P0429057 From Lord Avebury Tel 020-7274 4617 Fax 020-7738 7864 Email email@example.com May 29, 2004 I note that you are holding a discussion at your forthcoming Summit of how the G-8 can support political, economic, and social freedom in the “greater Middle East”. President George Bush hopes that the leaders of the “greater Middle East” states will speak about their efforts to pursue democracy and reform in their countries, and no doubt you will hear from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, who has announced his intention of attending. Bahrain has ended the state security courts, freed political prisoners, and allowed exiles to return. However, the present constitution was introduced after a referendum in which the people were asked to approve a ‘National Charter’ which they believed would involve the restoration of the 1973 constitution as a preliminary to further progress towards democracy. Instead, the royal family’s power is entrenched, and it is impossible for the people to have any effect on the government through the ballot box. The King appoints and dismisses all Ministers in his unfettered discretion, and the most important Ministers are members of the royal family. The Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa is his uncle; the Minister of Islamic Affairs is Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Khalifa; the Foreign Minister is Sheikh Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Khalifa; the General Commander of the Defence Force is the Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa; the Elections Executive Director is Shekh Ahmad bin Atiyatalla al-Khalifa, and so it goes on. A government whose members never have to go before the electorate, and are not appointed by an elected body or person, has no democratic legitimacy. The King is the head of the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. He chairs the Higher Judicial Council (Article 33). He amends the Constitution (Article 35). He has power to proclaim a state of national safety or martial law (Article 36). He appoints civil servants, military personnel and ambasssadors, many of whom in the important Embassies are also members of the royal family (Article 40) and he has power to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies. The National Charter, which was approved by an overwhelming majority of Bahraini voters, said nothing about a new constitution, and the abrogation of the previous constitution was an arbitrary act of state, hardly an auspicious beginning for a self-proclaimed democracy. That Charter provided (in Chapter V) that Bahrain would have a bicameral system, one chamber ‘that is constituted through free, direct elections whose mandate will be to enact laws, and a second one that would have people of experience and expertise who would give advice as necessary’. The constitution, by contrast, gives the Consultative Council a veto over legislation passed by the Chamber of Deputies. In the event of a disagreement between the two Houses, they meet together as a single entity, the ‘National Assembly’, having 40 elected members, and the 40 appointed to the upper house by the King. It has been argued that the King doesn’t automatically get his way, because it is possible that not all appointees would follow the royal line on any particular measure. But equally, not all the elected members will oppose the King, and if in spite of stacking the odds so heavily, the National assembly fails to agree on a Bill within 15 days, the King can enact it by decree (Article 87). These are not minor flaws which can be corrected with the passage of time. King Hamad is to be congratulated on putting an end to the torture that used to be practised under his father, but the torturers were granted immunity for their crimes. Decree Law 56 has so far allowed known torturers including Ian Henderson, a British citizen, and Adel Flaifel, to escape retribution for the suffering they inflicted on hundreds of people. That Decree was unlawful, and a breach of the state’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture. Sooner or later, Bahrain is going to be called to account in the Committee against Torture, unless Decree Law No 56 is repealed. The advances mentioned were all gifts of the monarch, not the result of progressive action by the people and debate in the legislature. There have been no further steps towards freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and the elected members have not been demanding rights on behalf of the people because they too are in the main the willing accomplices in the domination of masses by the hereditary élite. The Parliament shows no inclination to overturn the gravy train which has smoothly taken them to a hollow prestige and fat salaries, so they make no radical proposals, and turn a blind eye to the corruption and nepotism in which they all wallow. The Parliament has even turned a blind eye to the flagrant violations of the law on citizenship, evidence of which is available on video. An unknown number of people from Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring states were given Bahraini citizenship, when they had no qualifications other than being Sunni. If this was done by royal prerogative, it was a gross abuse of power that a