18 Feb, 2010

Media harassment of human rights defenders Mr Nabeel Rajab, Mr Mohamed Al-Maskati and Mr Abdul

HomeBahrain: Media harassment of human rights defenders Mr Nabeel Rajab, Mr Mohamed Al-Maskati and Mr Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar Posted on 2010/02/18

Mohamed Al Maskati A media harassment campaign has recently been launched against human rights defenders Mr Nabeel Rajab, Mr Mohamed Al-Maskati and Mr Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar. Nabeel Rajab is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Mohamed Al-Maskati is the president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar is the spokesperson for the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture.

Further Information Front Line previously issued appeals concerning Nabeel Rajab on 25 November 2009, 30 October 2008, 22 September 2006, 20 July 2005, 14 June 2005 and 29 September 2004, and concerning Mohamed Al-Maskati on 5 February 2009, 3 November 2008, 19 December 2007 and 1 February 2007.

Recently, local online newspapers The Gulf News (http://www.akhbar-alkhaleej.com) and Al Watan News (http://www.alwatannews.net) as well as the Bahrain Radio Station have issued false statements concerning the aforementioned human rights defenders. The three defenders have repeatedly been accused by these media outlets of committing violent acts, using Molotov bombs, and of betraying their country.

This campaign began following the publication of the Human Rights Watch report “Torture Redux” on the use of torture in Bahrain, on 8 February 2010. In the report, Human Rights Watch expressed its thanks to the human rights activists who assisted in the preparation of the report including Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar.

Front Line believes that Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar have been targeted as a result of their human rights activities, in particular their involvement in the preparation of the recent Human Rights Watch report on the use of torture in Bahrain. Front Line fears for the physical and psychological integrity of the aforementioned defenders.

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/2367

16 Feb, 2010

The suffering of migrant workers must be addressed before they reach the point of suicide

CARAM ASIA & Bahrain Center for Human rights February- 2010

The shocking cases of suicides committed by migrant workers in Bahrain reported since the beginning of 2010 are the continuation of a trend that should have been addressed years ago. The BCHR and CARAM[1] Asia condemns the failure of authorities and Bahraini civil society to improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers, which in previous cases has been shown to lead to acts of desperation such as suicide.

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights starts by stating that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights," BCHR and CARAM ASIA Chairperson Nabeel Rajab said “Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. If Bahrain is really serious about its commitment to Human Rights, and would like to maintain its position as a progressive model for neighboring nations, it must start to honour these very fundamental human rights.

"We have been talking about the shocking rates of suicide for too long already, it is time to take some sincere steps to understand the causes, and to make attempts to affect change."

In January 2010 alone, Bahrain has witnessed two cases of suicide and two cases of attempted suicide by migrant workers. According to the Gulf Daily News[2], 36 out of 131 cases of deaths by suicide in Bahrain in 2008 were Bahraini. The majority of suicides are said to have been committed by poor migrant workers. It was also reported that more than 30% of cases of suicide attempts handled by the government's psychiatric hospitals in 2008 were foreign domestic workers which believed to be mostly Asian. In 2007, out of 120 cases of death by suicide, 27 were Bahrainis. The BCHR previously reported that between January and April 2007 alone five migrant workers in Bahrain committed suicide.

"We should not really be shocked any more by these incidents since we have been seeing them occur for years now, without any attempt to improve the conditions that lead these workers to try and end their lives," Mr Rajab added. "What would drive a 22-year man to try and end his life?”We also know now, thanks to reports by rights groups, activists, social workers and the media, about the conditions in which migrant workers live in Bahrain. Without freedom of movement, in terrible working conditions, in inhumane living conditions. Violations include passports being withheld, salaries not being paid, abuse from employers, little support from the Bahraini government and the sending countries.

"We have been seeing the suicide attempts for years now, and we know well the degrading situation migrant workers are living in. Instead of being shocked we should be taking action to change this situation."

The BCHR and CARAM Asia calls on the Bahraini government to honour its commitment to human rights and the protection of foreign workers in its country. The authorities must use the legal means at their disposal to enforce better standards of work conditions, living conditions and treatment of workers.

The BCHR and CARAM Asia calls on sending countries to stop prioritizing remittances over the health, happiness, rights and safety of their nationals. The BCHR and CARAM Asia recognize that embassies and local representatives of sending countries have taken steps to improve their services to low-wage earning nationals in the last few years. We encourage this practice, but insist that sending countries and their representative’s embassies must take a greater role in being a source of support and information to their citizens working abroad.

The BCHR and CARAM Asia calls on social workers, activists, business people and Bahraini society to work together to create better standards of living and treatment of migrant workers in Bahrain.

"This calls for a change in mentality and practice," said Mr Rajab. "If we are serious about protecting the right to a life of dignity and security then we must work to provide a person in a desperate situation with a better option than ending their life."

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[1] CARAM Asia is a Malaysian based regional NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is an open network of NGOs and CBOs. The CARAM Asia network is involved in action research, advocacy, coalition building and capacity building with the aim of creating an enabling environment to empower migrants and their communities to reduce all vulnerabilities including HIV and enhance their health rights globally.

[2] http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=269571

10 Feb, 2010

Authorities prohibit publishing houses from exhibiting books

Alert - Bahrain 9 February 2010

Authorities prohibit publishing houses from exhibiting books

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its great concern regarding the Bahraini authorities' banning of 25 Shiite Lebanese publishing houses from exhibiting their books in the annual book fair, planned to be held in the Bahraini capital of Manama on 17 March 2010.

In a news piece published in "Al Wassat" daily newspaper, it discussed the Bahraini authorities delivering a black list to the shipping company concerned with shipping the books of the 25 Lebanese publishing houses. Following this, the company refrained from shipping the books of those publishing houses which were supposed to participate in the fair. The same source confirmed that the list which was delivered to the shipping company was not delivered to the same publishing houses, and that the publishing houses only learned of the ban from the shipping company.

