith.

The religious humiliation was similarly focused. The guards would throw the prisoners’ Korans into the toilet. They would forcibly shave the prisoners. There was a clear policy to try to force people to abandon their religious faith.

The prisoners would be forcibly injected with unknown drugs as part of the interrogation process. They were told they could only get medical care if they cooperated. Many prisoners suffer from medical and mental health problems. Some of the detainees have been held in total isolation for well over a year.

It is hardly surprising that as a result of these abusive and torturous tactics, prisoners routinely confessed to things they had not (and could not have) done. After endless pressure, Asif Iqbal said he was on a videotape with Osama Bin Laden. The interrogator said, “I’ve put detainees here in isolation for 12 months and eventually they’ve broken. You might as well admit it now so that you don’t have to stay in isolation.” He was in the isolation cells for about 6 weeks, and finally, he said, “Okay, it’s me.” It was his pure good fortune that this was disproved by British Intelligence – in truth, along with the other Tipton lads, he was living and working around Birmingham.

“It is a very sad day for the United States, and humanity in general, to learn the details of what has been happening in Guantanamo Bay,” said Clive Stafford Smith, of Justice In Exile, who recently visited Bahrain on behalf of the detainees. “It is torture pure and simple. It is also as pointless as it is cruel. We have known since the Middle Ages that no useful information can come out of coerced confessions.”

For the complete report, please contact Nabeel Rajab (973 39633399), or the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (at 973 729500 or 973 727994 (fax)); for further information, call Clive Stafford Smith (USA 504 338 9867)

Of particular concern to the people and Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain is the following, specific eyewitness report concerning a Bahrain citizen:

Jumah al Dousari from Bahrain, who had lived in America for some time, was already mentally ill. He used to shout all the time. The guards and the medical team knew he was ill. Whenever soldiers would walk past his cell he would shout out and say things to them. Not swearing but silly things. He would impersonate the soldiers. One day he was impersonating a female soldier. She called the officer in charge, the commander that day, whose name was 59 Blanche (the same person who was in charge the day that the dog was brought into Asif’s cell; see below) – a staff sergeant E6, E6 being his rank structure. He came to the block and was speaking to Jumah. Shafiq [Rasul] says “I don’t know what was said but the next thing he called the ERF [Emergency Reaction Force] team. While the ERF team was coming he took the female officer to one side. I heard him say ‘when you go in that cell you’re going to f-ing kick him’. She seemed apprehensive. He kept shouting at her to make her say back to him what he had said. It was very odd. There were usually five people on an ERF team. On this occasion there were eight of them. When Jumah saw them coming he realised something was wrong and was lying on the floor with his head in his hands. If you’re on the floor with your hands on your head, then you would hope that all they would do would be to come in and put the chains on you. That is what they’re supposed to do. The first man is meant to go in with a shield. On this occasion the man with the shield threw the shield away, took his helmet off, when the door was unlocked ran in and did a knee drop onto Jumah’s back just between his shoulder blades with his full weight. He must have been about 240 pounds in weight. His name was Smith. He was a sergeant E5. Once he had done that the others came in and were punching and kicking Jumah. While they were doing that the female officer then came in and was kicking his stomach. Jumah had had an operation and had metal rods in his stomach clamped together in the operation. The officer Smith was the MP Sergeant who was punching him. He grabbed his head with one hand and with the other hand punched him repeatedly in the face. His nose was broken. He pushed his face and he smashed it into the concrete floor. All of this should be on video. There was blood everywhere. When they took him out they hosed the cell down and the water ran red with blood. We all saw it.”

Once Again: The Minister Of Labour Threatens To Close The BCHR

Response by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

7 July 2004

In an interview with Al Arabiya satellite TV channel, on 30th June, 2004, the minister of labour and social affairs Dr. Majeed Al-Alawi, threatened once again to close the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights because of what he described as “political activities”.

The minister reaffirmed the threat made by his ministry to close the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) “if some of its members do not stop practicing roles, which are not permitted by the law”.

He stressed that the BCHR is a political opposition body that has adopted a political agenda, adding that this would harm and impair its neutrality. He pointed out that the human rights bodies should not call for demonstrations, because that would tern it to a political body.

When asked if the 'threat' was an appropriate manner to deal with the BCHR, the minister replied ''no'', claiming that for two years the centre has been carrying out many political activities, thus the ministry previously notified the centre that if it does not comply with its internal regulation and objectives, legal action will be taken against it.

When asked about the BCHR current activities, he said that the BCHR is merely writing articles and sending letters to organizations abroad, and not pursuing professional work like that of the Bahrain Human Rights Society which is engaged in providing training for public employees.

When asked if he considered the BCHR to be preoccupied with the opposition, he replied "yes", hinting that the BCHR is clearly anti-government.

Response by the BCHR:

The BCHR considers the accusations stated by the minister as unfounded, noting that the ministry failed until now to officially respond to letters by the center recommending a written clarifications of the such accusations.

The BCHR considers the minister's threats as a part of a campaign by the authorities to discredit the BCHR, and to hinder the center’s amounting role in monitoring violations of human rights.