genuinely democratic Parliament would have been certain to condemn. In February 2004 the ruling family tried to sabotage a conference on constitutional reform convened by the four political societies which are recognised as forming the opposition in a political system which does not allow political parties, and in particular they refused entry to Bahrain of a number of invited experts including two UK constitutional lawyers.. At this conference, the participants rejected the 2002 constitution, and decided to present a popular petition with that as its central demand. They intended to launch the petition at a public seminar, and to make it available to all citizens to sign. The government first claimed that it was illegal to ask non-members of the societies to sign, an arbitrary restriction that was not consistent with the basic principle of freedom of expression In late April the societies opened their membership to any citizen who wished to join, and tens of thousands of people began signing up, especially to Al Wefaq, the largest of the four societies. Within a few days the government deployed their militia to attack the villages, arrest those who were collecting memberships and signatures and issue warnings to others. Over a period of two to three days at the beginning of May about forty young men and children were arrested, and on May 6 another five were arrested. A former senior Interior Ministry official Dr Abdul Azia Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa, the former head of the Interrogation Committee and Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa, Chairman of the notorious State Security Court warned those involved in the petition that they were liable to life imprisonment. According to Reuters, the Deputy Public Prosecutor, Ahmed Shinaishin, said “they faced charges of calling for change to the political system, provoking hatred and trying to destabilise public security”. This was enough to deter the organisers from collecting further signatures. On May 21, the religious leaders had called for a peaceful protest to urge the American forces not to attack the holy places in Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, and against the continuous repression against the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupiers. The demonstration was physically attacked with rubber bullets and tear gas, injuring senior figures of the Shia religious hierarchy including Sheikh Isa Qassim, a former member of Parliament from the seventies. Clearly, there are tight limits on freedom of expression when it is treated as illegal to collect signatures on a reform petition, or to demonstrate about events of public concern throughout the whole region. It is also impermissible to utter a word of criticism of the royal family, to mention the high level corruption, or to speak about discrimination against the Shi’a. Hind Bint Salman Al Khalifa, the Assistant Undersecretary for Ministry of Labor & Social Affairs, threatened the Bahrain Center for Human Rights on
May 16, 2004 that the Center’s licence would be withdrawn if it should conduct any political activities in breach of Article 18 of the Law on Civil Societies issued by decree No 21 –1989. This followed the campaign led by the Bahrain Center to release the people arrested in the constitutional Petition case. It would surely be inconsistent if the G8, while supporting the democratisation of Iraq, were to ignore the stalling of the reform process in Bahrain.The ruling family believe that since Bahrain is the Gulf’s banking hub, and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, they can hang on to their privileges indefinitely. The G8 has a unique opportunity of telling King Hamad directly that in the 21st century, a hereditary dictatorship is no longer acceptable, even when covered with a thin veneer of meaningless elections. H E Signor Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister,
Office of the Prime Minister
The Crises of Political Reforms in Bahrain A lecture delivered to the Gulf Cultural Club By Dr Abdul Hadi Khalaf On 20th May, 2004 Good evening and thanks for coming. I am pleased to be here. My previous visit to this place was two years ago. I presented then the main points of my paper to a conference organized by the British Society for Middle East Studies. In that paper I discussed a 35-year old proposition by Samuel P Huntington. In the King’s Dilemma Huntington proposed that an absolute monarch seeking to modernize and reform his regime faces a major dilemma – a balancing act – to use a more familiar phrase. A modernizing absolute monarch has to reconcile the demands of his opposition without alienating his own traditional power-base. Two years ago King Hamad of Bahrain seemed to be grappling with a similar dilemma i.e. how to appease his opposition without alienating the old guards within his own ruling family. Admittedly this has not been a simple matter of choosing between equally painless alternatives. And, unfortunately, King Hamad has failed to become the reformer-king he hoped to be. The muted celebrations of Hamad’s 5th anniversary, last March, was overshadowed with indications that he has either has lost interest in his own reform project or that he has succumbed to the will of his own uncle Khalifa bin