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Witch-hunt by a UN official

A dangerous precedent took place at the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) office in Manama. A delegation of Bahraini citizens visited the UNDP office in Salamanya district of Manama on 18 June to submit a letter and a videocassette addressed to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kufi Annan. The letter was an official complaint against the atrocities of the security forces committed against the indigenous population. The videocassette contained evidence from the latest attacks against Sanabis and Bilad al-Qadim. The UNDP directed the citizens to the main UN office in Jufair, where the letter and videocassette was later delivered to the designated official.

However, the UN Resident Coordinator (a Sudanese person by the name Faisal Abdul Qadir, 48 years) took upon his shoulder to conduct a witch-hunt for identifying the citizens for handing them over to the security authorities in Bahrain. Mr. Abdul Qadir might also have blocked the transmission of the letter and the videocassette to the UN Secretary General. He also called the Bahraini security personnel and the latter were spotted conducting searches around the offices of the UN. This is a dangerous move by a UN official with an international diplomatic status. The opposition has called on the UN Human Rights offices in New York and Geneva to intervene and investigate the alleged wrongdoing of Mr. Abdul Qadir. There are also rumours that the Bahraini authorities have promised Mr. Abdul Qadir a Bahraini citizenship for his special services. A copy of the submitted letter is detailed below: (The videocassette might still be with Mr. Abdul Qadir together with the original letter)

His Excellency Mr Kufi Annan

General Secretary of United Nations

C/O the UN Office in Bahrain (together with a videocassette showing evidence of collective punishment raids against residential areas)

Your Excellency,

We send this letter to you in the name of the Bahrani Shia and hope you will give it due consideration.

Since the Amir abrogated the constitutionally elected Parliament in 1975 and announced a State of Emergency in the country, and since the beginning of the constitutional movement in Bahrain on 5 December 1994 the Al Khalif-led government has instigated a crackdown.

This has included various methods of oppression, torture and collective punishment including arrests, expulsion and other ways of stifling freedom of speech. As you know, the government has totally ignored the public petition signed by more than 25,000 people and imprisoned thousands, while sending scores of their leadership into enforced exile such as Sheik Ali Salman and his colleagues who are now living in London.

The movement has, on many occasions, expressed its modest demands. But oppression and severe collective punishment has been the language with which the government deals with peaceful marches and the opposition’s demand to end the State of Emergency and to fully adhere to the constitution which was approved in 1973 by an elected assembly. As mentioned the campaign of arrests and ransacking of houses is the government’s response.

In the meantime, they (the government and security forces) have falsified the popular demands and aims of the movement. They accuse the opposition with attempting to overthrow the government, forming links with foreign powers and with sectarianism. Yet all of the people of Bahrain, be they Sunnis or Shias, from various political persuasions, have been instrumental in the constitutional movement. These accusations have been the main content of Al Khalifa’s controlled media and serve as an escape route from the increasing internal and external difficulties. It is their aim to dent the international support, which the opposition has gained. It is clear to the world and the international media that the government of Bahrain is concentrating its oppressive campaign on the Shias who represent the majority and are the indigenous inhabitants. The government of Bahrain believes that as long as the Shias are the victims, the United Nations will caste a blind eye to these abuses and will not interfere to put a stop.

We now list some of the oppressive measures, which the government of Bahrain has and is taking against the Shias:

1. The arrest and torture of thousands of Shias in Bahrain, accused of unsubstantiated offences. These collective arrests affect everyone, not differentiating between men and women, young and old, nor excluding the ill and infirm. The Bahrain opposition has a list of names including the majority of those detainees during the past 30 months. According to the International Committee for the Red Cross, their representatives have met with 1,300 prisoners up until now.

2. Deployment of internationally prohibited weapons to quell peaceful demonstrations which have resulted in more than 30 people being killed in as many months. One latest example was Abdul Zahra Ibrahim Abdulla (23yrs) who was arrested in Sanabis village on 1 June 1997 and died later on 7 June. We have documents, which prove he was tortured.

3. The use of torture to extract confessions. These confessions are then used in court to convict defendants. As you know, it is against international standards to use information given under duress in a court of law. Two members of the Shia community died while undergoing such torture recently and they are Saeed Al Eskafi (17yrs) who died on 8 July 1995 and Sayed Ali Sayed Ameen (19yrs) who was killed 17 August 1996.

4. Mass arrests of hundreds of people. These are detained for more than a year without being charged with any crime. The Red Cross and the Bahraini opposition in London have lists of the names of these people.

5. The use of State Security Courts to sentence people. This is an unconstitutional and illegal court, which derives its authority from Amiri decrees. They are presided over by judges who are members of the ruling family. Sentences cannot be appealed against are usually very harsh. An example was the sentencing of a youth called Hussain Mahoon for 10 years after being accused of burning an electric generator.

6. The courts have passed death sentences on individuals whose confessions of guilt were taken under torture. An example is Isa Qamber who was arrested in March 1995 during one of the mass arrest campaigns in the Nwaidrat area, which included the arrest of 300 people in three days. He was sentenced and executed by the firing squad on 26 March 1996 after the Amir approved the State Security Court sentence.

7. Ransacking Sh’ites mosques during prayer time, as happened when the foreign forces attacked Ras Rumman mosque near the diplomatic area on 3 and 7 January 1997. People at prayer were beaten and fired at with plastic bullets and tear gas was used. Scores were arrested.

8. Surrounding Shia villages and imposing collective punishment, as happened in Sanabis and Bilad Al Qadeem on 12 and 13 June 1997.

9. Attacking religious processions, which the Shias have been accustomed to for the last 1,000 years, as happened on 1 June 1997 in Sanabis.

10. Storming Shia religious halls, which are meant for religious ceremonies for the community, totally destroying some of them and closing others with red wax, as happened on 12 June 1997 in Matam Ansar Al Hussain.

11. Destruction of public and private property that belong to the Shia community, as happened on 1, 8, 9 and 13 June 1997 in the two areas mentioned above, as well as the village of Malkiya.

There are numerous other oppressive measures, which cannot be condensed into this letter. The head of the Special Branch, Ian Henderson, who is of British Nationality, orchestrates all of the above measures taken by the Al Khalifa. These acts are divorced of any human value and the clear aim is undoubtedly to destroy the Shia’s cultural identity, which is guaranteed by the constitution for all communities.

We therefore appeal to Your Excellency that the UN protects and saves the Shias in Bahrain from the extreme measures of the Al Khalifa authority which does not differentiate between young or old and deals with each member of the population as a Prisoner of War. We appeal to anyone with a conscience, who cares for the well being of others, to intervene to save (the safety of our) population.

On behalf of the Shia community,

Al Haj Ali Hasan

17 June 1997

P.S. Because of the extreme danger which I may be personally subject to by the security forces, I have omitted writing my private address in Bahrain and therefore for more information, please write to the following address:

BFM, BM Box, London WC1N 3XX, Fax: +(44) 171 278 9098, Email:

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