One day after the newspaper published the story about the ban, the Bahraini Ministry of Information hastened to deny the news or its responsibility for it. Although this is not the first time that the Bahraini authorities have banned the entry of some books into Bahrain, the previous bans targeted books and publications that were not of such large significance. This is the first time that it has targeted entire publishing houses. What distinguished this black list of the banned publishing houses is that they publish Shiite religious books. While the Ministry denied any involvement in the ban, the owners of several of the Lebanese publishing houses confirmed to "Al Wassat" that the shipping company officials refused to ship the books according to a decision issued by the Bahraini authorities.

The BCHR believes that the ban was perhaps issued by the National Security Apparatus which greatly intervenes in its work with the Ministry of Culture and Information, by dominating the Department of Foreign Media at the Ministry of Culture and Information. The Apparatus is also responsible for blocking electronic websites and confiscating and banning books that are not consistent with the policy of the government, and withdrawing licenses of reporters and international news agencies which cannot be adjusted to serve the authority's agenda.

The Bahraini government has increasingly targeted the Shiite sect on all levels, among them the cultural level by banning their political, religious and cultural websites on the Internet, and banning the religious and historical books that belong to them, and restricting their religious freedom.

The president of the BCHR said in this regard, "Insisting on monitoring the written press and banning books and independent publishing houses and blocking the political and human rights electronic websites that oppose the government's policies has become one of the features of the repressive and authoritarian government." He added, "The policy of the Bahraini authorities in banning books and closing down websites has proved to be an utter failure; this policy even contributed in bringing them fame and attracted interested people, and the only thing it earned from the process of blocking and banning is harming the human rights reputation of Bahrain both locally and internationally. These suppressive approaches contradict the commitments of Bahrain as a member of the Human Rights Council, and a party to the International Covenant (. . .)"

The BCHR demands that the Bahraini authorities stop targeting people's opinions and beliefs, stop banning books and publishing houses immediately, and that they instead stop supporting the websites and newspapers that are Takfiri (accusing others of blasphemy), and that instill religious and sectarian hatred between people.

For more information: Bahrain Center for Human Rights Manama Bahrain info (@) bahrainrights.org Phone: +97 33 9633399 Fax: +97 31 7795170 Bahrain Center for Human Rights http://www.bahrainrights.org