Salman, the country’s prime minister since Bahrain became independent from Britain in 1971. This is a truly sad turn of events for a person who managed to convince nearly all his opponents to support his vision for reforms in Bahrain soon after he assumed power in March 1999. His blue print for those reforms was put to a referendum in February 2001 and he gained the approval of 98 percent of votes from Bahraini men and women. That impressive voter approval reflected the popular expectation that Hamad would live up to his pledges of reforms, including easing restrictions on freedom of expression and association, lifting travel restrictions on dissidents, abrogating state security laws and granting full citizenship rights to women. For a while things were promising – there was a series of amnesties, Bahrain’s jails were emptied of political prisoners and hundreds of political exiles were allowed to return together with their families. This was a major achievement for a ruler who was at first dismissed as indecisive. During the first two years of his rule, Sheikh Hamad seemed eager to please everyone. His speeches were adequately laced with all the key words one might expect from a reforming autocrat. This may explain the fact that Bahrain is held up as a model for some reform-minded members of other ruling families in the gulf. Although none of these, with the exception of the Saudis, have signalled any urgency, they have in their different ways, signalled a willingness to reform, including granting a greater role to local elites. The state of national euphoria generated by Hamad’s early conciliatory gestures was overtaken by subsequent developments. Within a year after the referendum Hamad declared himself a King and upgraded Bahrain to a modern democratic and constitutional monarchy. On the same day Hamad decreed a new constitution, marking the end of a period of a transition – a period of searching for a resolution to his own royal dilemma. Hamad simply choose to solve the Hungtingtonian king’s dilemma by closing the ranks of the royal family in the face of the escalating demands by opposition groups. Hamad’s reforms are distinctly seen as a model of the kind of measures that could be introduced without requiring any of the ruling family to give up any of its dynastic privileges. The appeal of Hamad’s model is enhanced by the generous praise lavished on him by Western officials, upholding Bahrain’s image as a regional model. Unfortunately for King Hamad and for the people of Bahrain, he has taken a u-turn almost immediately after that astounding approval rating at the referendum. One can of course speculate whether Hamad took this u-turn willingly or under pressure from the old guards within his family, including his uncle and prime minister. The new constitution (February 2002) places several constraints upon parliament’s role as a counterweight to the executive branch. This constitution divides parliament into two chambers with equal powers: the directly elected Council of Deputies, and the Shura Council whose members are appointed by the king. The constitution allows deputies to prepare proposals for draft laws but it is the government alone that can bring draft laws to vote and as an extra measure of control, the king retains the final word in any legislative disputes. An additional royal edict was issued to forbid parliament from deliberations on any action taken by the executive branch prior to December 14, 2002, the date of parliament’s inaugural session. This is one of 56 royal edicts issued by King Hamad during the few months preceding the opening of parliament. Under the new constitution the king is “the protector of religion and homeland”, “symbol of national unity”. He is Head of State, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Head of the executive legislative and judicial branches. And, he may amend the constitution and propose laws. He is also the authority for their ratification. This is probably one of the reasons for Lord Avebury, a long-time observer of Bahrain, to remark that the absolute monarch’s of medieval Europe would have “given their eyes and teeth for the powers held by King Hamad. On October 24th, 2002 the first parliamentary elections since 1973 were held in Bahrain – four main political organisations called for a boycott. The 53.4 percent turnout paled in comparison to the figure of over 98 percent at the referendum 18 months earlier. The boycott signalled a definite end of early hopes of a smooth and speedy process of reform. More alarming perhaps it is also a signal that the country has reached the threshold of a political and constitutional crisis. The situation was not helped by the perception that the king had definitely taken a turn on reforms. One can speculate, of course, on whether the king has simply changed his mind or that he has succumbed under pressure from the old guards within the ruling family. The problems facing Bahrain are not simply the results of the unilaterally proclaimed constitution. King Hamad has made several blunders. Some are due to over confidence in his abilities as a tactician, while others are due to miscalculations and bad advice or folly. These blunders compound the severity of the crises of political reforms in Bahrain. I will provide some