The center had staged effective awareness and advocacy campaigns specially. in issues such as discriminations, corruption, privileges enjoyed by members of the ruling family, impunity for perpetrators of torture, defects of the political and judicial system, and the laws that restrict and criminalize the practice of basic freedoms such as the freedoms of association, assemble and expression.

The BCHR is highly concerned in regard to the threats to be closed down, and stresses on the importance to amend the penal code and the law on societies which caould be used effectively by the authorities to restrict, influence or close human rights societies for not complying with its policies and undefined criteria of what should human rights activists do and not do.

Urgent: Authorities threaten to close Bahrain Centre For Human Rights

The authorities in Bahrain threatened the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) to withdraw its permit (license) should it conduct any political activity. This threat came in the form of an official letter addressed to BCHR’s President, Nabeel Rajab; and signed on 12th May 2004 by Hind bint Salman Al Khalifa, the Assistant Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs, was sent by fax to the BCHR on 16th May, 2004.

This is the second formal warning given to BCHR in seven months. A previous letter was sent by the ministry on 20th October, 2003, threatening to close the BCHR, after it had held a public symposium on 'Discrimination and Privileges, the Unwritten Law,' on 16th October, 2003.

The BCHR calls for urgent action to:

  • Defend the BCHR's rights to operate freely
  • Safeguard the freedom of societies in Bahrain
  • Amend the Societies Law No.21 of 1989

Attachments:

  1. The text of the letter sent by the ministry
  2. The BCHR General Objectives
  3. Notes by the BCHR
  4. Excerpts of the Societies Law No.21 of 1989 (including articles 18 and 50)

Attachment (1): The text of the letter sent by the ministry

Mr. Nabeel Rajab,

President,

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights,

In reference to the political activities conducted by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), we would like to bring to your notice the following:

Firstly, the BCHR's political activities explicitly contradicted with Article 18 of the Law on Societies issued by Decree No. 21 – 1989 which without any doubt prohibits conducting ‘political activities’.

Secondly, the BCHR's practice of political activities contradicts with the objectives mentioned in the BCHR's constitution.

For the above mentioned two reasons, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs stresses the necessity for the BCHR to abide by the said law on societies, in addition to to the objectives mentioned in the BCHR's constitution. In case these rules are violated, the ministry regrettably will withdraw the BCHR's license, in compliance with article 50 of the law on societies.

Thank you four your cooperation,

Signed by:

Hind bint Salman Al Khalifa Assistant Undersecretary for Social Affairs

Attachment (2): The BCHR General Objectives

  1. Familiarisation with national and international principles, legislation and laws related to human rights.
  2. Researching and easening difficulties regarding the implementation of international laws related to human rights and participating in improving laws, at the international level.
  3. Promoting of civil and political rights and development of the abilities of civil society organization.
  4. Combatting all forms of discrimination.
  5. Promoting of economic, social and cultural rights.
  6. Encouraging scientific research and developing usage of modern technologies to spread knowledge, document and exchange information related to human rights.

Attachment (3): Notes by the BCHR

The current letter referred to BCHR’s ‘political activities’ without specifying any particular activity. From its side, the BCHR considered the letter as vague and that it was not clear what the authorities meant by political activities

Promoting civil and political rights…’ is one of the main objectives of the BCHR, which is stated clearly in its constitution and literatures.

The letter came after a campaign organized by the BCHR to release 15 persons detained , on 30th April, 2004, for petitioning for changes in Bahrain's constitution. The campaign was in the form of peaceful protests organised by the committee of the families of the constitutional petition detainees, demanding immediate release of the detainees and dropping off all charges which were based on the restricted 1976 Penal Code. (Other notes are to be send later)

Attachment (4): Societies Law No.21 of 1989: A Sword Threatening Societies

It is noted that the Law covers organisations with different objectives and nature including political, human rights, professional, cultural and social societies. They also include such categories as women, youth and foreign community societies as well as the sports clubs. Encompassing all these societies in a single law complicates the drafting and enforcement of this Law.

Restricting the Right to Set up Societies:

The Bahrain Societies Law prohibits the activities of any unlicensed society. The provisions of the Law and Model Form of the Constitution contain detailed standards and specifications so that it becomes difficult to obtain a licence without complying with it. At the same time, the law lays down flexible conditions allowing the Government to reject applications for setting up any society, if it wants to.

Article 3 states that every society that is established contrary to the public order, or for an illegal purpose, or for prejudicing the security or form of the government or its social system shall be invalid.

Article 11 gives the concerned administrative authority the right to reject registration of the society where the society does not need of its services, where there is another society that meets such need, if its establishment is contrary to the State security and its interest or if it is established with a view to reviving a society that was previously dissolved. This Article sets forth procedures for filing complaints with the same administrative authority for a length of time that extends to 4 months before it becomes possible to refer the matter to the law courts, which are in turn bound by the same law and falling under the government influence.

Restricting the Right to Amend the Constitution and to Control:

According to Article 14, every amendment of the society’s constitution follows the same procedures for chartering the society. The administrative authority has the right to reject the proposed amendment. According to Article 15, societies shall be subject to strict control as the concerned department has the right to have access to records, documents and correspondence.