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9 Feb, 2010

Torture Redux

We’ll go back to the 1990s. —Ministry of Interior officer to detainee Nadr Ali Ahmad al-Salatne By the end of the 1990s, Bahrain appeared to have cast off what had been a well-deserved reputation as a country that routinely tortured detainees. The government had taken significant steps to curtail the use of torture and other ill-treatment by its security officials, and reports of such practices became a rarity. This report concludes, however, that since the end of 2007, officials again have used torture and ill-treatment, particularly during the interrogation of security suspects. Human Rights Watch’s conclusion is based on interviews with former detainees and others, as well as its review of government documents. This reversion to past practices came as political tensions rose in Bahrain. Street demonstrations involving young men from the country’s majority Shia Muslim community protesting alleged discrimination by the Sunni-dominated government deteriorated with increasing regularity into confrontations, sometimes violent, with security forces. Arrests often followed. Security officials appear to have utilized a specific repertoire of techniques against many of those arrested designed to inflict pain and elicit confessions. These techniques included the use of electro-shock devices, suspension in painful positions, beating the soles of the feet (falaka), and beatings of the head, torso, and limbs. Some detainees also reported that security officials had threatened to kill them or to rape them or members of their families. Many detainees were subjected to more than one of these practices. The use of these techniques, separately and in combination, violates Bahrain’s obligations as a state party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) and other international treaties, as well as the prohibition of torture in Bahraini law. * * * For many years, government opponents have chosen December 16—Bahrain’s National Day—and the days leading up to it as an opportune time to mount street protests. December 2007 saw protests in a number of Shia neighborhoods and villages around the capital, Manama. When a young protestor died—opposition activists charge he was asphyxiated by security forces’ excessive use of tear gas, while officials claim he died of natural causes—the confrontations intensified. In one village, Jidhafs, protestors torched a security forces vehicle and allegedly stole from it an assault rifle and ammunition. Scores of arrests followed, and in subsequent weeks Bahraini human rights activists reported claims from detainees, relayed by family members and later by defense lawyers, that security forces had subjected those arrested to severe beatings, electro-shock devices, prolonged suspension in painful positions, and other forms of abuse that amounted to torture or otherwise illegal treatment. Officials categorically denied that security forces committed any such acts. The large-scale arrests in response to the December 2007 events led to further cycles of protest and arrest. In March 2008, security forces arrested at least eight young men from around the village of Karzakan, about 20 kilometers south of Manama, following what officials claimed was an arson attack on nearby property belonging to a member of the ruling Al Khalifa family (specifically, a former head of the National Security Agency, or NSA, the security service most directly involved in suppressing the street protests). Security forces arrested some 30 young men in the same area a month later, when clashes between protestors and security forces left an NSA vehicle in flames and a Pakistani NSA officer dead, although the circumstances of his death became the subject of some dispute. Further allegations of torture and ill-treatment were made by these detainees, followed by further government denials. December 2008 saw additional arrests, this time of approximately 35 men who, the authorities claimed, had traveled to Syria to receive training in the use of explosives and other forms of sabotage, or had been recruited by the leaders of the opposition Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy to carry out attacks on property and foment violence. These detainees too, through family members and defense lawyers, complained that they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The Public Prosecution Office broadcast a program on state-run television in which 11 of these detainees made statements that purported to be confessions confirming the government’s allegations and implicating leaders of the Haq Movement as the organizers of a planned campaign to stage violent protests and destroy property. Three Haq Movement leaders were also arrested, but did not allege that they themselves had been subjected to physical abuse. At court hearings involving many of those arrested in connection with the above-described incidents, defendants raised allegations of torture. In several cases the court ordered that government doctors conduct medical examinations of those who complained of torture; in a good number of instances, the government doctors found evidence of injuries consistent with the detainees’ allegations. On April 11, 2009, government officials announced that Bahrain’s ruler, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, had granted a “pardon” to 178 persons then in custody, including many who had been detained in connection with the aforementioned incidents. Those subject to the pardon included persons already convicted and persons whose trials were ongoing. Although government officials, and the Bahraini media, referred to the king’s initiative as a pardon, it was never published in the Official Gazette and it appears to have been more of a suspension of sentences and court proceedings, which might be—and for some individuals were—subsequently reinstated. However conditional the pardon may have been, the release of these detainees presented an opportunity for Human Rights Watch to interview them regarding their treatment in detention and particularly during interrogation. Two Human Rights Watch researchers visited Bahrain from June 6 to June 15, 2009, and met with 20 former detainees: 10 from the December 2007 incidents in Jidhafs; three from February, March and April 2008 incidents in and around Karzakan; and seven who had been arrested in December 2008. A number of other former detainees indicated that they did not feel comfortable meeting with Human Rights Watch. According to Bahraini human rights and opposition activists, authorities had warned former detainees that there might be repercussions for speaking with media or outside investigators. Human Rights Watch also met with defense lawyers, local human rights activists, local journalists, and government officials. In addition, Human Rights Watch acquired medical reports written by Bahraini government doctors regarding the physical condition of detainees, court documents, and reports generated by the security services and prosecutors. Most of the former detainees who spoke with Human Rights Watch said that they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment at the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID) in Adliya, a neighborhood of the capital; at the Ministry of Interior’s Short-Term Detention Unit, also known as Dry Dock because of its proximity to a ship repair yard; and/or at the offices of the NSA, also on the grounds of the Ministry of Interior. The NSA and the Ministry of Interior both report to the Supreme Defense Council, a 14-member body that is drawn entirely from the ruling family and headed by the prime minister. Several of the detainees had also been brought in front of prosecutors who failed to respond appropriately to their complaints of ill-treatment. In a number of instances prosecutors failed to record complaints, order forensic medical examinations, or launch any investigation into a detainee’s allegations. In some cases, prosecutors returned detainees to the custody of the same security officers allegedly responsible for the abuse in the first place. Other prosecutors did appropriately send detainees for medical exams when the detainees complained of torture. Officials with the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution Office, in separate meetings with Human Rights Watch, denied that torture had been employed against those detained in connection with the incidents referenced above. They said the consistency in the accounts of the former detainees, as discussed below, reflected the fact that the detainees had been imprisoned together and had consulted the same defense lawyers. In the opinion of these officials, the consistency of the allegations was evidence that the allegations had been fabricated. The public prosecutor told Human Rights Watch that, as far as he could recall, he had not referred any complaints of torture to the Ministry of Interior for consideration in relation to the former detainees whose cases are described here. At this writing, in January 2010, Human Rights Watch had received no response to letters to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior raising detailed questions about government policies with regard to torture and ill-treatment. (These letters are reproduced in the appendix to this report.) Human Rights Watch found the accounts of torture and ill-treatment documented in this report to be credible. These accounts were consistent as to the specific techniques employed by security services, which supports their credibility. Further, the accounts of abuse provided to Human Rights Watch matched those that detainees had offered earlier in court proceedings and to their defense counsel. In addition, contrary to the assertions of government officials, there is evidence that some if not all detainees had been held in solitary confinement at the time they first reported abuse, reducing the opportunities for them to fabricate accounts prior to making such reports; with respect to the December 2008 detainees, a court ordered that they be removed from solitary confinement in March 2009, after they already had complained to the court and their lawyers about abuse. The detainees also described in consistent terms various interrogation techniques that, while deceptive, did not constitute torture or ill-treatment. None alleged, moreover, that they suffered abuse continuously, and for the most part they did not allege that abuse took place other than in connection with interrogations (or in some cases at the point of arrest). Most significantly, the medical reports of government doctors, along with various court papers, provided the strongest corroboration of the former detainees’ allegations. In fact, the court in one of the Karzakan cases acquitted all defendants on all charges in part because it concluded—on the basis of medical reports—that the defendants had been physically coerced into confessing. * * * Bahrain undertook significant reforms after Shaikh Hamad succeeded his father as ruler (amir, or prince) in 1999. Not the least of these were reforms affecting the security services and the administration of justice. Shaikh Hamad freed thousands of political prisoners and invited the return of hundreds of citizens who had been forcibly exiled. Structural changes included moving the Public Prosecution Office from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior to that of the Ministry of Justice. Perhaps the most significant reform was the abolition of the State Security Court that the government had used for the previous quarter-century to imprison political opponents following closed trials that did not meet international fair trial standards. The State Security Court, which lacked any independence from the executive branch, typically relied on confessions obtained by physical coercion. Beyond these reforms, the government ratified the Convention against Torture, and invited a delegation of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to visit the country. A more negative development was the October 2002 decree issued by Shaikh Hamad (who in the meantime had promoted himself to king) effectively granting amnesty from criminal investigation or prosecution to officials alleged to have ordered or carried out serious crimes such as torture. Nonetheless, while Bahrain had been notorious between 1975 and 1999 as a country where torture was a serious and systemic problem (as Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organizations documented), reports of torture or ill-treatment in detention were scarce after 1999. By 2005, when Bahrain belatedly presented its first report to the UN Committee against Torture (international experts who review the compliance of state parties to the Convention against Torture), it seemed that the government could legitimately claim to have ceased the practice of torture. Indeed, while Human Rights Watch did document serious abuses over the last decade, such as beatings by security forces at the point of arrest, complaints of torture in detention or during interrogation had grown quite rare—until recently. It should be noted that while Bahraini government agents began to employ torture again in late 2007, the fact that government doctors are now able to provide corroboration of torture and ill-treatment marks a major improvement from the era of routine torture that characterized Bahrain in the 1980s and 1990s. During those years, doctors were intimidated from issuing reports that corroborated allegations of abuse, if medical examinations were conducted at all. * * * Human Rights Watch urges the government of Bahrain to take prompt action to ensure that torture and ill-treatment are once again eradicated from the practices of security officials. The government should conduct prompt and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture or ill-treatment by security officials of any rank in the CID or the NSA (or other security services), and prosecute any offenders to the full extent of the law in a court meeting international fair trial standards. More specifically, such prosecutions should occur before an independent civilian court, rather than the Police Court of the Ministry of Interior, where such prosecutions—to the extent they occur at all—now take place. Human Rights Watch also urges the government to suspend immediately any security official if credible evidence exists that such official ordered, carried out, or condoned acts of torture or ill-treatment. The government should further commence investigations into whether prosecutors, including those named in this report, responded appropriately to allegations of torture or whether their actions rendered them complicit in acts of abuse. If there is credible evidence that a prosecutor or other state agent was complicit in torture or ill-treatment, the government should pursue appropriate sanctions. Human Rights Watch also calls on the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, countries with significant security links to Bahrain, to urge the government of Bahrain to take immediate and measurable steps to end the use of torture by the country’s security forces. France and the United Kingdom in particular have training and assistance arrangements with Bahrain’s NSA and the Ministry of Interior, respectively. Thus, these countries may risk being implicated in prohibited practices and violating their own legal obligations if they cooperate with law enforcement forces they know or should know are employing torture or other ill-treatment.

