Bahrain Center for Human Rights:

The King Freezes Court Proceedings Against Three Activists The government's use of force is a failing strategy in Bahrain

21 May 2007

The king of Bahrain has declared that the court proceedings against three activists have been frozen. The order followed a day of unrest, when special security forces attacked demonstrators rallying peacefully in support of Abdul-hadi Al-Khawaja, the President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Hassan Mushaima, the general secretary of HAQ Movement, and independent activist Mohammed Shaker.

Background Information: Abdulhandi Al-Khawaja, the President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Hassan Mushaima, the general secretary of HAQ Movment and Shaker Mohamed Abdul-Al were arrested on the 2nd February, 2007 for delivering speeches criticizing government violations including the scandal which was revealed in the Al-Bandar Report. However, the three were release on bail on the same day after the spread of protests in different places in the country. Following the release, two semi-governmental newspapers (Akhbar Al-Khaleej and Al-Watan) started a campaign in order to defame the charged activists and demanding that the government punishes them. The two newspapers did not publish the speeches based on which they were accused or the outcome of a press conference that was organized by both Mr. Al-Khawaja and Mr. Mushaima following their release.

Reasons Behind Defamation and Prosecution: Mr. Al-Khawaja revealed in that press conference that the true reason behind the arrests, defamation and prosecution is because both the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and HAQ Movement had been actively engaged in revealing the Government human rights violations, sectarian discrimination , political naturalization and the ransacking of public wealth and lands, and the active role of the two organizations in publicizing the Al-Bandar Report, the scandal that clearly shows the involvement of high authorities in a secret web and plan to monopolize the election, implement sectarian exclusion and penetrate civil society.

Recent Development: A celebratory rally held on Saturday evening May 19th in the village of Nwaidrat was broken up by riot police, who forced civilians to disperse by attacking them with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. A number of arrests were made and a number of people were injured.

Among those injured was Ibrahim Al Sharif Sayed, leader of the leftist National Democratic Action Society (http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/19/africa/ME-GEN-Bahrain-Opposition-Rally.php).

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the use of excessive force by the government against civilians is a failing strategy that contributes to already high tensions among citizens.

Authorities have failed to bring about 'security' or an end to unrest, in spite of a series of repressive laws such as the 2006 law on processions and gathering, the political societies law, and the Press law. They have repeatedly used excessive violence and force against participants in peaceful protests (particularly human rights defenders and members of people's committees).

"This strategy of repressing freedom of expression fails to address the underlying causes of unrest in Bahrain - poverty, corruption, political sectarianism, political naturalization and public land theft," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said.

On another note, Rajab added that "Despite the government's refusal to answer its people's demands, the revelations of the Al Bander report have not been forgotten."

Recently in Bahrain's House of Representatives, government allies blocked Al Wefaq (which took 63% of all votes in last year's elections) from passing a motion to question the government official named as the leader and financier in plans revealed by the Al Bandergate reports.

"We reiterate our position - that problems in Bahrain cannot be solved through the employment of foreign mercenaries and their deployment of force against civilians exercising their rights to freedom of expression at public gatherings. "These deep rooted problems must be addressed by political means, and dialogue." Added Mr. Rajab.

Recommendations:

•An end to the use of excessive force by security personnel against protesters, and the use of force to disperse peaceful gatherings under the pretext of lack of legal permission from the authorities.

• An end to the use of collective punishment against residents of areas in which clashes have taken place between riot police and civilians.

• An end to arbitrary and random arrests.

•The BCHR urges an initiative of a true partnership between the authorities and the community, based on an equal dialogue that addresses the reform of Bahrain's political, economic and social rights situation, and works to cease corruption and sectarian discrimination.

•We call on the authorities to allow the exercise of public freedoms, such as speech, the press, peaceful assembly, and to reform laws and procedures which are contrary to human rights standards.

•We ask for a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of excessive political naturalization, land theft, corruption and the issues raised in the report leaked by former adviser to the government Dr. Salah Al-bander.