Human Rights Review 1999

The Human Rights Situation in Bahrain

By: Mansoor Al-Jamri

September 1999


Bahrain is an archipelago of 36 islands roughly located in the middle-south of the Gulf, 22 km off the East Coast of Saudi Arabia and slightly further from the western coast of Qatar. A causeway (opened in 1986) links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is the smallest amongst its neighbours with a total area of 695 sq. km (about 270 sq. miles) versus 674 sq. km in 1976. The slight increment in size is due to land reclamation. In 1997 Bahrain’s population grew 3.6 percent in the year to 620,378 on June 30, 1997 from 598,625 a year earlier (of these, 379,955 locals or 61%). Foreigners are mainly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippine, and make up almost 39 percent (240,423) of the population. Foreign workers, mainly low-paid and unskilled hold around 130,000 jobs in Bahrain out of a total workforce of 239,000. “Business Middle East” newsletter (1-15 June 1998) reported that official figures from the Bahraini Labour Minister says unemployment is 1.87% (less than 2%). That’s 5318 Bahrainis unemployed. The Labour Minister also said that 8349 persons found jobs in 1997. However, the newsletter said that foreign estimate put unemployment rate at 15-18%. Others reported that unemployment likely exceeds 30%. This is worsened by the influx of “free visa” workers, where estimates put them in excess of 30,000. Under the “free visa” programme “each foreign individual pays his sponsor around $1,250 annually for his/her work and residence permit. This system is run and controlled by some senior bureaucrats and the elite who amass large fortune from it. The Financial Times of 31 May 1983 says in its survey on Bahrain “Bahrain is a polyglot state, both religiously and racially. Leaving aside the temporary immigrants of the past 10 years, there are at least eight or nine communities on the island”. The ethnic origins of today’s Bahrain society are Sunni tribal origins, Sunni non-tribal, Sunni Howala who emigrated from the Persian coast, Sunni of African descent, Shia Arabs (Bahranah), and Shia of Persian origin (Ajam). There are also tiny Christian, Jewish and other groups.

Historical Background

Like most of the Gulf states, Bahrain was a British protectorate between 1820 and 1971. This period witnessed the consolidation of the tribal rule of the Al-Khalifa dynasty that invaded Bahrain from the mainland in 1783. A feudal regime ruled Bahrain until 1923, when Britain intervened to put an end to the serfdom imposed on the indigenous population following an uprising by the latter. In 1926, Britain appointed Sir Charles Belegrave for creating a modern administration for Bahrain. Modern education had already started in 1919 and in 1926 Bahrain witnessed the first election for the municipality of the capital. In 1932 oil was discovered leading to the formation of a working class and by 1938 the first modern pro-democracy movement emerged calling for establishment of a parliament and trade unions. The movement was crushed and three of the national leaders were exiled to India. In 1954, another major uprising took place calling for a parliament and civil rights. The movement was crushed by the help of the British army in December 1956 and three of the national leaders were exiled to the British islands of St. Helena. In 1957 a state of emergency was declared and a special branch (secret police) was formed for countering the reform movements. In 1965, another uprising erupted led by the oil company workers calling for trade unions. In the following year, the special branch was re-structured under a new British officer, Mr. Ian Henderson, who continues to play his role till today. National demands for parliament and constitution were met in 1971 following the declaration of independence. A Constituent Assembly was half-elected in 1972 for approving a constitution and in 1973 a 30-member National Assembly was elected. In addition to the elected members, 14 minister became ex-officio members. More than half the cabinet are members of the ruling Al-Khalifa family. In 1974, the government proposed a bill for “state security” empowering the interior minister to detain political activists for three years without charges or trial. The bill also denies the suspects from appeal if they were ever brought before a state security court. All the elected members of parliament rejected this bill, but the government went ahead in October 1974 and issued it as a law, thus violating the constitution of the country. The debate over the illegality of the law continued until the summer of 1975, when the Amir (Head of State) decided to dissolve the parliament and suspend key articles of the constitution on 25 August 1975. Following the dissolution of parliament, the country went through one of its bleakest periods as the State Security Law replaced the state of emergency that had prevailed since 1957 (which was made more stringent in 1965 following the uprising of that year). A pro-democracy movement started to develop with the main call for the reinstatement of parliament and restoration of the suspended articles of the constitution. The government began a process aimed at concentrating the powers in the hand of few persons from the ruling family and for this to be achieved the interior ministry was given free hand for persecuting the opposition. The 1980s witnessed an escalation of repression and sectarianism. The government favoured certain sections of the society for political purposes. Bahrain is inhabited by Muslims of the two sects of Islam, Shia and Sunni. The ruling family adopts a discriminatory policy against the various sections of the society. Such a discriminatory policy is based on both ethnic and religious backgrounds. All pro-democracy activists, whether Shia or Sunni are ill-treated and many had suffered from detention, torture, banning from work, banning from travel and/or exiling.