Restricting the Right to Engage in Politics:

According to Article 18, a society shall not engage in politics. Of course, this applies to political societies and human rights societies.

Restricting the Right to have Links with Overseas Entities:

According to Article 20, a society shall not without prior permission (from the concerned department) be affiliated with, join or participate in a society or organization based outside Bahrain. The lapse of 45 days without adopting a decision with respect to the application shall be deemed as a rejection thereof. The Law does not contain the right to file a complaint rendering the department’s decision final.

Restricting Domestic and Overseas Finance:

For finance, a society shall not without prior permission obtain funds from a foreign organization nor send any of the above to overseas persons or organisations. For the raising of funds locally, a licence shall be issued from the Minister (Article 21). The Minister’s right to adopting the decision shall be absolute as there is no possibility to file a complaint.

Minister’s Right to Merge Societies, Appointing Management and Suspending its Resolutions:

Article 23 allows the concerned minister to appoint the society’s manager or executive committee if the society commits any violations that necessitate such action and where the minister does not wish to dissolve them. The Minister shall be empowered to decide the merger of more than one society where they seek to achieve similar objectives, consolidating their management or amending their objects for the reasons that he feels ensure the proper realization of the objectives for which they are established (Article 24).

Also the Minister is empowered to suspend the execution of any resolution adopted by the society in breach of the law, society’s constitution, public order or ethics. Such decision may be challenged before the law court (Article 28). In other words, the Minister adopts the decision and enforces it against the society which will be prosecuted not the contrary.

Control and Supervision at General Meetings:

According to Article 30, the concerned government directorate has the right to convene a general meeting.

Article 33 requires societies to notify the administrative authority of every general meeting 15 days before its convention in addition to forwarding copies of the letter of invitation, agenda and enclosed documents. The administrative authority shall be empowered to designate the officer it deems fit to attend the meeting. According to Article 38, the Ministry must be provided with copies of the minutes of the meeting and resolutions adopted thereat.

Intervention in the Specifications of Candidates for Management and its Meetings:

According to Article 43, the minister may add conditions to be fulfilled by anyone who has the right to be nominated for membership of the executive committee of any society.

According to Article 45, the administrative authority is entitled to request the convention of any meeting of the executive committee of any society if this is deemed necessary.

Minister’s Right to Temporarily Close the Society:

According to Article 50, the minister has the right to dissolve or close any society for a period of 45 days if it proves unable to realize its objectives or disposes of its funds in areas other than the specified ones, if it fails to convene its general meeting for two successive years or if it violates public order.

Bahrain: Freedoms Endangered

Laws & State Institutions Threaten Freedoms, in Absence of Protective Measures

11 May 2004

Contents:

  • Changes: steps forward and steps back
  • Reverting to old restrictive Laws
  • Applying The Penal Code on Political activists
  • The Real Role Of Public Prosecutor
  • Separation Of Powers
  • The Helpless Constitutional Court
  • A National Assembly Under The Control Of The Government
  • In Conclusion

Recent developments have enhanced the concerns of Bahrain Human Rights Centre (BCHR) about the fate of public liberties and human rights in Bahrain. The government has reverted again to the laws of the past era to restrict freedoms and sue those who oppose them. These laws had been given immunity from any challenge by the Constitutional Court. On the other hand, the National Assembly is unable to amend these laws without the consent of the government. The House of Representatives (elected chamber) has, so far, been unable to impose any real control on government practices. The formation and performance of the Public Prosecution has cast serious doubts about its independence, in addition to lack of real progress on the issue of the judiciary independence. The weakness of non-governmental organizations due to the laws and government dominance and the setback in freedom of the press are added threats.

Changes: steps forward and steps back

The main problem lies in the laws, especially the Penal Code of 1976, Societies Law of 1998 and the Press Act of 2002. These are all inter-related laws of the State Security era, which greatly restrict freedom of expression and publication, freedom of gathering, formation of societies and participation therein. These laws are heavy handed in punishing anyone who expresses opinions or is involved in practices that are considered "red-lines" by the government. These laws were practically frozen in the period subsequent to the referendum vote on the National Charter in February 2001, allowing for the revival of freedom of expression and the formation of societies, including political ones, but things began to witness a setback.

The setback started when the constitutional amendments were declared by the new ruler in Feb. 2002, which gave all the powers to the King, prevented holding the Prime Minister accountable, and established an appointed chamber with the same legislative powers as the elected chamber. Prior to the vote to elect the House of Representatives, a series of decrees were issued by the government dividing the constituencies on a sectarian basis, restricting the direct role of political societies in elections, and placing the new legislative and judicial institutions "under control" of the government. These decrees provided immunity from prosecution for those responsible for human rights abuses and corruption during the previous era. As a result, opposition societies boycotted parliamentary elections and the country entered into a new era of increasing political dispute. This coincided with a set back in the direct role of the new King and his son the Crown Prince for the benefit of the Prime Minister and other members of the ruling family who have been, and still are, running the country for the past thirty years.

