An Investigation into the award granted to Bahraini Prime Minister by the United Nations Habitat Programme Bahrain Centre for Human Rights:

1. Background

Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa has been Bahrain's Prime Minister since the country's independence in 1972 and held power through a period of extreme repression, intimidation, arrests, torture, and forced exile of political dissidents in the 1990's.

According to Human Rights Watch, "Shaikh Khalifa and his late brother, Shaikh Isa, the country's emir,suspended the country's first constitution and partially elected parliament in 1975 and set up a system of State Security Courts that,until the new ruler abolished them in 2001, sentenced thousands of suspected dissidents to long years in prison, many on the basis of confessions obtained under torture." see (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/07/01/bahrai16334.htm)

On July 2, 2007 the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon presented the UN Habitat Programme's Special Citation of the Habitat Scroll of Honor Award "Outstanding Achievement for 2006" to Shaikh Khalifa at a ceremony in Geneva. The UN Habitat programme is mandated to "promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all".

According to UNPHS's officials, Shaikh Khalifa was a result of "his outstanding efforts in raising living standards for all Bahrainis through an active focus on the alleviation of poverty and modernization of the country while preserving the cultural heritage of the country"

2. Current situation: The Government of Bahrain violates United Nations standards with regard to urban planning and addressing poverty.

On June 30 2007, a public rally marched towards the United Nations in Manama. It was organised to coincide with the announcement of the award.Government repression of civilian's right to freedom of peaceful expression began prior to the demonstration with an Interior Ministry campaign in local newspapers warning organisers not to go ahead with the rally. On the day of the rally the planned location was surrounded by special riot security forces armed with live ammunition, who have in the past used excessive force against unarmed civilians on demonstrations.However, in some villages protests took place and burning tires and garbage containers [2].

Both Bahraini and International human rights organisations proceeded with a campaign protesting against the granting of the award to the Prime Minister.The Bureau of the Middle East of the International Habitat Organization raised its concerns with the United Nations Program on Human Settlements (UNPHS) with regards to the objections on the nomination. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights presented a letter (includingdocuments and evidence) to the UN secretary-general. These documents demonstrated explicitly the grave failure of housing policy, corruption implication and plundering of lands by the Prime Minister [3].

On June 12, 2007, during the debate on the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur concerning Adequate Housing a speech was delivered on behalf of the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies [4] detailing the same issues - Bahrain's failing housing policy, corruption, and the plundering of public land.

Human Rights Watch also issued a statement strongly objecting to the fact that the United Nations is honoring a person who is directly responsible for massive violations of human rights - a key figure in a regime with record of human rights violations including torture, extrajudicial killings, unfair trials, forced deportation, and the abolition of democracy [5].

3. Political issues and Bahrain's Eligibility for the award

Based on this asessment, the BCHR believes that international institutions have been influenced by public funds used to promote the image of government officials. The BCHR has come to believe that institutional and personal interests played a key role in the Prime Minister's candidacy.

a) The Political Dimension:

The Prime Minister provided US $1million the programme according to information published by the United Nations Programme on Human Settlements. Executive-Director of the UNPHS, Anna Tibaijuka, visited the Kingdom of Bahrain from 6-8 February 2007 in response to the invitation from the Minister of Cabinet Affairs. Ms. Tibaijuka was then received by the Prime Minister himself, who conveyed to her that the Bahraini government would make a donation of US $ 1million towards strengthening the activities of UNPHS [6].

Behind the scenes political activities:

Individuals at the UN have allegedly worked behind the scenes in order for the organisation to provide Bahrain's Prime Minister with the award. This includes individuals who have had accusation of corruption and collaboration with the oppressive and violent Bahraini regime in the 1990s.

The individuals allegedly involved are:

1- Faisal Abdul-Qader, who lived in Bahrain for a period of six years. During this time Mr Abdul-Qader acted as co-coordinator at the United Nations Development Program in Bahrain. A formal letter of complaint was sent by local human rights organisations to the United Nations during Mr Abdul-Qader's time in office after he was implicated in passing video and written documentation of the State Security Apparatus' human rights violations to the Bahraini government rather than the UN.

Ostensibly as a reward, Mr Abdul-Qader was granted Bahraini citizenship which is illegal under Bahraini law and against United Nations standards. He was also granted a large plot of land in Hamad Town, which is currently under construction. 2- Ali Shaboo, head of the Arabian Technical Cooperation for the United Nations Habitat Programme. Mr. Shaboo is known to be a close acquaintance of Mr Abdul-Qader. He paid an unannounced visit to Bahrain prior to the granting of the award to the Prime Minister. It is believed that the prime objective of his visit was to evaluate the candidates for the prize.

b) Technical dimension:

The Award is granted on the basis of two criteria: 1- The standard of urbanization 2- Eradication of poverty through sound urban planning

1 – Regarding planned urbanization Bahrain does not meet a number of the required criterion, following some shortcomings documented by UN agencies:

- Failure to protect the environment and specially the costs - Failure to preserve historical monuments, especially the Aali burial mounds of which two thirds were separated and granted as private land gifts to individuals - Failure to preserve natural water springs, such as Um Al-Sejoor and Al-Safahiya - Neglect of the water stream drawing a dividing line between the Bahrain Fort and the sea. This water stream would have vanished if concerned foreign universities did not interfere in its destruction. - Destruction of historical monuments such as old houses in the villages and cities except those of the ruling family and some other houses. However, after the violations became very flagrant, a member of the royal family and Information Ministry officials endeavored to rectify the matter and forestall the scandal by restoring old houses.This work is still limited to specific regions and families. - The Green Belt: vast areas of lands have been given out as gifts under the urban development plan. The Sanabis sea was reclaimed and Seef Mall was erected on it. The same land was left deserted for sometime then it was sold, to the benefit of the ruling family. - Flawed planning of streets and cities. - Failure to preserve the religious identity of Bahrain especially concerning the Shiite sect through the protection of shrines of prominent historical and religious figures such Shaikh Maitham Al-Bahrani and Yusuf Al-Tublani.

2 - Regarding the eradication of poverty in Bahrain through sound urban planning:

- All the previously issued United Nations reports concerning urban planning in Bahrain describe it as a grave failure. - Many institutions have been banned from addressing poverty in Bahrain. The officials excuse for this is the pretext that there are no poverty pockets in Bahrain. Despite numerous reports highlighting an increasing rate of poverty and widening gap in wealth distribution, there is no predetermined plan to fight poverty. This reveals the lack of a national plan for development.

Based on the above the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for:

+ All civil and governmental institutions to cease from using public resources towards publicity and public relations for government executives, including penetration of international organizations.

+ All concerned individuals to be held accountable for corruption and the looting of lands, and the destruction of the natural environment.

+ A review of the issues related to the failure of government policyon the natural environment, historical monuments, housing, and poverty.

The BCHR calls on the United Nations to investigate the allegations of misconduct related to the granting the award of human settlements to the Prime Minister of Bahrain.

We ask the UN to scrutinize its regulations and standards to ensure that the future recipient of such an award will not be an individual with a black record of corruption and human rights violations.

[1] Source: Official Website for Mowal: United Nations Habitat program & Human: http://77.245.0.19/

[2] Refer images published by AP news agency dated 2nd July 2007

[3] Refer text of the speech posted on the Bahrain Center for Human Rights website: www.bahrainrights.org

[4] Refer text of the speech and video clip on the Website of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights: www.bahrainrights.org

[5] Refer the Statement of the Human Rights Watch dated 1st July 2007.

[6] Source: Official Website for Mowal: United Nations Habitat program & Human: http://77.245.0.19/