21 Jan, 2010

HRW:World Report Chapter: Bahrain

Human Rights Watch Bahrain World Report Chapter: Bahrain

Events of 2009 Bahrain's government in 2009 continued to subject freedom of expression, assembly, and association to arbitrary restrictions. The year saw increased confrontations between security forces and demonstrators protesting alleged discrimination by the Sunni-dominated government against the country's majority Shia population. Local rights groups accused authorities of using excessive force against protestors and subjecting detained opposition activists to torture and ill-treatment. In March and April clashes led to the deaths of a Pakistani worker (whose car was hit by a Molotov cocktail) and a Pakistani member of the security forces.

On April 11, Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa, Bahrain's king, pardoned 178 opposition activists charged with and in some cases convicted of security-related offenses. However, the decree never appeared in the official gazette, leaving it unclear whether charges and prison terms might be revived.

On November 10, in line with a pledge it had made to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Bahrain established a National Institution for Human Rights, a government body charged with reviewing and developing legislation to comply with international human rights instruments.

Freedom of Expression and the Media

Authorities continue to use the press law (Law 47/2002) to restrict coverage of controversial matters, including official corruption. In May 2008 the government announced a new draft press law that would remove criminal penalties for most journalistic infractions but appeared to retain the option of criminal penalties for certain types of written or spoken comment, including those found to "harm national unity." The draft still awaits approval by the National Assembly at this writing. Several journalists faced criminal prosecution under the current law for articles alleging favoritism and corruption by government agencies.

Several journalists told Human Rights Watch that Ministry of Interior officials contacted them to complain after they published articles that were even mildly critical of government policies, and in some cases intervened to prevent publication of information. In April 2009 authorities ordered the closure of the daily Akhbar al-Khaleej, citing violations of the press law, but lifted the ban after 24 hours.

The country's sole residential internet service provider, Batelco, is government-owned. The independent Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) reported that in 2009 authorities blocked over 1,000 websites, including sites of political forums, blogs, newspapers, and human rights organizations such as the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.

In June 2009 the University of Bahrain, the country's sole public university, punished business student Noor Abbas by revoking one year of her academic record after she circulated a statement criticizing university policies and facilities. The university later reduced Abbas's punishment to "three warnings," meaning one more infraction would result in her expulsion. Abbas consequently ceased her student activism.

In November 2008, after several Bahraini rights and opposition activists held meetings in Washington, DC, Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa threatened them with prosecution for violating article 134 of the penal code, which states that citizens who fail to obtain government permission to attend meetings abroad to discuss Bahraini domestic affairs may be subject to prison terms and fines.

Freedom of Assembly

Law 32/2006 requires the organizers of any public meeting to notify the head of Public Security at least three days in advance, and authorizes that official to determine whether a meeting warrants police presence on the basis of "its subject ... or any other circumstance." The law stipulates that meeting organizers are responsible for "forbidding any speech or discussion infringing on public order or morals," but leaves "public order or morals" undefined.

The BCHR reported that authorities forced the Al-Attar Center to cancel an August 2009 event at which several opposition leaders were scheduled to speak. Interior Ministry officials informed the center's president that they would deploy security forces to stop the event, and pressured the administrator to sign a statement taking personal responsibility if the event was held. On the day of the event, security forces prevented anyone from approaching the center.

Civil Society and Freedom of Association

The government continues to deny legal status to the BCHR, which it ordered to be dissolved in 2004 after its then-president accused the prime minister of corruption and human rights violations. Several other groups, including the National Committee for the Unemployed and the Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society (BYHRS), attempted in 2005 to register with the Ministry of Social Development, as required by law, but at this writing have received no response to their applications. As of October 2009, Muhammad al-Maskati, president of the BYHRS, was facing up to six months in jail and/or a fine on charges related to working for an unrecognized association.

In 2007 the Ministry of Social Development drafted new legislation on civil society organizations, but at this writing the ministry has not yet submitted the draft to parliament. The draft law contains some improvements over the existing Law 21/1989, but includes numerous provisions incompatible with international standards. A version of the draft law circulated in November 2007 authorizes the Ministry of Social Development to close any organization for up to 60 days without a court order if it deems the organization to have violated any Bahraini law, including the associations law.

Bahrain has ratified some International Labour Organization conventions, but neither of the two core conventions governing freedom of association. Law 33/2002 permits workers to form and join trade unions.Contrary to recommendations of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, a November 2006 edict by the prime minister remains in force prohibiting strikes in numerous sectors of the economy on the grounds that they provide essential services.

Migrant Worker Rights

There are an estimated 462,139 migrant workers in Bahrain, primarily from South Asia. In May 2009 Minister of Labor Majeed al-Alawi announced a proposed revision to Bahrain's kafala (sponsorship) system designed to reduce the risk of exploitation and abuse of migrant workers. The former system tied migrants' work visas and immigration status to their employers, enabling employer abuses and preventing workers from changing jobs or leaving the country. Under the amended law, which was adopted on August 1, the government officially sponsors each worker, allowing him or her to more easily change employers. At this writing it remains unclear whether the reform has been fully implemented. Bahrain's business community strongly opposed the changes, and workers still need the de facto sponsorship of an individual or company in order to remain in the country legally. Migrant workers complain that some employers illegally withhold passports and fail to pay wages.