examples: First, the issue of impunity granted by the king to officials who allegedly have committed crimes and violations of human rights in the past. Thousands of former political prisoners and exiles and hundreds of alleged victims of torture are left with no possibility of redress. Second the issue of “political/collective naturalisation” extending full citizenship to several thousands from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria. Some of these people are lured by the promise of citizenship to serve in Bahrain’s military and security forces. Third, the issue of the rampant past and current corruption which in the eyes of many is epitomised by the king’s own uncle, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, the country’s strongman for nearly four decades. Issues of corruption and mismanagement were dramatically highlighted recently by the news of the impending collapse of two government-managed pension funds. Since nearly all-Bahraini employees in the private and public sectors are clients to those two funds, the outrage was widespread and highly vocal. The matter was taken up by parliament in an obvious effort to cast of its image as window dressing. Following nearly twelve months of parliamentary investigations and debate, including the summoning of three ministers for questioning by the Council of Deputies, the matter was effectively shelved although it was established that the two funds lost “hundreds of millions of dinars” and that the two funds could be declared insolvent by the year 2007. In the process, the credibility
of parliament was effectively erased. Fourth is the issue of human rights. Throughout the past two years one can discuss an accelerating decline in the area of human rights. The decline was initially symbolic and in separate incidents but it has been a sustained decline. For the past four months government measures have taken their toll culminating in the arrest of human rights activists, repeated public official threats to opposition groups, repeated threats to declare human rights groups and centres illegal, banning public meetings organised by opposition groups (including an amateur theatre group). The fifth example is the untouched and uncontrolled privileges of the Al Khalifa family. This is a serious matter for any reform in the region and this is the acid test of the credibility of King Hamad and the reforms. King Hamad simply does not want the royal family to be citizens of his own country. I do not refer to formalities of citizenship, but to the sense that they assimilate within society and have rights and duties of all citizens. I devised a slogan but, unfortunately, I was not taken seriously when I was in Bahrain: Let us call for the assimilation of the royal family in Bahrain into society. The al-Khalifa have remained adamant about their separation from the rest – even physically by living alone in their own town and by their massive control of the resources in the country. I will now touch on a point made by Dr Shehabi namely whether Bahrain is a model of reform for the region. Hamad’s political reforms provide the best model that royal families could wish for. It is a model that allows a country to appear it is reforming while the ruling family continues to enjoy all its privileges, including their total control over economic resources and political institutions and their command of the armed forces and security agencies. The model may be less appealing to other peoples of the Gulf monarchies. They may be alarmed by the mounting difficulties Hamad faces convincing his own people of his credentials as a bona fide reformer. To salvage Bahrain’s role as a model of political reforms in the region, King Hamad and leaders of the opposition must engage in a serious dialogue of national reconciliation. Both sides need all the help they can get to make Bahrain a model for a peaceful transition from absolute dynastic regime into a truly constitutional, democratic and stable monarchy. —————————————————————————————–
* Dr Abdul Hadi Khalaf is associate professor, Department of Sociology, University of Lund, Sweden. His current research is focusing on political changes in GCC countries, mobilization for human rights in the Middle East and forms of resistance to the current forms of globalisation. His most recent publication includes What the Gulf Ruling Families Do When They Rule. Dr Khalaf was a member of the National Assembly of Bahrain in the early seventies. The assembly was dissolved in 1975.