Calls for liberalisation and Government’s response

Following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 a Gulf-wide pro-democracy movement re-surfaced calling for opening up traditional monarchies and greater popular participation in public life. In 1992 a broadly-based committee sponsored a petition calling on the Amir to restore parliament and reinstate the rule of constitutional law. The petition was signed by more than 300 professionals from all sections of Bahrain society. The ruler refused to listen to that call and instead announced the formation of an appointed consultative council of handpicked individuals. In 1994, another petition was sponsored by a broadly-based group, the Committee for Popular Petition (CPP), that managed to gather some 25,000 signatures from the public in support for the return of parliamentary and constitutional life to Bahrain. The ruler refused to receive the petition until now. In December 1994, the security forces started a crackdown campaign to silence the popular call. This has led to the proliferation of protests and many people were detained. Some forty people have died in detention or during demonstrations and the country was plunged in the most serious disturbances the country has faced for many decades. The ruling Al-Khalifa family adopted an iron-fist policy and went ahead in 1996 to tighten the security-related laws. Two decrees were issued in March 1996 transferring all acts related to civil protests to the State Security Court that sentence people after summary trials of some three quick sessions, each lasting about half an hour. Also, the two government-controlled newspapers published editorials carrying threats of “wiping out villages” if the protests continued. On 6 May 1996, one house was blown-up in Sanabis with detonators that are only available to the military forces. A father (Salman Al-Taitoon, 28 years old), a mother (Fadeela Al-Mutghawwi, 23) and their son (Ali, 3) were killed in this act. Moreover, the security forces were doubled by importing a visible number of people from the Syrian deserts (Deir al-Zoor area). The authorities initiated a programme for changing the demography of the country through importing Bedouins from Syria and other places. These were granted full citizenship and recruited in the defence and security forces. Moreover, three main schools will be opened in September 1999, each equipped to host 4500 pupils in Safra, Zalaq, and Hamad Town, the three main areas where the Syrian Bedouins have been housed. Furthermore, the government restructured the administration in 1996 by dividing the country into four provinces or estates. Each estate is to be under a member of the ruling family with a council of handpicked individuals responsible for monitoring the security situation and responding swiftly to crush any protest. The political situation in Bahrain continued to deteriorate since 1994 and many human rights and international bodies voiced their concern. In February 1995, the European Parliament condemned the State Security Law and the British chief of Bahrain security, Mr. Ian Henderson (Resolution rule 47, ref:B4-208/95/RC,B4-276/95/RC1). The resolution said that parliament was “shocked that the Bahrain Government has resorted to the ruthless use of force by the security forces resulting in several deaths, many injuries, the detention of hundreds of persons and the deportation of prominent personalities,” and “that the security forces in Bahrain are to a large extent directed by a British officer, Ian Henderson,”. Another European Parliament resolution was issued in September 1997 reiterating the earlier for an to human rights abuses. In September 1995, Amnesty International issued a major 50-page report titled “Human Rights Crisis in Bahrain” calling on the authorities to stop torture, arbitrary detention, unfair trials and various other abuses. In March 1996, the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group issued 14-page report (ISBN 0 9510238 5 3) detailing further abuses in Bahrain and called on the Bahraini authorities to heed calls for reforms and stop violations of human rights. Towards the end of 1996, and under pressure from the United Kingdom and other international bodies, the government of Bahrain signed an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit the jails. The ICRC started visiting the jails in Bahrain on the condition that it does not make its report public and all findings (except for mentioning the visit and the number of detainees) are to be kept secret between the two parties. In July 1997, the US-based Human Rights Watch issued a major 107-page report on Bahrain (ISBN 1-56432-218-1) titled “Routine Abuse, Routine Denial: Civil Rights and the Political Crisis in Bahrain”. On 21 August 1997, the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission issued an historic resolution on Bahrain relating to “Questions of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including policies of racial discrimination”. The UN Sub-Commission expressed its “deep concern about the alleged gross and systematic violations of human rights in Bahrain”; and urged “the Government of Bahrain to comply with applicable international human rights standards and to ratify the International Covenants on Human Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”. In August 1998, the UN Sub-Commission threatened the Bahraini government of tougher action unless it agreed to allowing a UN team to visit Bahrain and investigate cases of arbitrary detention and that Bahrain ratifies all clauses of the Convention Against Torture. On 4 August 1999, the Bahraini government agreed to the two conditions (ratifying Article 20 of CAT and allowing the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Bahrain). A UN team, headed by Judge Louis Joinet is expected to visit Bahrain by the end of 1999 or early 2000.

