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Warning to civil servants rapped By GEOFFREY BEW Published: 26th July 2008

A LEADING human rights activist has hit out at plans to sack government employees involved in violent demonstrations. Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) assistant general-secretary Dr Abdulla Aldeerazi said the threat was against freedom of expression and broke at least two UN conventions on human rights.

Civil Service Bureau acting chief Ahmed Al Zayed warned last Sunday that government employees involved in rioting or other illegal activities would be sacked.

He sent a memo to all ministries urging them to implement the measures "firmly and unflinchingly" through legal channels.

However, while strongly condemning any form of violence, Dr Aldeerazi believes it may lead to innocent people being singled out as troublemakers.

He said distinguishing a rioter from a peaceful demonstrator would be extremely difficult, adding that the threat of such action could quell even peaceful protests.

Dr Aldeerazi said such a policy also contravened the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as well as Bahrain's constitution and the National Action Charter.

"It is ridiculous," Dr Aldeerazi told the GDN.

"How can you express yourself if you are not allowed to be involved in demonstrations?

"To issue such a circular which threatens people could prevent them from expressing their opinion.

"How are they going to decide if a person, who has gone to a peaceful demonstration that turned into a riot, should be sacked or not?" asked Dr Aldeerazi.

He said if government employees began losing jobs for taking part in protests, it might not be long before non-government organisations and rights activists are targeted.

"It could be exploited and later be used as an excuse (not to employ someone) for security reasons," he said.

"If a 12 or 15-year-old takes part in an illegal demonstration and is punished, and years later is denied a job, it will be a double punishment for them.

"This is absurd. Democracy is a whole package. It cannot be tailored to the government's mood and needs."

The government warning came after the Cabinet issued a statement condemning agitators who incite children to riot and hurl Molotov cocktails.

His Majesty King Hamad has also warned societies and individuals against being influenced by external allegiances and condemned groups that incited children to handle Molotov cocktails.

He reiterated the rights of Bahrainis for peaceful protests, while condemning acts of sabotage and arson attacks.

geoff@gdn.com.bh

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