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Bahrain: Violation of Freedom of Movement Manama, Bahrain 18 Feb 2004. The Kuwaiti authorities prevented Shaikh Ali Salman, the chairman of Al-Wefaq society and Ibrahim Sharif (National Democratic Action Society) from entering Kuwait this morning. Both were put on the same plane back to Bahrain. The officials in Kuwait stated that the Bahraini authorities had recently submitted a list of names to Kuwait Ministry of Interior consisting of political activists; and asked to deny them entry to Kuwait for security reasons. Shaikh Ali Salman and Ibrahim Sharif were both in a trip to visit Kuwaiti figures to apologize to them face to face for what these figures had gone through last Friday when they were barred from entering Bahrain to attend ‘Constitutional Conference’ in Manama. Many other guests were also refused admission to Bahrain including British lawyers, Professor Martin Lau, and Ms. Samantha Knights.

Sending lists to other countries by authorities in Bahrain to prevent Bahraini citizens from entering those countries for no legitimate reason is a clear violation of human rights and freedom of movement.

The Emperor’s new clothes On Friday evening, February 13, two distinguished British lawyers were refused admission to Bahrain, and put on the first plane back to the UK. Professor Martin Lau, Chair of the Department of Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and Ms Samantha Knights, a barrister in the chambers of Michael Crystal QC, were due to speak at a seminar on the constitution organised by opposition groups. Others who were also denied admission to Bahrain included Mr Ahmed Sadoon MP, former Chairman of the Kuwait Parliament; Dr Abdulla al-Nibari, Mr Abdul Mohsin Jamal and Mr Sayed Adnan Abdul-Samad, former Members of the Kuwait Parliament; Dr Ali al-Kuwari, political activist from Qatar; Mr Saleh Abdul Karim al-Armooti, ex-Member of the Jordan Parliament, and Mr Mark Pella, Head of the Committee for the Support of Democracy in the Gulf, from Paris. The meeting was to have been held at the Diplomat Hotel, but at the last minute the management cancelled the booking, saying they were under pressure by the authorities. On February 13, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs wrote to the organisers (Al-Wefaq, National Islamic Action, National Democratic Action, Nationalist Democratic Society), saying that permission should have been obtained for the meeting. The organisers said they knew of no law which required them to obtain permission, and they made arrangements to hold the meeting at the Al-Oruba Club. The elected management board of the Club were threatened that if the event went ahead, they would be dissolved. Meanwhile, the organisers came to know that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bahrain had been in touch with their opposite numbers in Kuwait and Egypt, to say that their citizens would not be allowed into Bahrain for the purpose of attending the seminar. As a result, Mr Abdul Atheem al-Magharabi MP, Member of the Egyptian Parliament, sent his apologies. The seminar, on the theme ‘Towards a Popular Constitution of a Constitutional Monarchy’, attracted 216 delegates belonging to the political and civic societies, as well as independents. The goal was to address the crisis arising from the imposition of a new constitution by the Decree of the Ruler in 2002; the illegal abrogation of the 1973 constitution, and the failure by the ruling family to honour the terms of the National Charter, which had been approved by an overwhelming majority in a referendum. The Bahrain government say that constitutional matters can only be discussed by Bahrainis, without the help and advice of foreigners. But as everyone knows, the 2002 constitution was drafted by Egyptian lawyers, and was not published as a draft so that Bahraini citizens could have expressed their views on it, and particularly on the manner in which it departed from the National Charter. Ms Cherie Blair visited Bahrain twice in 2003, and on the first occasion she gave a semi-public lecture on constitutional matters. Mr John Austin MP, chair of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, among others from the UK Parliament, visited Bahrain in October 2003 and commented on the governance of the state. Others on that visit, hosted by the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies, were Mr Ken Purchase MP, Secretary of the Group and his wife; David Tredinnick MP; Andrew Mackay MP; Jukie Kirkbride MP; David Clelland MP and last but not least Dr Ashok Kumar MP, chair of the Group, who has forgotten to declare the visit on the Register of Members’ Interests. The MPs did not meet any leaders of the opposition or of the Bahrain Centre of Human Rights. They said nothing about the immunity from prosecution conferred by Decree Law No 56 on former torturers including the British citizen Ian Henderson, still living in Bahrain because if he returns to his estate in Devon he may be arrested here. Bahrain signed the Convention Against Torture, and is in breach of the obligation that convention imposes on signatories to prosecute torturers. The MPs did not hear allegations of discrimination against the Shi’a, which is illegal even under the 2002 constitution. On February 14, the very day of the seminar the Bahraini authorities tried to ban, Dr Fred Halliday, professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics, was in Bahrain as the guest of the government to deliver speech on “Reforms in the Gulf”.

It is clear, therefore, that foreigners are welcome to speak in Bahrain about the constitution and the methods of government, as long as they do so on the right platform, and as long as they refrain from pointing out that a political system which vests enormous powers in a ruling family who can never be changed is not a real democracy. The little boy in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, who pointed out that the Emperor was naked, has no counterpart in Bahrain; he would never get past immigration.