Security agencies

The interior ministry is the biggest organization in the country. It has around 10,000 paramilitary personnel (which is roughly equal to the army in Bahrain) as well as a complex structure of many thousands of officers, staff and informers networks. Political detentions are handled by several departments depending on the seriousness of issue. The General Directorate for State Security Investigations (intelligence department) handles the top cases. This is run by British officers such as Ian Henderson and Thomas Bryan. The Central Investigation Directorate (CID) handles political and criminal investigation. Then there are the Police Headquarters of the different areas. These are empowered to detain, interrogate and ill-treat detainees suspected of carrying out routine opposition activities, such as writing a slogan on the wall or gathering in a mosque. The work of these departments has been decentralised and this explains why one agency might raid a house to detain a person, only to find out that he is already detained in another place. This decentraliastion helps the government to conceal the actual number of political detainees, as a central register does not exist. It is for this reason that the International Committee of the Red Cross stated in 1998 that there are 2111 political detainees and prisoners in Bahrain, while the interior minister insists that there are less than a thousand. All these agencies have plain-clothed police as well as the back up of uniformed police, ant-riot squad, special forces, and in some cases, military personnel. Plain-clothed and uniformed personnel are imported from Baluchistan (Pakistani mountainous people), Syrian and Jordanian deserts, southern parts of Yemen, and other places. The security agencies are given free hand to deploy any of their methods for extracting confessions from detainees. Detainees are given the options of accepting to sign confessions (most of the time fabricated by the security officers themselves), otherwise they remain in detention for three years without trial or charges under the provisions of the State security Law. Many detainees remain more than three years without charges as the three-year period get renewed.