Reverting to old restrictive Laws

The authorities systematically reverted to the use of policies and laws of the past era. They imposed their domination on the new legislative and judiciary institutions. Two editors - in - chief of newspapers, journalists and activists were sued in accordance with the press act. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and opposition political societies were threatened with closure. Authorities warned against any seminar, sit-in or public gathering of more than four people without prior permission. Some members of political societies are currently being tried before courts for collecting signatures on a petition addressed to the King. All these recent actions by the authorities give the impression that the unprecedented margin of freedoms witnessed in Bahrain was only a temporary stage during which an absolute rule of a family was put in order in a regime that lacks the fundamental basics of a real democracy.

Applying The Penal Code on Political activists

As a result of a campaign staged by four political societies to collect signatures for a petition refusing constitutional amendments and demanding more powers for the elected parliament, the Minister of Labor threatened to close down the societies, hence, the Public Prosecutor ordered the arrest of those who were gathering signatures. The detainees were charged with accusations which could carry penalties as severe as life imprisonment, based on articles in the Penal Law concerning: (1) Promoting the change of regime, (2) Instigation of hatred for the regime (3) Forcing the King to perform an act which falls within his legal jurisdiction (4) Spread of false news that could harm the public interest. In addition to the said articles, the Penal Code, which had been issued in 1976, after the cancellation of parliamentary life, includes more articles that restrict freedom of the press and freedom of societies.

These articles require prior authorization for all internal and external activities, and give the executive power far reaching powers for direct control and interference, and to take administrative measures at the discretion of the executive power itself. Those articles allow the government to use the judiciary to sue those who oppose it, and to impose financial penalties and long jail sentences on them. The Bahrain Penal Code, had been subject to widespread criticism from the concerned bodies of the UN and International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) in Geneva.

The Real Role Of Public Prosecutor

The current public prosecutor, Shaikh Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al-Khalifa plays an active role in suing the opposition by using the articles of the penal law related to the so-called state security crimes. Shaikh Abdul Rahman had been the head of the State Security Court which was disbanded as a part of the reform programme announced by Shaikh Hamad after coming to power in March 1999. UN bodies and international organizations had condemned the State Security Courts of the past era because of its procedures which violated the principles of fair trial. Its trials were secret and relied on confessions taken under torture during solitary confinement. Its sentences, which reached life imprisonment, were harsh and could not be appealed against. The penal Code - in its article 186 - still allows for the formation of special tribunals similar to the state security courts to deal with those involved in cases connected with political activities.

The Public Prosecution is supposed to be independent from the executive power. The judiciary system in Bahrain is of a single system in which there is no administrative judiciary. Therefore, the civil judiciary to which the Public Prosecution is a part of, is the body authorized to look into all disputes, including those between the public authority and the individuals. However, in real terms the P.P. is under the control of the government and cooperates with it, especially in issues of a political and security nature.

Separation Of Powers !!

The head of Public Prosecution Office is a member of the ruling family, of which the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of the Interior, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Oil, Transport, Islamic Affairs and Electricity & Water are also members. Other members of the ruling family head the Supreme Judiciary Council and occupy sensitive positions in the Judiciary. According to the Constitution of 2002, the King appoints the prime minister, cabinet members, members of the constitutional court and members of the Consultative (Shura) Council, who share legislative power with the House of Representatives. Therefore, the overall political structure and the actual situation in the country are a far cry from separation of powers and independence of the Judiciary as provided for by the constitution.

The Helpless Constitutional Court

Although the recently formed Constitutional Court is the body empowered to oversee the conformance of laws with the constitution, however it is helpless in challenging the laws of the past era. The reason is that, the government issued a law prior to the formation of this court preventing it from looking into any challenge concerning laws that preceded the election of the National Assembly in December 2002.

A National Assembly Under The Control Of The Government

The National Assembly is, in theory, responsible for legislation and amendment of laws. However, the current mechanisms - as per the new laws and constitutional amendments- prevents it practically from playing that role without the prior consent of the government. It is the government who formulates the laws and chooses the right time for submitting them to the Parliament for discussion. In addition to that, the King appoints half of members of the N.A., thereby securing a loyal majority for itself, especially in the light of the boycotting of the elections by the opposition. At the final stage, no laws can be issued without the approval by the King.

As for the role of the elected parliament in monitoring the practices of the government, it has, so far been unable to free itself from the government’s domination and pressures, which even determines its by-laws. The council’s inability became clear when it failed to pass a vote of no-confidence against three ministers who were accused of financial and administrative corruption in connection with the Social Insurance Organization and the Pension Fund. It failed in taking any action against ministers who violated the constitution law by combining ministerial positions and their business activities. Members of the House of Representatives failed in obtaining information concerning the Sectarian and Political Naturalization, despite the formation of a special committee for that purpose. Members of the H.R. who raised serious criticisms against the government were subjected to a vicious publicity campaign and pressures, preventing them from disclosing information and making statements to the press. The House of representatives has, so far, refrained from taking any initiative to reform those laws that restrict freedoms. The Public Prosecutor warned the deputies against any interference in the case of recent arrests, claiming that this was beyond their authorities and subjects them to legal suing.

In Conclusion

The continuation of implementing the same arbitrary laws, weakness of the legislative, the non-independence of the judiciary, marginalizing political and non-governmental societies, domination and control of the government on the media and the lack or ineffectiveness of internal and external means of protection, put us before an absolute authority which holds the instruments of oppression and uses them at its discretion. This is a constant threat to freedoms and human rights in Bahrain.