The amended law excludes migrant domestic workers, who are at especially high risk of abuse due to their isolation in private homes. In 2009 prominent cases involved physical abuse, forced confinement, and the death of domestic workers.

Women's Rights

In May 2009 Bahrain passed its first written personal status law (Law 19/2009), but it applies only to Sunnis. Shia religious scholars demand a constitutional guarantee that the personal status law cannot be amended, while women's groups are pressing for a unified personal status law for all citizens. The government said that it is working toward social consensus in order to pass a personal status law applicable to Shia as well.

Sharia court judges-generally conservative religious scholars with limited formal legal training-decide marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance cases according to their individual reading of Islamic jurisprudence and without reference to codified law. They consistently favor men in their rulings and are unapologetically adverse to women's equality. It remains unclear whether codification has alleviated these problems for Sunni women.

In July 2009 the semi-official Supreme Council for Women launched a campaign calling for equal nationality rights. Article 4 of the Citizenship Law of 1963 does not allow Bahraini women married to non-Bahraini men to pass on their nationality to their children, discriminating against more than 2,000 families in Bahrain. The king endorsed Law 35/2009, which mandates that children of Bahraini women married to non-Bahrainis pay the same fees as citizens for government services such as health, education, and accommodation.

Counterterrorism Measures

In August 2006 the king signed into law the "Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts" bill, despite concerns expressed by the UN special rapporteur on human rights while countering terrorism that it contained excessively broad definitions of terrorism and terrorist acts. The law also allows for extended periods of detention without charge or judicial review.

In February 2009 judicial authorities charged several high-profile opposition figures under the counterterrorism law. They were among those freed as a result of the king's April pardon.

Torture and Ill-Treatment

Local rights groups reported numerous allegations of due process violations, including 11 televised confessions that appeared to have been coerced. The government denied that officials had subjected any detainees to torture or inhumane treatment. In its submission to the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review mechanism in April 2008, Bahrain stated that "there are no cases of torture in the kingdom."

Decree 56/2002, which confers immunity from investigation or prosecution on government officials alleged to be responsible for torture and other serious human rights abuses committed prior to 2001, remains on the books.

Key International Actors

Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet and provides logistical support for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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21 Jan, 2010

Authorities block human rights page on Twitter website

Alert - Bahrain 20 January 2010 Authorities block human rights page on Twitter website SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights

(BCHR/IFEX) - 10 January 2010 - The authorities have blocked a personal webpage operated by a Bahraini resident on the global social website Twitter, justifying the move by claiming that the owner of the webpage is breaking the country's law regulating printing, publishing and the press.

The webpage on Twitter, which became known as "Free Bahrain" ( http://twitter.com/FreeBahrain ), posted human rights links, statements and local news quoted from the websites of human rights organisations or published in local and international newspapers about human rights in Bahrain, including statements and reports by the BCHR. The webpage has a large network of friends on Twitter. Twitter is a social networking site usually used by youths, activists and human rights defenders to inform people of their movements, activities and other news which they would like others to read.

The blocking of the webpage was confirmed by the assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Dr. Abdullah Yateem, one day after the "Al-Wasat" newspaper reported on the closure. Yateem claimed that the webpage had contravened the laws of Bahrain concerning printing and publication, yet he did not specifically indicate what the violation was or which articles of law it was inconsistent with. Ever since Sheikha Mai Al-Khalifa, who is a member of the ruling family, became the minister of information, the authorities have arbitrarily blocked hundreds of websites, using the fight against pornography and sites that harm national unity as their justification. However, many of the closed sites are dialogue and chat forums, political websites, or blogs of human rights defenders or human rights organisations, including the BCHR and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

The BCHR considers the blocking of the Twitter webpage to be yet another attempt to obstruct the expression of people's opinions and restrict the available peaceful means of expression. At the same time, the BCHR believes that this action confirms that, with the rapid development of technology, it has become difficult for governments to block all the websites they would like to target. The BCHR views the government's policy regarding websites as a strengthening of its position on the black list of tyrannical and undemocratic states.

The blocking of websites by the authorities contradicts Bahrain's commitments as a member in the Human Rights Council and as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In particular, Article 19 of the ICCPR states that, "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

The BCHR demands that the Bahraini authorities stop targeting websites and dialogue and social forums which criticise government policy. Instead, the government should take the criticism in a positive spirit and use it as a tool towards finding solutions.

For more information: Bahrain Center for Human Rights Manama Bahrain info (@) bahrainrights.org Phone: +97 33 9633399 Fax: +97 31 7795170 Bahrain Center for Human Rights http://www.bahrainrights.org

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13 Jan, 2010

Freedom in the World 2010 Survey Release

Bahrain’s political rights rating declined from 5 to 6 and its status from Partly Free to Not Free due to arrests of prominent members of the Haq political society, an increase in systematic harassment of opposition political figures, and worsening sectarian discrimination

On January 12, Freedom House released its findings from the latest edition of Freedom in the World, the annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties. According to the survey’s findings, 2009 marked the fourth consecutive year in which global freedom suffered a decline—the longest consecutive period of setbacks for freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report. These declines were most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa, although they also occurred in most other regions of the world. Furthermore, the erosion in freedom took place during a year marked by intensified repression against human rights defenders and democracy activists by many of the world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes, including Russia and China.

Freedom in the World 2010 reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010.

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=505

Fewer free countries in 2009: Freedom House Daniel Trotta NEW YORK Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:36am ESTNEW YORK (Reuters) - Civil freedoms around the world lost ground for the fourth straight year in 2009 with Iraq improving, Afghanistan falling back and China acting as if it were under siege by its own citizens, Freedom House said on Tuesday.

World | China

Bahrain, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Yemen moved into "not free" category, raising the total to 47 from 42 in 2008. The number of electoral democracies fell from 119 to 116, the lowest since 1995.

Eighty-nine countries were designated "free" and 58 "partly free" in the report issued by the U.S.-based advocate for democracy and human rights.