Court system

Once a person singes the confession, he or she is taken before an “investigating judge” to re-state the confessions and re-sign them. If a detainee refuses, he or she is taken bake for another round of ill-treatment. Following on from this stage, the detainee is taken before the “State Security Court”. This unconstitutional court is presided by a member of the ruling Al-Khalifa family who is accompanied by two Egyptian judges. These Egyptian judges are employed by the Ministry of Justice on a 2-year period and this period is only renewed if the judge satisfies the implicit pre-requisite. This relates to the preparedness of the judge to sentence political detainees according to the political decisions of the government. This partly explains why these judges have sentenced person accused of minor political activities to very terms of jail and large sums of fines, while others accused of much bigger activities received lighter sentence as compared to the previous ones. The political environment directly influences the outcome of each trial conducted by the State Security Court. The citizens of Bahrain are suffering from the violation of “due process” rights. The number of people affected by this violation is on the increase. The State Security Law of 1974, the State Security Court Decree of 1976 and the subsequent expansion and enlargements of the jurisdiction of these measure in 1996, provide the security agencies and the biased legal system with a free hand to conduct dawn raids on a daily basis, detaining citizens for prolonged periods and then summarily sentencing them without any rights for appeal or for proper defence. The US-based Human Rights Watch issued a 107-page report in 1997 detailing the abuses of the government of Bahrain that has refused to abide by the Country’s constitution and international standards. Human Rights Watch recommended to the Bahrain government that it should “amend the State Security Measures Law of 1974, the penal Code of 1976 and all other laws and decrees to eliminate those provisions that violate rights protected by Bahrain’s constitution.” The Bahraini government refused to listen to any of these recommendations. Amnesty International stated on 16 April1998 that the “procedures followed by Bahrain’s Supreme Civil Court of Appeal, in its capacity as a State Security Court, have resulted in manifestly unfair trials. This special court routinely violates provisions of Article 14 of the ICCPR, as well as provisions of Bahrain’s Constitution.” Amnesty International went on to say “When facing trial before the State Security Court, detainees are denied access to legal counsel from the moment of arrest until they are brought to court. This means that although defendants may appoint lawyers of their own choosing, the first contact can only happen on the first day of trial, just moments before the opening session. This violates Principles 15 and 18 of the UN Body of Principles. Clearly, inadequate time is given for the preparation of the defence. Moreover, defence lawyers are not granted access to court documents before trial, so they can not familiarize themselves with the facts of the case before meeting their clients for the first time in court. Even after the first session, defence lawyers have only limited access to their clients. Trial hearings are often held in camera.” Amnesty International confirmed that “during trial, the State Security Court is not required to summon witnesses to give evidence or for cross examination. Such evidence may be submitted in writing. Defendants can be convicted solely on the basis of uncorroborated confessions given to police or security officials, even in cases involving the death penalty, and even when there appears to be evidence that such ‘confessions’ were extracted under torture. To date, it appears that no thorough and independent investigations into allegations of torture, which have been both frequent and consistent, brought by defendants has ever been carried out. Under Bahraini law, there is no right to appeal to a higher tribunal against conviction and sentencing by the State Security Court.”


For extracting confessions, the security agencies resort to many methods of torture and ill-treatment. Scores of people have died under torture in the past five years. Torture methods include the following: 1. Solitary confinement 2. Deprivation from sleep 3. Forcing the blind-folded detainees to stand-up for days. They are beaten whenever they fall down. 4. Depriving detainees from using toilets. In the case of ladies, they are deprived from using sanitary pads for the monthly period. 5. Indecent/sexual assaults, especially against teenagers. 6. Suspension from the rests, and upside-sown. 7. Suspension like a chicken, where a person is folded and a wooden rod is placed under the knees and over the elbows. 8. Several officers interrogate the blind-folded person while two or three tortures kick and punch. 9. Pulling-out finger-nails 10. Pulling-out hair from sensitive parts of the body. 11. Using police-dogs to attack the naked detainee. 12. Using electronic batons and electric shocks. A sample of persons who died under torture is as follows: 1. Saeed Al-Eskafi, 16 years old, Sanabis, died under torture on 8 July 1995. 2. Mahmmod Abdul-Latif Hissain, 12 years old, Sanabis, 11 June 1996. 3. Seyed Ali Amin Mohammed, 19 years old, Karbabad, 17 August 1996. 4. Sheikh Ali Al-Nachas, a blind person, 50 years old, Bilad al-Qadim, 29 June 1997. He was denied proper treatment and left to die. 5. Nooh Khalil Abdulla Al-Nooh, 22 years old, Nuaim, 21 July 1998.