17 Prisoners of Conscience in Bahrain face up to life imprisonment

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Appeals for Their Release

The Reinforcement Of The State Security Articles Of The 1976 Penal Code

Urgent Appeal

On 30th April 2004, seventeen Bahrainis were arrested for collecting signatures for a constitutional reforms petition. Police stormed the signature collection stands in different areas and arrested three people in Sanad, four in Hamad Town, six in Mahooz, and four in Musallah.

The youths aged between 16 and 20 were accused by the Public Prosecution of attempting to change the country's political system , causing hostility towards the government , illegally forcing the King to abstain from any performance that lawfully falls within his competence and disseminating false report, statements or malicious rumours, or produce any publicity seeking damage public security, cause damage to the public interest. According to the 1976 Penal Code, these charges could lead up to life imprisonment.

The detainees are Ameer Radhi, Hussain Abdali, Hussain Al Matrook and Hussain Al Arabi were rounded up in Musallah by the Khamis Police Station following an order issued by the Public Prosecutor to arrest those involved in collecting signatures. Ibrahim Mahdi, Hussain Mansour and his 17-year-old brother Ahmed were arrested in Sanad; Ali Al Sabaa, Abdullah Anan, Mohammed Al Sabaa, Muzzafar Mousa, Saleh Matrook and Habib Asoumi in Mahooz; Mohammed Saeed, Hussain Al Hamam, Mohammed Al Hajri and Zuhair Ismail were rounded up in Hamad Town.

Three of the detainees have been released on bail on 2nd May 2004 for lack of evidence, while the remaining 14 persons are kept in prison for 45 days. The released persons are Hussain Mansour Abdalla Obeid (17 years old from Sanad), Muzzafar Mousa Shaker Bur (42 years old from Mahooz) and Mohammed Mousa Al Sabaa (16 years old from Mahooz).The relatives of the detainees have approached the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights BCHR, demanding their immediate release. A committee was formed by the relatives on 2 May 2004, including four representatives from the families and three members of the BCHR, to campaign for the release of the detainees. It is worth mentioning that the BCHR sent a letter to Shaikh Abdulrahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa, the Public Prosecutor, inquiring about the reasons behind the detaining of these persons, their legal status, as some of them are below the age of 18, and if they were arrested for simply practicing their basic rights namely collecting signatures for a petition calling for reforms.

The BCHR has called upon the Public Prosecution to treat the detainees in accordance with International standards. The BCHR has also requested the concerned authority to immediately release the detainees.

Background

These tensions rose when the four societies declared their intention to organize a public gathering on 21st April 2004 to launch a popular petition which will address king Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa. The petition is a part of a campaign adopted by the four societies and a number of lawyers and activists following a conference on 14th-15th February 2004. The conference took place despite attempts by the authorities to abort it on the allegation of being unauthorized.

Political dispute started when the four groups had boycotted the elections of the House of Representatives, complaining that the people in Bahrain who voted in favor of the National Charter in 14th-15th February 2001, had no say in the new constitution declared by the King in February 14th, 2002.

According to the new changes in the constitution, the king appoints an equal number to the 40 elected representatives forming a Shura council which shares legislative power; legislations are proposed by the two councils or the government but should all be drafted and scheduled only by the Government, whereas legislations are not enacted without the approval of the King. On the other hand, the King appoints the Cabinet and administrates the country through it. The King also appoints members of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. Furthermore, the National Council has become unable to put forward a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister.

Recommendations

Please appeal to the Bahraini authorities to:

  1. Secure the rights and the well-being of the detainees,
  2. Immediately release them, and
  3. Amend the 1976 Penal Code.

Ref. BCHR Communiqué: Tension Rises in Bahrain: Intimidating Societies for Exercising Basic Rights Obstructing Peaceful Gathering and Popular Petitions, 19th April, 2004.

Relevant sections of Bahrain Penal Code 1976:

Article 160: imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 yeas shall be the punishment for any person who favours or advocates in any manner, whatsoever, the overthrow or change of the country's political, social or economic system with the use of force, intimidation or such other illegal methods.

Article 165: A prison sentence shall be passed against any person who expressly incites others to develop hatred orhostility towards the system of government. Article 166 Imprisonment for life shall be the punishment for any person who resorts to violence, intimidation or any other illegal method to force the Amir of the country or the Prime Minister to perform or to abstain from performing any act that lawfully falls within his competence.

Article 169: A punishment of imprisonment for a period of no more than two years and a fine not exceeding and a fine not exceeding BD200 or either penalty shall be inflicted upon any person who publishes by any method of publication untrue reports, falsified or forged documents or falsely attributed to other persons should they undermine the public peace or cause damage to the country's supreme interest or to the State's creditworthiness. If such publication results in undermining public peace or causing damage to the country's supreme interest or to the State's creditworthiness, the punishment shall be a prison sentence.

The Fate of the Corruption Cases

A Significant Turning Point For Bahrain's Present And Future

23 April 2004

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) supports the efforts of members of the Council of Representatives, who are following-up investigations and hearings in the case related to Pension Fund Commission (PFC) and the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI). The BCHR on the other hand is calling for investigations of corruption in other institutions such as the Endowments Directorate.