The four-year deterioration marked the longest decline since Freedom House began its annual survey in 1972.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest nation, saw political rights deteriorate in the face of rapidly worsening security and the "increased marginalization of the parliament and other political institutions," the report said.

The report cited also "growing paranoia of even the largest and most headstrong" of the world's authoritarian powers.

"No country can compete in this respect with China, which -- despite its waxing economic and military prowess -- behaves as if it were under siege by its own citizens," the report said.

China's growing economic influence abroad helped repressive countries by providing investment free of the conditions often imposed by the West, the report's lead researcher said.

"As long as China can get strategic minerals or some kind of economic gain, they will invest in those countries," said Arch Puddington, director of research for Freedom House.

"It's a problem, especially in Africa. Some of these authoritarian countries have an option -- they don't have to carry out reforms that the United States or Europe might be demanding," he said.

While Asia was cited as a region of modest improvements, the report cited diminished freedom in Afghanistan, where a "deeply flawed presidential poll exacerbated an already unstable security situation and exposed the prevalence of corruption within the government."

Iraq, by contrast, showed improvement as the rest of the Middle East and North Africa region "suffered a number of significant setbacks."

"Iraq's political rights rating improved in light of provincial elections, which were generally regarded as fair and competitive, and due to the government's enhanced autonomy as the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops got under way," the report said.

(Editing by Alan Elsner http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60B34120100112

10 Jan, 2010

Chasing minor suspects of corruption while senior officials enjoy impunity

The One-Eyed War against Corruption in Bahrain: Chasing minor suspects of corruption while senior officials enjoy impunity

The Elected Members in the Council of Representatives and Municipality have to carry out their Responsibilities and not withhold any Information related to Corruption cases, Otherwise they are Associates in It

The Role of Media and Civil Society Institutions has to be activated to Fight Corruption

10 January 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is observing with grave concern and worry the double standards with which the Authority is dealing with corruption cases, and the apparent discrimination in the methods of dealing with the suspects in those cases. At a time where the smaller suspects in cases related to corruption are imprisoned and exposed both in the local newspapers and government media before even issuing any court ruling against them, and contrary to the principles that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and imprisoning some of them in an arbitrary manner contrary to the reasonable period of detention for interrogation, and the ambiguity surrounding the charges brought against them or the laws they are based upon; yet on the other hand – and contrary to the rights of the individuals that they are equal before the law and their right to equal protection without any distinction or discrimination – on the other hand the leading officials accused in cases of corruption who received bribes or have taken over public lands remain not only on the loose but are clinging to their posts in complete impunity from monitoring or legal questioning, as they are either members of the ruling family or they are closely allied to one of the pillars of the regime.

In an unannounced campaign launched by the Deputy King and Crown Prince of Bahrain Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al- Khalifa to fight corruption by making a group of subsequent press releases that are against corruption, and threatening the corruptors of the justice that will reach them, and the statements which were accompanied with some arrests of a group of officials in several government institutions or state-owned companies, and some of those arrests and detention processes were carried out in an arbitrary and exaggerated manner just to prove the credibility of this campaign against corruption and against the manipulation of public funds; however, all these cases and claims that were investigated only targeted by interrogation or detention of the middle and junior officials only, and it did not dare to reach the main people who remained on the loose all the time, maintaining their high posts in the state. These double standards in dealing with the cases of corruption and corruptors weakened the credibility and seriousness of this campaign led by the Crown Prince against corruption, as it did not reach the main deficiency and it did not exceed the red lines, and they are the untouchables and are immune individuals who are the main ones responsible for all these cases.

The claims and cases related to corruption and which were raised in the last couple of years in Alba Company[1] can be an example of this double standard approach in executing these laws. Some of the Bahraini newspapers[2][2] published a news piece that was sent by the Public Prosecution to the Bahraini newspapers stating that it had issued orders to arrest the officials in the marketing department in Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), on the charges of receiving commissions from a foreign company in exchange for reducing the sales price of the company’s products[3][3]. The Public Prosecution initiated the investigation with the defendants and they are two of the small officials in the company, the two defendants were kept in detention and undergone investigation for a period exceeding 8 months, and they were not informed of the nature of the charges against them or what the laws that these charges are based on. They were released on 5th June, 2008, after their health had deteriorated because they got infected with the dangerous tuberculosis disease[4][4] due to them mixing with one of the infected inmates[5][5]. Since their arrest, all their bank accounts and members of families’, including the minors’ bank accounts as well were frozen; their monthly salaries were suspended and their freedom to dispose of their properties was restricted. The arrest and detention campaign was followed with a smear campaign against them before issuing any court ruling that condemns them, and this campaign started since their moment of arrest and even before the interrogation started, either through the statements sent by the Public Prosecution which did not include their names, or through the leakages that were instigated here and there, and the intention of conveying it to the public opinion from various sources including the alleging company. It was apparent that some of the government bodies were working on convincing the public opinion at that time of the seriousness and firmness of the authority in this campaign to eliminate corruption, as well as to fulfill some of the requirement that is needed for some free trade agreements that was sign or to be signed like the one Bahrain did with the US government.

Most of the investigation with the suspects revolves around doubts that they received commissions from a mediating foreign company in exchange for reducing the sales price of the company’s products, and the institution accused of paying those commissions is the Swiss Glencore International AG[6][6] a global commodity trader[7][7]. What is surprising is the company’s contradicting performance in this file, as the Bahrain Aluminium Company (Alba) had struck a deal with this company that is accused of paying those commissions, and that deal states that Glencore International AG becomes the exclusive marketing agent to sell the company’s ( Alba ) products in the Asian countries. At a time where the company rewards the accused company ( Glencore International AG ) by striking this deal, those suspects in Bahrain face trial with the above mentioned charges.