Extra-judicial Killing

The security forces are charged with suppressing protests by deploying many types of bullets including beating with electronic batons, tear gas, steel-pellets, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Some of the people who were killed extra-judicailly were: 1. Hanni Abbas Khamis, 24, Sanabis, 17 December 94, shot dead. 2. Hani Ahmad Al-Wasti, 22, Jedhafs, 17 December 94, shot dead. 3. Haji Mirza Ali abdul Redha, 70, Qadam, 20 Dec 94, Beaten to death by security forces 4. Abdul Qadir Al-Fatlawi, 18, Duraz, 12 January 95, shot dead 5. Mohammed Redha Manssor, 34, Bani Jamra, 25 January 95, shot dead 6. Hussain Ali Al-Safi, 26, Sitra, 26 January 95, shot dead 7. Aqeel Salman Al-Saffar, 1 year, Bilad Al-Qadeem, 8 February 95, inhaled tear gas for prolonged period 8. Hamid Abdulla Qasim, 17, Duraz, Killed on 26 March 95, shot dead 9. Mohammed Ali Abdul Razzaq, 48, Bani Jamra, Killed on 1 April 95, shot dead 10. Mohammed Yousif Atteya, 28, Bani Jamra, Killed on 1 April 95, shot dead 11. Hussain Abdulla Al-Asheeri, 17 years old, from Dair, Killed on 19 April 95, shot dead 12. Nidal Habib Al-Nashaba, 18, Duraz, killed on 4 May 95, shot dead 13. Fadhil Abbas Marhoon, 25, Karzakkan, 6 May 96, Shot dead by a special military unit 14. Ali Taher, 17, Sitra, 2 July 96, shot dead. 15. Zahra Ibrahim Kadhem, 54, Bani Jamra, 23 July 96, Beaten to death by security forces 16. Abdul Zahra Ibrahim Abdulla, 27 years old, Sanabis, 6 June 1997, was beaten by the security forces that attacked the residents of Sanabis on 1 June.

Arbitrary Detention

Arbitrary detention has become a feature of life in Bahrain. Citizens expect to be detained without warrants and mostly in the middle of the night during dawn raids. The raids follow a report from one informer that the targeted citizen had “meddled in politics”. Meddling in politics could mean anything from reading a newspaper and cynically commenting on a government statement, to publicly calling for change. The person is then subjected to sudden and intensified sessions of ill-treatment to force out confessions. Those who are released after some time are made to sign declaration that they will never meddle in politics again, and if they do so they deserve to be interned and dealt with “properly”.


Children from the age of 7 years are included in the arbitrary detention. This fact has been mentioned, with names of children, by many organisations including the US Department Country Repot on Human Rights. Many women were arrested and subjected to torture including threats of sexual assaults. Some of them were molested by officers who continuously touched sensitive parts as part of the threats of indecent assault.

Forcible exile

Bahrain is unique in forcibly deporting members of the indigenous population, while at the same time, the government imports people from the Syrian desert and grants them full citizenship. Amnesty International issued a special report in 1993 explaining the graveness of this violation with details of names of people who had been forcibly exiled. The practice of forcible exile continues without stop and in the period between April 1999 to July 1999 (following the death of the late and the assuming of power by his son on 6 March) no less than 32 persons have been forcibly deported to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and other places.


Discrimination amongst the citizen is a practice known to any person living in Bahrain. Some 20% of the top 420 executives, which are the sovereign and strategic positions such as defence, security, foreign affairs, industry, etc. are monoploised by members of the ruling family. The rest of position are distributed on a discriminatory basis taking into consideration the ethnic and religious background of each person. The University of Bahrain is one example of naked discrimination. In 1995 a military officer was appointed as head of university and he wasted no time in implemented one of the worst episodes of ethnic cleansing by removing the Shia lecturers from important position, installing a registration system that allows the university to reject citizens not on the basis of merit but on discretionary non-accountable criteria. The criteria are aimed at denying certain section of the society from entering the university or from reaching high positions in the education sector. The US Department Human Rights Report refers to this issue when covering the State of Bahrain. Moreover, there are some 20 thousand people who were born in Bahrain and served the country but are now being forcibly evicted from Bahrain. These people are called Ajam (a section of the cosmopolitan Bahrain whose grandfathers have come from Iran over a century ago). A new governmental policy is now in place and will be implemented more rigorously from the beginning of September 1999. The governmental policy discriminates against this section of Bahrain society in all walks of life. As from September, the children of this section will be prevented from all public schools, while at the same time three new schools will be opened to receive the children of the recently imported Bedouins from the Syrian deserts. The tageted section (Ajam without status) will all be denied any medical care. If anyone of them needs an emergency treatment, he or she must pay 2 dinars ($6) as an entry fee. They will have to pay 100 dinar ($267) for any newly born baby. They will only be issued with a one-way travel document that takes them out of Bahrain. They will be prevented from purchasing any land and will be evicted from any employment. Most of these people live in Seqaya (Manama), Dafnah (near Salmanya, Manama), Bin Ali Quarter in Muharraq, Mushber Quarter in Manama, and Halah Quarter in Muharraq.