The BCHR stresses the grave impact of these cases on the national economy and the economical rights of the people. These cases are examples of administrative and financial corruption and public money squandering, whilst large sections of society are suffering from increasing poverty, unemployment, underpayment and inappropriate housing.

Serious and wide-scale irregularities have been revealed in the report prepared by the Parliamentary Investigations Committee in the PFC and GOSI case and in the discussions of the report by the Council of Representatives. Investigations and hearings should continue to unveil the extent of these wrong-doings. If approved, the concerned ministers should be dismissed and all involved employees should be penalized through the legal system.

Investigation, interrogation and holding the official responsible for the irregularities, must continue, regardless of the government's attempts to close the case through; announcing to hand back the mismanaged money and lands, responding positively to the recommendations in the report of the Representatives, disseminating information about governmental reshuffle and rotating some ministerial portfolios or pressurizing members of the house of representatives.

The representatives were distinctive in discussing the report, yet important questions remain unanswered: who are the persons benefiting from these irregularities? what were the government's decision-making mechanisms in this issue? and to what extent are the cabinet members collectively responsible in the related decisions?

The PFC and GOSI case clearly revealed the performance of in other governmental institutions. It is also a testing tool for the functioning of the House of Representatives and its ability to monitor and hold the government responsible. Any retraction or negligence by the Representatives in dealing with the case will affect their independence and efficiency, and will raise doubts on the functioning of the whole democratic system.

On the other hand, the BCHR finds it strange that the state institutions are ignoring serious irregularities in other Governmental institution such as in the Endowments Directorate, despite details revealed in the press. While the former head of the Endowments Directorate (who addressed the irregularities) is being prosecuted for defamation, the public prosecution refuses to investigate the irregularities, with the excuse that the case has not been reported officially to the public prosecution office. While the Council of Representatives is avoiding to take up the case, leaving the topic in the hands of a public committee, formed by a journalist who was able to gather critical documents that prove the irregularities.

The real solution to tackle administrative and financial corruption in the country, is to deal with the corruption files with indispensable boldness and transparency. This will be an example of implementing the rule of the people and law, and will guarantee economic and social development. Whereby, internal and foreign confidence in the performance of the regime will increase, paving the way for prosperity and welfare.

The Religious and societal figures, the various civil societies and all forms of media and press are requested to play an active role in the financial and administrative corruption cases, among other means, to support the Council of Representatives to be able to carry out its responsibilities in these cases. For the fate of the issue will be a turning point for Bahrain's present and future.

Tension rises in Bahrain: Intimidating Societies for exercising basic Rights

Obstructing Peaceful Gathering and Popular Petitions

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (to be published on 19 April 2004)

On the 6th April 2004, the Minister of Labour & Social Affairs sent letters to four civic societies (a primitive form of political parties) threatening of “legal action” if these societies carried on a plan to stage a popular petition on 21 April 2004 calling for rejection of the new constitution declared by the King in 2002.

Prior to his official letter, the Minister of Labour has made public announcements [1], threatening to use his power, as stated in article 50 of the Law on Societies no 21 of 1989 [2], to suspend or dissolute the four societies if they violated article (29) [3] of the constitution by using public petition to address demands to the authorities. The said societies responded to the Minister stating their right to call for a popular petition and the fact that such action is in line and not in contradiction with article (29) of the constitution.

The four abovementioned societies, which form a coalition of opposition groups, are: the National Democratic Action, the Islamic Action, Al-Wefaq National Islamic and the National Democratic Coalition. Al-Wefaq is the largest political society in the country and the most popular amongst the Shiite majority. In the municipalities election in May 2002, Al-Wefaq members won 18 seats out of 50, holding the position of head of council in three out of five municipalities, namely the Capital, the Northern and the Central.

Appeal:

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) considers any threats or actions against societies, merely for collecting signatures or holding peaceful meetings, is a violation of basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related International Conventions. Whereas obstructing people from expressing their views using peaceful means will only leave them to seek other forms which could affect the peace and security of the society. The BCHR calls on the authorities in Bahrain to permit the formation of political parties and amend the Law on Societies no.21 of 1989.

Background:

These tensions rose when the four societies declared their intention to organize a public gathering on 21st April 2004 to launch a popular petition which will address king Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa. The petition is a part of a campaign adopted by the four societies and a number of lawyers and activists following a conference on 14th-15th February 2004. The conference took place despite attempts by the authorities to abort it on the allegation of being unauthorized.

Political dispute started when the four groups had boycotted the elections of the House of Representatives, complaining that the people in Bahrain who voted in favor of the National Charter in 14th-15th February 2001, had no say in the new constitution declared by the King in February 14th, 2002.

According to the new changes in the constitution, the king appoints an equal number to the 40 elected representatives forming a Shura council which shares legislative power; legislations are proposed by the two councils or the government but should all be drafted and scheduled only by the Government, whereas legislations are not enacted without the approval of the King. On the other hand, the King appoints the Cabinet and administrates the country through it. The King also appoints members of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. Furthermore, the National Council has become unable to put forward a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister.