Press Release: Bahrain: Most vicious attack against the religious leadership and the people The Al Khalifa family mobilised their centuries-old experience in repression and attacked a peaceful demonstration this afternoon, injuring hundreds of innocent people. The demonstration had started from Karbabad roundabout (on the outskirt of Manama) to protest against the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and call on the Americans not to attack the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq. Friday prayers leaders had called for the event, hoping to inform the world of the feelings of the people of Bahrain. The Al Khalifa rulers gave orders to their mercenaries to attack the demonstration in a vicious way, causing a lot of injuries and faintings. The attack started about half an hour after the march started, with a barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets. Senior clerics who were at the front of the march suffered direct hits and several of them had to be rushed to hospitals. The most senior religious scholar in the country, Sheikh Isa Qassim, who was also a member of the elected parliament in the seventies, and Sayyed Abdulla Al Ghuraif were among the victims. Mr Jawad Fairooz, a member of the Executive Committee of Al Wefaq Islamic National Society was hit with a rubber bullet in his head. Eyewitnesses confirmed that he was intentionally targeted. He was negotiating with the senior officers when he was hit from the back. He has been taken to hospital and is undergoing treatment. Many men, women and children were affected by the gas canisters which were fired in abundance, far beyond the need to disperse a peaceful demonstration. Some youth directed their anger at a police car setting it on fire. The riot police reacted with more attacks against the unarmed civilians. The Al Khalifa have recently given free hand to the most notorious among their members to act in accordance with the notorious State Security Law that had empowered them to leash their hatred against the people of Bahrain. Dr Abdul Azia Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa, the former head of the Torture Committee and Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa, the president of the State Security Court, are among those who have been promoted by Sheikh Hamad and given free hand to make use of their experience in torture and repression. The people of Bahrain appeal to the international community to put an end to this repression, protest against the Al Khalifa dictatorship and take step to protect the people of Bahrain from their continued aggression. Today, they have proved themselves as evil as the Zionist occupiers of Palestine in dealing with the indigenous people. Bahrain Freedom Movement
21 May 2004
The Public Prosecution Charges a Member of the Committee of the Families of the Constitutional Petition Detainees (CFCPT) Seven Released on Bail Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Demands Dropping Charges and Urges Immediate Intervention to Protect Al Saba’a as a Human Rights Activist. 10-5-2004 The Public Prosecution charged today Abdulla Abbas Al-Sabea (28 years old) with four accusations. He was released on a bail of 200 Bahraini Dinars. One of the charges which he is facing could lead up to 2 years imprisonment. The charges are ( based on Bahrain Penal Code of 1976): – Instigating hostility towards the system of government ( article 165 ) – Publishing falsified news (article 169) – Breaching the law on gathering which prohibits a meeting of more than four persons without prior permission – Assemblage and calling for assemblage The BCHR has formed a committee, Families of the Constitutional Petition Detainees (CFCPT), on 3rd May 2004, whereby Al Sabea was chosen as an official spokesman for the Committee. As a result he was registered as a BCHR voluntary member, to enable him to play his role in the demand for release of the detainees and drop off the charges against them. Until now, the CFCPT has organized four protests, and issued communiqués & statements to local and foreign media. The CFCPT had announced that the fourth protest would be in front of the Prime Minister’s office on 9th May 2004. Before the event, Al Sabea had been taken into custody by a police patrol, for at least half an hour. He was threatened of detention if he participates in the protest. The police also asked him to call the relatives of the detainees to cancel the protest. Hence, Al Sabea returned to notify the relatives of the police’s warning, only to be arrested again by the police along with three other persons, who were later released on the same day. But Al Saba’a remained in custody until today evening. Al Sabea was charged with possessing leaflets, including a copy of a statement by the CFCPT, issued on 9th May 2004, and a copy of a letter addressed to the UN Higher Commissioner for Human Rights (attach: copy of the statement and letter). The BCHR expressed its concern with the arrest of Al Sabea and with charging him of joining the peaceful protest and being in possession of leaflet that calls for the release of the detainees.
The BCHR demands dropping the charges made against Al Sabea, and calls upon the various concerned bodies to intervene in Al Sabea’s case as he is a human rights activist and a defender of prisoners of conscience.
The Gulf Cultural Club 45 Chalton Street, London NW1 1HY, Tel: 020 7383 2058, Fax: 020 7387 6369 The Crises of Political Reforms in Bahrain By Dr Abdul Hadi Khalaf* 6.30 pm, Thursday 20th May 2004 Refreshments available from 6.00 pm, dinner 8.00 pm
*Abdulhadi Khalaf, Associate professor, Department of Sociology, University of Lund, Sweden. Current research focus: Political changes in the GCC countries; Mobilization for human right in the Middle East; Forms of resistance to the current forms of globalisation. His most recent publication: “What the Gulf Ruling Families Do when They Rule”, ORIENT, Jahrgang 44, Heft 4, 2003. Dr Khalaf was a member of the Naitonal Assembly of Bahrain in early seventies. The Assembly was dissolved in 1975.