In another case related to corruption in the same state-owned Bahrain Aluminium company (Alba) run by a called Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding company, the Wall Street Journal[8][8] published in several stories at different times, a news piece that states that the Aluminium Bahrain Company (Alba) filed a civil lawsuit to the specialized Federal Court in the United States against the ALCOA American Company[9][9] regarding immense corruption processes represented in that the company and for 15 years specified supply contracts to a group of companies founded by a consultant that holds the Canadian passport, and he is a partner of (Alcoa) as a secret way to pay the illegal commissions in order to get the tenders of providing (Alba) with the alumina substance, and that (Alba) paid two billion dollars more than the price in the market, in return for transferring that money as commission to the former Bahraini official, who is the former Minister of Oil and member of the King’s family Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al-Khalifa[10][10]. Despite the magnitude of this case, no investigation or lawsuit was initiated against this official, and that Alba company or the Mumtalakat that runs it, who had presented other people to court on charges relating to corruption and receiving money as commissions, had totally overlooked its responsibility in filing a criminal lawsuit in Bahrain against the above mentioned minister as he is a member of the ruling family. Yet, his work as a advisor for the Prime Minister in a rank of minister was not stopped, especially that this case exceeds a hundred times the former one in the magnitude of presented amounts of money and the clarity of charges, and even the Public Prosecution which is considered a branch of the judiciary did not carry out the role it is assigned to as an impartial judiciary body, and it did not initiate any lawsuit although this case is considered one of the largest corruption cases in the history of Bahrain. This civil case was accompanied with several lawsuits or criminal investigations that reached the same issue outside Bahrain and specifically in the United States and Europe, but the government of Bahrain who was the main loser turned a blind eye to all that as if the matter did not concern it.

Since the current King of Bahrain came to the throne, the process of appointing members of the ruling family occupy high executive ranks in the government or owned or run by the State institutions, companies and administrative boards accelerated. Those posts are given to them as privileges enjoyed by the ruling family away from their academic or professional background, or ability to hold those posts. For the first time, since the independence of Bahrain, the percentage of the members of the ruling family exceeds the total number of Sunni and Shiite citizens in the Council of Ministers[11][11] and around 50% of the board of directors of those companies that belong to government. This policy contributed in the spread of favoritism, tribal and accessibility factor in the government institutions and bodies on the expense of proficiency, professionalism and perfection at work which is no longer considered the standards used for the gradual growth of career in these institutions, and this had a large impact in flaccidity and poor performance and production of many of the government institutions. What is worrying in this matter as well is that those individuals, as they are members of the ruling family, are not subjected to monitoring or questioning usually, and there are no records that any of them was presented to court on any charges relating to corruption or bad administration, Bahrain is even considered one of the few countries in the GCC that has not presented any of the members of its ruling families to court, in a time where it is considered the most one which has members of the ruling family dominating the vital posts in the country, as well as its executive, economic and judicial bodies. The policy of Khalfana[12][12] that is happening to the vital posts in the state has led to that the majority of these government institutions, run by them, become in full impunity from questioning, monitoring and financial and administrative accountability.

While Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, King Deputy, Crown Prince, and President of the Economic Development Board and who is the first economic official in the governing body and who is responsible for initiating the campaign against corruption, had stated at an earlier time, ‘The campaign against corruption will not exclude anyone, and the hands of accountability and justice will reach any minister or official if he is proven to be involved in any case of corruption’[13][13]. However, the Bahraini authorities or the property institutions did not commit to these statements and dealt in apparent double standards in this case as opposed to the former ones and where the suspects were minor employees, in order to immune the above mentioned official from the hands of justice.

It became known today that the eminent officials in the country, and members of the ruling family, are participating in large investment projects that depend on taking over wide areas of public lands, and especially in the lands buried from the Bahraini beaches in what is estimated to have a value of billions of dollars, while the general budget and the states potentials are used to provide infrastructure to those privately-owned enterprises. Note that the Bahraini constitution prevents combining the public job with the private investment work.

While the Council of Representatives formed a investigation committee in the buried lands, and several MPs presented the case of overtaking state lands by influential figures, and the members of the municipal councils disclosing a large quantity of information relating to that, neither the Council of Representatives nor the members of municipal councils announced until now the information they have or the results they reached, and none of the officials have been questioned yet. They believe that the dominance of the influential figures in the state institutions, and the fear of the MPs and municipal councils from their influence, the publishing of any of that information or taking any procedure against those figures will be banned.

In light of the failure of the elected representatives of the people in treating the case of corruption or even exposing it, the media and civil society institutions specialized with human rights and transparency remain either pursued or prohibited from work, activity and expression or they are subjected to the influence and power of the influential figures themselves which makes their role marginal in treating corruption.

At a time where the Bahrain Center for Human Rights welcomes any course to eliminate corruption which includes the campaign of the Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, it yet believes that dealing with cases of corruption with double standards will weaken the credibility of this campaign, and any intention to fight corruption has to begin from the top by stopping the senior heads from depleting the state funds and it capabilities, this course if taken will give more public support and credibility in front of the local and international public opinion. The BCHR recalls the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states, ‘All people are born free and are equal in dignity and rights’.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands that the principle that all individuals are equal before the law should be respected and promoted, as was stated in the first paragraph of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that states, ‘All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.’ At a time where the BCHR believes in the necessity of eliminating corruption, it calls for the caution from exaggeration or arbitrariness with the suspects of minor employees or exposing them in the media in aim of convincing the media of the gravity of this campaign. The first paragraph of Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.’

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands that public liberties should be released and especially the ones related to the press and the non-governmental bodies that should play a major role in fighting corruption or stopping the restrictions against them by trials or indirect punishments. It also demands the members of the municipal councils and Council of Representatives to take the responsibility and trust granted to them by the people to reveal, disclose and fight the corruption process otherwise they are associates in the corruption if they are proven to be negligent in carrying out their legislative and monitoring responsibilities in fighting corruption or if they were proved to cover up information relating to corruption.