The Law on Societies No.21 of 1989

It is true that Bahrain has witnessed significant change in the exercise of basic freedoms in the last four years, however, the restrictive legal framework belong to the previous era, and could be used any time to hinder these freedoms. The Law on Societies No.21 was enacted in 1989 in the absence of democracy. This law covers organizations with different objectives and different in nature including professional, cultural and social societies. It also includes various groups such as women, youth and foreign community societies as well as sport clubs. Political and human rights societies were added under this law when they were permitted to act in the country since 2001.

The Law on Societies restricts the right to set up a society, to amend society constitution, to engage in politics, to have links with overseas entities and to raise domestic and overseas funds. The law empowers the minister, in broadly defined circumstances, to merge societies, appoint management, suspend resolutions, control and supervise general meetings and intervene in the specifications of candidates for management and its meetings. The Law also empowers the minister to temporarily close any society [4].

Notes:

[1] Akhbar Alkhaleej newspaper, issue 9491, March 18, 2004; Alwasat newspaper, March 30, 2004; Bahrain Tribune, March 31, 2004

[2] According to Article 50 of the Societies Law, the Minister has the right to dissolve or close any society for a period of 45 days if, among other things, it proves unable to realize its objectives, or violates public order.

[3] Article (29) of the constitution states: “Any individual can address the public authority in writing and with his signature. Only duly constituted organizations and corporate bodies shall have the right to address the public authorities collectively”

[4] For more details, refer to BCHR report: Evaluation of Human rights Conditions in Bahrain: In Terms of Laws, Institutions and Protection Mechanisms

- December, 2003

Discrimination In Granting Citizenship In Bahrain

Motives & Serious Impacts On Humans Rights And Social Security

March 2004

The Bahraini leadership's policy regarding the naturalization process reveals wide practice of discrimination, abuse of power, defect in the rule of law, absence of transparency, manipulation of the democratic process and weakness in scrutinizing the executive authority.

The huge increase in naturalized citizens worsened the already deteriorating economic situation in Bahrain. The result was escalation of unemployment, poverty and housing problems, thus affecting the rights of women, children and weaker segments of society (1). The process of exceptional naturalization, employment of these naturalized persons in security departments and providing them with privileges, have psychological and social impacts on the social structure, provocation of racial and sectarian conflicts, hatred towards foreigners (xenophobia) (2). Although the motives behind discrimination are political, the form it takes is sectarian and racial.

The BCHR fears that social and economic impacts of this issue will further damage the citizens' confidence in the government and intensify public resentment, resulting in the re-occurrence of political and security unrest.

This report sheds light on the issue, analyzes its motives and put forth suggested recommendations:

The law in Bahrain allows granting citizenship with conditions. Among these conditions are residing in Bahrain for 15 years if the applicant is Arab; and 25 years for non Arab (3). However, in reality, the authorities in Bahrain followed discriminatory policy, by secretly and exceptionally granting citizenship in the last ten years to thousands of individuals and families of Sunni tribal origins, though they already hold citizenships of other countries and residential conditions do not apply to them. On the other hand, thousands of eligible people were denied citizenship although most of them had no other citizenship (4) and did not live in any other country besides Bahrain. This denial created difficulties for 'stateless' people especially in owning properties, having jobs, and traveling or mobility (5).

Granting citizenship with exceptions and secretly without adherence to the law is still a worrying matter regardless of the political openness that was introduced by Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who came to power after years of internal political unrest and international pressure – this resulted in granting citizenship to many eligible people – a move that was endorsed by human rights organizations and by the public. Most people are reluctant (6) that the authorities have no transparency and make no effort to resolve the issue.

The Council of Representatives formed a committee to investigate the issue, but the 'law on the Consultative Council and the Council of Representatives' issued by a decree before the formation of the later, prevents the Representatives from questioning the government on matters preceding its formation in December 2002. The Committee is also restricted from reviewing the process of naturalization, which was granted by the King's exceptional authority (7).

Despite, the political limitations and restricted information obtained by the committee, its members were able to reveal serious breach in granting citizenship. The committee's report also pointed out that the increase in the number of naturalized citizens had a negative impact on security, social, economic and living standards. It recommended that the law on citizenship should be amended, citizenship granted outside the scope of law be reviewed, the directorate of citizenship be re-organized, and criteria for exceptional residence conditions be put forth. The report held the Minister of Interior Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa responsible (8). The discussion on the report was postponed to next month. Many doubt the representatives' ability to disclose political facts, let alone taking measures in this regard.

Six political societies held conferences, and visual-taped samples of granted passports. These societies also issued detailed reports on breaching of the law, and sent questions to the undersecretary of immigration and passports, but no response was received until now (9).