Arrests in Bahrain return the State Security Law Conditions Arrests in Bahrain return the State Security Law Conditions arrest of over 26 Bahrainis organizing the signing of a petition calling for constitutional changes and wider political participation have shocked all those who knew the peacefulness and legality of the petition. The Petition was organized by four opposition societies after all attempts to initiate dialogue with the Government of Bahrain had failed. The four societies deployed their members to collect signatures in make-shift centres around the country since May 21st 2004. The earlier plan was to launch a nation-wide campaign for signatures calling for political reforms. However, the Government threatened to close down the Societies if they went ahead with the plan. Instead, the Minister of Labour forced the four Societies to limit the campaign to within their memberships, thus creating a crisis in the country. In a compromise solution, the opposition societies decided to work within this framework, and the campaign was launched for any citizen to join one of the four Societies if he/she wished to sign the petition. Being so sensitive to the freedom of expression and with a long history of repressing liberties in the country, the Government could not stand the unprecedented influx to sign the petition. The arrests continued for days. The Government declared serious accusations including planning to change the political system in the country and instigating hatred for the Government. The Political Societies have demonstrated total peacefulness in their approach to increase liberties and widen political participation. They had responded positively to the Government demands to defer their petition earlier and limit the signatures of the petition to within their respective memberships, although the law permitted them to launch it for all the people to participate in. Yet, the Government once again has proven its undemocratic policies and is creating the conditions of the notorious State Security Law. While the curbing of freedom continues, the people of Bahrain remain steadfast in their struggle for their rights. Those arrested for no crime will most likely be joined by more Bahrainis so long as injustice remains the approach the Government has chosen to deal with the pro-democracy movement in the country. While the curbing of freedom continues, the people of Bahrain remain steadfast in their struggle for their rights. Those arrested for no crime will most likely be joined by more Bahrainis so long as injustice remains the only approach the Government has chosen to deal with the pro-democracy movement in the country. Bahrain Freedom Movement
9 May 2004
Bahrain: More Prisoners of Conscience Five more people have been arrested overnight in connection with the petition. They include: Jaffal Sulail (from Sitra), Tawfiq Al Rayyash (from Manama), Jamil Al Shuwaikh (from Saar) and Sadeq Al Ghawwas (from Snanabis). This is in addition to the fifteen young men who were arrested by the Torture apparatus headed by Dr Abdul Aziz Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa, the former president of the Torture Committee that was formed during the uprising of the mid-nineties. The ruling family has ruled that signing a petition calling on the ruler to re-instate the country’s 1973 constitution is a crime that is punishable by arrest and torture. The political societies have challenged the Al Khalifa to uphold the rule of law, adopt a democratic form of government and abandon their absolute dictatorship. Among the other detainees are: Ameer Radhi, Hussain Abdali, Hussain Al Matrook and Hussain Al Arabi who were rounded up in Al Musalla village by officers from Al Khamis Police Station following an order issued by the Public Prosecutor to arrest those involved in collecting signatures. Ibrahim Mahdi, Hussain Mansour and his 17-year-old brother Ahmed were arrested in Sanad; Ali Al Sabaa, Abdullah Anan, Mohammed Al Sabaa, Muzzafar Mousa, Saleh Matrook and Habib Asoumi in Mahooz; Mohammed< SPAN style=”mso-spacerun: yes”> Saeed, Hussain Al Hamam, Mohammed Al Hajri and Zuhair Ismail were rounded up in Hamad Town. The Prosecutor General is Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa, who was the President of the notorious State Security Court which was disbanded three years ago. He was promoted by the ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to his new post in recognition of his past services to the ruling Al Khlaifa family. The situation in the country is so volatile that the people have braced themselves for a black era ahead under the Al Khalifa monarchical despotism. The rise in the number of Prisoners of Conscience in the country is a negative indicator to the authoritarian rule in Bahrain. Bahrain Freedom Movement
6 May 2004
Bahraini Authorities Arrest 26 Citizens for a Petition Calling for Democracy (Manama, Bahrain 1st May 2004) – The police authorities in Bahrain arrested 26 individuals on Friday May 30th while collecting signatures for a petition calling for a wider participation in political decision making in Bahrain. The detainees were in different adhoc centres (tents) placed by four oppositions societies around Bahrain to collect signatures for the petition. The police used excessive force to arrest these individual and confiscated all documents and petition sheets including the stationeries. They also throw all the tables and chair in an attempt to destroy the tents. The police force did not have any search warrant or any written orders for arrest. The policemen were asked to show any official document for search or arrest, but they did not have any. There are some indications that the detainees were beaten and maltreated in the police stations. Among detainees were minors, citizens under the age of full legal responsibility. Al Wefaq National Islamic Society issued a statement today condemning the arrest of citizens engaged in peaceful acts such as collecting signatures. It appealed to the international organizations to protect the right of these detainees and the right of Bahraini people in expressing themselves in a peaceful manner. Al Wefaq called upon all human rights organizations to work toward immediate release of the detainees. Four opposition societies are launching a public petition calling for greater democratic reforms in Bahrain. They are collecting signatures from citizens across the country appealing to the King to grant more power to the elected chamber through constitutional amendments. It is important to remark that the existing Constitution grants equal powers to the elected chamber and the upper Shura council, which its members are appointed by the King. This was the main reason behind societies boycotting the last elections.
The Bahrain constitutions [both 1973 and 2002] grant the citizens the right to collect signatures in a petition form. However, in practice, the reality is far away from articles of the Constitution.