Freedoms of expression and association

Freedom of expression and association are severely curtailed in Bahrain. There are two daily newspapers and both are controlled by the ministry of information. Correspondents of foreign media are not allowed to function freely. The corespondent of the German DPA was expelled from the country in 1997, the local correspondent of the BBC was also banned from transmitting any news. The correspondent of Reuter was put in jail for a day in the same period. When a new Amir (ruler) assumed office on 6 March 1999 there was an optimism that things might change. However, the prevention of Al-Oroba Club from hosting a seminar that was supposed to have taken place on the evening of 9 June 1999 cast doubts about the seriousness of the government for opening up the political environment. Dr. Sabeeka Al-Najjar was invited to speak on “Women and political participation”. Shortly before it started, the club was ordered to cancel the meeting by Mohammed Al Bin-Ali, who works in the office of the Interior Minister. At present, the Labour and Social Affair Ministry recognises 138 NGOs (4 for women, 12 social purposes, 2 charity, 3 religious (Sunni), 21 professional, 51 Clubs and expatriate societies, 41 local charity funds (Sandook Khayri). There are other types of traditional organisations, which attract non-governmental activities. These are mosques (both Sunni and Shia) and Shia community centres/assembly halls or “Matams”. There are about 300 Sunni mosques and more than 1000 Shia mosques and assembly halls. The charity funds (Sandok Khayri) represent one of the excellent examples of NGOs in Bahrain. The government failed to support poorer sections of the society due to the lack of a welfare system. The affected sections of society turned to each other for solidarity and support. Their number rose from 6 in 1993 to 41 at the end of 1994. The mushrooming of their number reflects the strength of social solidarity amongst the people and their speedy response to the failure of the State. The government allowed their growth to release itself from the burden of supporting the poorer sections, but in 1998 it moved to tighten control and their activities. The government is expected to further interfere in the activities of these NGOs and may even attempt a crackdown. These social centres are not free from governmental control. The Labour and Social Affairs Minister is empowered by Law No. 21/1989 to dissolve any club or society, to attend any meeting, to demand permission for any function performed by the association and punish any person objecting orders. In February 1984, the Labour Minister ordered the closure of the (Shia) Islamic Enlightenment Society and its three schools. Within a year of this closure, at least three other libraries (with teaching services) were closed down by the authorities. This followed the arrest of members of the Society by the security forces. Closing down the Islamic Enlightenment Society has further alienated the Shia population who feels they are severely targeted by the State. Virtually all NGOs are controlled by the State through various means. However, The Bahraini Lawyers Society, Al-Oroba Club and a few others retained their semi-autonomy and as a result have suffered from intervention by the government. On 1 February 1998, the President of Bahrain Lawyers Society, Dr. Abbas Helal was interrogated by Interior Ministry officials about a seminar organised by the Society on 14 January 1998, during which the pro-democracy figure Dr. Monira Fakhroo mildly criticised the government. On 4 March 1998, the government replaced the elected board of the society with a new board headed by a member of the ruling family. Following external pressure, the government retreated a year later and allowed an elected executive committee to run the Lawyers’ Society. On 2 April 1998, the government prevented its own ambassador to France, and ex-minister, Dr. Ali Fakhroo, from delivering giving a lecture at Al-Oroba Club (scheduled for 20 may 1998) in Manama about the responsibilities of citizenship. On 14 September 1997, An-Nahda Women Association was holding a meeting to discuss details of the commemoration of the late national figure Ms Aziza Al-Bassam, when security officers stormed the Association and brought the meeting to a halt. The participants were also summoned for interrogation the next day. On the next day, executive members were threatened that if any activity takes place, the interior ministry will hold them responsible. They were also banned from publishing anything in press or in booklets. Since 1994, mosques and community centres had been ransacked and desecrated. At least 50 Shia mosques and community centres had suffered extensive damages and several of them were, and remained, shut down since 1994. Few days before the death of the late Amir, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, he issued a decree banning the use of loud-speakers in mosques and community centres without prior permission. On 6 March 1999, the Amir died and the law was by-passed by the government, since banning the loud-speaker would have meant the banning of ceremonies to be organised for commemorating the death of the Amir. However, it is expected that the government would enforce the ban at a later stage.