It is possible to conclude motives behind the discrimination in granting citizenship through the following points:

  • Most of those granted exceptional citizenship are of Sunni tribal origins, of which the 'Al Khalifa' ruling family belong to. They are a minority in the country, though they dominate the political and economic life, as well as the military and security institutions.
  • Persons who were utmostly denied the citizenship for a long period of time belong to Shia sect of Islam who form the majority of population. Shia are discriminated against in government, army and security jobs and in educational and housing services (10). Thus, they are the unemployed majority with wide-spread poverty, opposition tendencies and protest activities.
  • All those granted citizenship with exception were employed in the Defense Forces, National Guard and security forces. They and their families reside in semi- remote areas (11). They were actively engaged in suppressing protests. These institutions marginally employ a few Shias. During the 90s unrest, tens were killed and injured due to excessive use of forces, to crush down demonstrations. While, approximately 7,000 citizens (mostly Shias) (12) were detained and tortured.
  • The authorities took initiatives to grant the citizenship to a large number of individuals from the Saudi Al Dawaser tribe, who had never resided in Bahrain. These people were brought to Bahrain only to participate in the elections of the Council of Representatives (13). The authorities also issued orders to army and police associates to take part in the elections (14). The authorities amended the law just before the election to allow the newly-naturalized citizens to participate in the elections, rather than wait for 10 years to be eligible to vote, according to the previous law (15).

Recommendations:

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the authorities and concerned human rights bodies to intervene to push for transparency, whereby the authority reveals all information related to naturalization, mainly in the period of the 90s.

  • To hold open dialogue to discuss and resolve this issue.
  • To carry out administrative reforms in all concerned departments and to prosecute officials who violated the law.
  • To amend the naturalization law, which would clearly specify conditions for citizenship, restrict the authority from abusing this power and achieve transparency by officially disclosing granting citizenship.
  • To introduce procedures that will stop any discrimination in granting citizenship and any newly-naturalized citizen from being given preferences in employment, housing and other privileges.
  • To give priority to the citizens, without discriminating among them, in employment and promotions in the army and security institutions.
  • To give priority to those who are being denied citizenship, to women who have Bahraini children and to children of Bahraini women.
  • To speed up the process of granting citizenship to those who deserve it, and to issue passports to denied Bahrainis, such as the descendents of Mr. Saleh Al-Setrawi, who until now are barred from returning to Bahrain.

Endnotes

(1) See details and statistics in the report of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights on living standards and economic rights

(2) Privileges are given to the naturalized persons in acquiring jobs in the army and security institutions, while Shia citizens who are a majority and consist the majority of the 30,000 unemployed Bahrainis, are denied these jobs. While naturalized persons injoy housing facilities, there are more than 40,000 applicants for public housing, some for more than 10 years and there are approximately 10,000 homes about to collapse and not suitable for living. The naturalized persons are given preference in salaries, allowances and promotions.

(3) Article no. (3) Bahraini citizenship law for 1963.

(4) Universal Human Rights Declaration stipulate that every individual has the right to a citizenship.

(5) Consider reports by Amnesty International, US State Department and Bahrain Human Rights Organisation for 1990-2000.

(6) The passports directorate still places obstacles before many of those who deserve the citizenship, whereby the Bahrain Centre follows-up more than 40 cases of individuals and families, the authorities slows down the process of granting passports and allowing the return of 66 children and descendants of Saleh Al-Setrawi, who are in exile.

(7) Most cases of exceptional citizenship is believed to have happened in the 90s, with special decrees issued by the late Amir.

(8) Statements by the vice chairman of the parliamentary investigation committee regarding naturalization- Al Ayam newspaper 16/2/2004.

(9) Consider reports and working papers presented by Al Wefaq, the National Action, the Islamic Action, the National Forum, Al Wasat Al Arabi and Al Menbar Al Taqadoumi.

(10) Statistics report published by Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

(11) Such areas are houses of Defence Forces, Safiriya and parts of Hamad Town.

(12) The committee for victims collected data on the number of victims. The committee submitted a petition containing 33,000 signatures of victims and their sympathizer, demanding compensation and prosecuting of officials. Refer also to reports by Amnesty International and UN’s mechanisms on violation in Bahrain during the 90s unrest.

(13) In the beginning, the authorities did not admit to naturalizing members of Saudi Al Dawaser tribe. However after providing solid evidence in a public seminar by opposition societies, the King revealed that they were given the citizenship because their ancestors lived in Bahrain in the 1920s.

(14) Considering that these segments are of Sunni tribal origins, their participation in the elections would benefit the nominees of these segments on the expense of the others.

(15) The authorities intended to stamp passports of the voters, to find out who failed to participate in voting, mainly those in the military and newly-naturalized citizens. The opposition societies called for boycotting the elections, because of the constitutional changes made by the King, that among other matters, he appoints half the members of the parliament.

Evaluation of Human Rights Conditions in Bahrain

In Terms of Laws, Institutions and Protection Mechanisms

A Paper Presented by Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja, Director Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

Bahrain, 10th December, 2003

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Legislation: Constitution, Laws and Extraordinary Measures
  3. Public Affairs Societies: Political Parties and Organizations at the Government’s Mercy
  4. Media and Press
  5. International Organisations and International Non-government Organisations
  6. Power of Legislation and Control (House of Representatives and Shura Council
  7. Judiciary: Is it a means of Rendering Justice or Restriction?
  8. Executive Authority (Government)
  9. Conclusion
  10. The Penal Code: Restricts Basic Rights and Freedoms
  11. Societies Law No.21 of 1989: A Sword Threatening Societies

The full report can be downloaded from the link below.