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[1][1] Aluminium Company owned by the government of Bahrain

[2][2] Alwasat, Issue number: 1839 | Wednesday 19 September 2007

[3][3] Alwasat Newspaper http://www.alwasatnews.com/1838/news/read/253045/1.htm

[4][4] http://www.alwasatnews.com/2068/news/read/292891/1.html

[5][5] Alwasat Newspaper http://www.alwasatnews.com/2100/news/read/298746/1.html

[6][6] Glencore International AG http://www.glencore.com

[7][7] Alwasat Newspaper http://www.alwasatnews.com/2375/news/read/40975/1.html

[8][8] The Wall Street Journal – Role-Reversal: Bahraini Firm Sues Alcoa, Alleging Corruption – February 28, 2008

[9][9] ALCOA American Company is the largest alumina producer in the world and the third largest producer of aluminium, and it used to provide Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) with the alumna substance, and it is the main substance used in making aluminium, since the establishment of the company in 1971 http://www.alcoa.com/global/en/home.asp

[10][10] The Wall Street Journal – Alcoa Faces Bribery Probe After Bahrain Suit – Published March 21, 2008

[11][11] http://www.bahraninet.net/showthread.php?t=39489

[12][12] The sons of Al-Khalifa, and which is the ruling family in Bahrain, taking over the place of the Bahraini citizens

The Wall Street Journal, page B6 - Alleged Kickbacks at Glencore Probed - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123639633890259917.html

[13][13] Alwasat Newspaper http://www.alwasatnews.com/1849/news/read/254985/1.html

8 Jan, 2010

Smear campaign against free expression

Smear campaign against free expression

2 Dec 2010 A large number of fake human rights and civil society organisations have sprung to life in Bahrain, when in reality they are fronts for greater government control, says a new report by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).

These mock rights institutions are extensions of the Royal Court, the Prime Minister's Court or the Interior Ministry, among other branches of state, says BCHR. As far back as 2006, 100 legitimate human rights groups, as well as political and professional figures, sent a letter to the King of Bahrain expressing concern about this secret network.

"One of the aims of this network is smearing the reputation of the independent human rights defenders and opposition's political activists, and creating fictitious and fake civil society institutions and attempting to penetrate the independent ones," says the report.

In fact, BCHR explains, this scheme of false rights groups was a reaction to an acceleration of human rights violations being documented - sectarian discrimination, torture, violations of freedom of expression, human trafficking - and passed on to international rights groups.

In parallel to this phenomenon, legitimate rights defenders have been harassed and slandered, including through the use of the government media. Recently, Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR, has been targeted in the media after he was elected as a Board member of a regional network in Asia, the Gulf and the Middle East.

For more information, please see the full report: Presenting documents that reveal the "GONGOs" organisations in Bahrain

http://www.ifex.org/bahrain/2009/12/02/fake_rights_groups/

28 Dec, 2009

Authorities prevent an annual demonstration in commemoration of martyrs and torture victims

On National Day, Bahrain turns into a security quagmire

Authorities prevent an annual demonstration in commemoration of martyrs and torture victims

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights expresses its grave concern over the Bahraini authority’s decision to prevent a scheduled demonstration on 17 December 2009 in commemoration of martyrs and victims of torture. The Committee of Martyrs and victims of torture calls for this demonstration on an annual basis and followed the usual procedures and laws required to carry out a peaceful demonstration. Despite this the authorities refused to allow the demonstration to go ahead on this day which coincides with the coronation celebrations in what the state terms National Day.

Since the nineties, the Committee for martyrs and victims of torture has used 17 December to remember and pray for their loved ones. 17 December 1994 was the day in which the first two martyrs of the popular uprising were killed. Hani Ahmed Alwasti (22 years) and Hani Abbas Khamis (24 years) were shot dead in protests calling for the return of the parliament and the constitution. On the same day in 2007, another martyr was also killed, Ali Jassim, when participating in a demonstration to mark this annual event.

Bahrain witnessed severe unrest and a popular uprising between 1994-1997 demanding political reform, the return of parliamentary life and constitution which was abandoned by the previous Emir, as well as demanding an end to sectarian discrimination against the shia and the release of political prisoners. During this period, around 40 citizens were shot dead by special security forces, consisting mostly of foreign mercenaries, or as a result of severe torture whilst under police arrest.

The Committee for martyrs and victims of torture marks this day to demand from the authorities an investigation into these cases in order to ascertain and punish those responsible for death and abuse and to bring them to trial in a fair court so that the victims and their families can gain justice and compensation. The authorities have thus far refused to acknowledge or cooperate with the committee. In fact a royal decree (law 56) has given immunity to all those in the security forces who may have committed any crime prior to 2002, and in some cases has given officials implicated in these crimes promotion to higher position, as well as medals and gifts.

Whilst the state television channel was airing continuously the coronation celebrations organized and staged by the government, the contrasting reality was the image of many villages and suburbs of Manama turning into a battle field, surrounded by security forces ready to attack protestors who chose to defy the ban. This build up of security had begun up to a month earlier. On the day, all routes into the area where the demonstration was planned to take place were blocked, and helicopters were monitoring the villages from the sky. As a result, many confrontations occurred between people living in the villages and the security forces. Arrests of protestors took place, some of them children. The BCHR is aware of the following arrested persons:

AbdAlrasool Alsafi[1] (16 years), who suffers from mental problems and is under the care of the Centre for the Rehabilitation of those with Special Needs

Yousif Ahmed (14 years)

Hasan Ali Asghar (17 years)

Ali Hasan Saleh (15 years)

Abdullah Jaffar Abdulwahab (19 years)

Most of those arrested seem to be from Sitra and surrounding areas. Confounding the situation is the security force’s use of tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets against protestors and passersby in the village. The protests around National Day have engulfed many areas in Bahrain, sparing few. Abdali Mohammed Hasan, an MP, was also hit by rubber bullets as he stood outside his home in Nuwaidrat on 18 December.

The BCHR is concerned that the prevention of peaceful and legal demonstrations is driving the frustration and anger of a few who resort to violent means of protest. The BCHR also believes that preventing channels of expression and peaceful gatherings is a glaring violation of human rights and freedom of expression. Article 20 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights which states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Based on the above, the BCHR calls on the authorities to stop preventing peaceful protests that respect the law - a right enshrined in international treaties ratified by Bahrain. The BCHR also demands that the Bahraini government begins an open and effective dialogue to discuss past crimes of torture and death in the nineties as part of truth and reconciliation process to allow the families of the victims to gain justice and move on.