Collective punishment

Between 1994 and 1999, at least a dozen of villages were subjected to collective punishment. In March 1995, the village of Nuweidrate was encircled, all people were prevented from leaving the area and a house-by-house search was conducted and each family was intimidated. The contents of the houses were smashed many valuables were taken away by the security forces. The same practice was repeated in Sanabis (several times), Daih, Karranah, Jannosan, Bilad al-Qadim, Sitra, Duraz, and several other areas. After the release of the pro-democracy leader, Sheikh Al-Jamri, on 8 July 1999, the entire village of Bani Jamra was put under siege and continues to be so until the writing of this report.


The death of the late Amir on 6 March 1999 and the accession of his eldest son, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa was hoped to be an opportunity for a new page in Bahrain’s troubled history. Indeed, the new Amir did state his mind in which most of the people assumed that a “new era” was about to start. He stated several times that he does not intend to discriminate amongst citizens and that reforms were underway. The people waited for three months (the mourning period) to see what types of changes are forthcoming. To the disappointment of all, the same cabinet and prime minister were retained, the security forces were re-deployed in the residential areas, and the same iron-fist policies were left in place. During this period, at least 32 people were forcibly exiled. Several several women (Karimah Hasan Al-Mosawi, Ramlah Mohammed Hassan, Layla Khalil Dasht) who attempted to hand in a petition to the Amir were detained for one day, beaten-up and threatened of grave consequences if they attempted to come near the Amir Palace again. On 14 June 1999, the group of women then attempted to hire a coach from a Al-Nussir Agency in an attempt to drive their way to the Amiri Court to submit their petition. The security forces attacked the Al-Nussir agency, closed it down for a month and arrested its owner. On 9 June, Dr. Sabeeka Al-Najjar was prevented from delivering a lecture in the Al-Orobo Club and on 8 August, the security forces attacked the offices of the General Committee of Bahraini Workers damaging many of their contents and confiscating some of the documents and folders. The offices of all members of the executive committee were also broken into and their papers were scattered around. The personal computers were played with and all rooms and halls witnessed the savageness of the mercenary forces. The attack on the Adleya-based offices was considered to be a warning to the executive committee, which had been calling for the establishment of a trade union. The pro-democracy leader, Sheikh Al-Jamri was taken to the State Security court and after four sessions, all of which lasted less than two hours, he was sentenced on 7 July to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $15m. A day later, he was forced to appear on TV to read a statement of apology in front of senior members of the ruling family. He was then placed under virtual house arrest and the entire area of Bani Jamra has been put under siege since then. Sheikh Al-Jamri is suffering from extreme pain in his left ear as a result of the torture he received in his solitary confinement of more than three year, but has been prevented from receiving medical treatment. Since the middle of July 1999, there has been marked increase in the detentions of teenagers from many parts of the country. Torture has not been reduced despite the fact that on 4 August 1999 the government announced its decision to withdraw its reservation on Article 20 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

General Bibliography

· UK Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, The Crisis of Human Rights in Bahrain: The Rule of Law is Under Threat, A Report on the Practice and Procedure of the State Security Court in Bahrain, ISBN Number: 1901053040, 28 October 1998. · Amnesty International, Bahrain: A Human Rights Crisis, September 1995. · Human Rights Watch, Routine Abuse, Routine Denial, Civil Rights and the political Crisis in Bahrain, ISBN 1-5643-218-1, 1997. · Dabrowska, K., Bahrain Briefing, ISBN 1 901807 00 2, Clourmast Limited, 1997. · Wilkinson, R., Speak together of Freedom, The Present Struggle for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, ISBN 0 9510238 5 3, The UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, March 1996

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