Bahrain: Al Khalifa thugs prevent international experts from participating in the constitutional conference In one of its most blatant moves in the past three years, the Al Khalifa ruling family has prevented international constitutional experts from entering the country. The experts were invited by the opposition to address a conference which opened today in Manama on the constitutional crisis facing the country. The conference has been organised by the four main political societies to highlight the illegality of the Al Khalifa’s decision to abrogate the 1973 constitution and impose its own document that Sheikh Hamad had declared on 14th February 2002. Since then, the people of Bahrain have expressed total disbelief at the way dictatorship has been institutionalised in defiance of the calls to introduce democracy in the country. The opposition has organised the conference to coincide with the third anniversary of the conditional endorsement of the Charter proposed by Sheikh Hamad and approved by the people after he had given personal undertakings to uphold the 1973 contractual constitution. Yesterday, the foreign delegates who had been invited to address the conference were denied entry to the country. The former President of the Kuwaiti Parliament, Ahmad Al Sa’doun was stopped as he tried to enter through the Bahrain-Saudi causeway and returned back to Kuwait. Former members of the Kuwaiti parliament were also turned back; Abdul Muhsin Jamal, Abdulla l Neibari, and Sayed Adnan Abdul Samad were denied entry. Dr Ali Al Kawari (from Qatar) was pinpointed from other travellers visitng Bahrain and told that he was not welcome in Bahrain. Four European delegates were stopped at the airport and forced to return to their countries: Mark Pelace (from France), Mr Martin Lau and Samantha Knight from UK. Both are experts in constitutional reforms. A third delegate from Germany was also turned back. Furthermore the Al Khalifa ruling family also threatened the management of the Diplomat Hotel, where the conference would have been held, against allowing the conference to take place in the hotel. The organisers then approached the Al Uruba Club who was also threatened with grave consequences if it allowed the event on its premises. But the management of the Club defied the Al Khalifa ban and allowed the conference to convene this morning. The oraganisers insisted on holding the conference at any cost, even in the open if the Al Khalifa forced the Club not to host them. It is a black day in the post-reform era. There is a consensus among the people that if there was anything left from Sheikh Hamad’s political programme, it has all but vanished yesterday. The organisers could not have hoped for a more eloquent expression to convince their guests of the Al Khalifa dictatorship. The job has been done for them. All delegates expressed total disgust at the way they were treated by the Al Khalifa thugs at the airport and have resolved to continue their support for the people of Bahrain. The four political societies that have organised the conference are: the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, the Democratic Action Society, the Islamic Action Society and the Nationalist Democratic Group. Bahrain Freedom Movement

14 February 2004

14th February: a black anniversary in the history of Bahrain The sad realities institutionalised dictatroship Three years ago, the people of people were lured by the ruling Al Khalifa family into endorsing a document that had promised reforms but later transpired to be nothing more than an attempt to legalise despotism and dictatorship. The “National Charter” much hailed as a way out from the 25 years black era, was endorsed by the people after Sheikh Hamad had given his personal promises that he would abide by the 1973 constitution. A year later, the people of Bahrain were shocked to see the “reformist” Sheikh Hamad embarking on a programme that had exceeded anything that his predecessors had done. He crowned himself a king, changed the small island into a “kingdom”, and imposed a new constitution that had legalised despotism in its ugliest forms. Sheikh Hamad has given himself powers that no other monarch in the world had, and forced his constitution on the people without fulfilling any of the promises he had given the people. Among the written undertakings by the ruler prior to the endorsement of his charter were: that the 1973 Constitution would be superior to the charter, that any changes to that constitution would only be done in accordance with article 104 of that constitution and that the legislative powers are confined to an elected chamber while an appointed council would only be consultative. These undertakings were given in writing by Sheikh Hamad himself at the house of a senior cleric, by the minister of justice in a statement that was published on 9th February 2001 by local newspapers and by the Crown Prince in an interview at the time. It was these undertakings and promises that had enticed the people to give their approval to Sheikh Hamad’s charter. At no time did they ever imagine that the highest authority in the land would renege on written and widely circulated conditions agreed by the two parties: the people and the ruling family. Most opposition figures and organisations were also lured into believing these promises and urged the people to approve the charter. The announcement by Sheikh Hamad on 14th February 2002 amounted to nothing less than treachery and a coup against the people’s wills and wishes. He announced the introduction of his new constitution in defiance of the people’s demands for which they had struggled since the contractual 1973 constitution was suspended in 1975, and had offered huge sacrifices including more than forty martyrs, thousands of prisoners and exiles and unlimited human sufferings. Sheikh Hamad appeared, for a time, to be the saviour of the country from the illnesses it had suffered at the hands of the Al Khalifa despotic dynasty. He proved to be just another tyrant who would allow no dissention. He has become an absolute ruler with powers who still holds the ancient belief of his dynasty that they owned the land and the people. Later that year he called for the elections of a subservient council which has no power of legislation, and whose working orders would regularly come from the ruling family. It is not allowed to initiate legislations and would only act within the framework of what the Al Khalifa would allow. It is subordinate to the prime minister and his clique, a bunch of old-minded folks some of whom are accused of masterminding one of the most horrific torture regime in the region. In order to tighten the Al Khalifa’s grip on power, Sheikh Hamad undertook several initiatives. First, he decided to run the country by royal decrees rather than upholding the rule of law. In t his respect, he issued several decrees, the most notorious of which is decree no 56-2002 which offered torturers immunity from prosecution. Under this decrees senior members of the Al Khalifa, such as Abdul Aziz Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa, Abdul Rahman bin Saqer Al Khalifa, Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa who had leashed a campaign of terror in the country for 25 years, have been offered immunity from prosecution, and some of them have been promoted. Soon after his ascendance to the throne following the demise his father in March 1999, Sheikh Hamad had granted many of them honorary medals for their services in the torture apparatus. Second, Sheikh Hamad had decided to rule the country with “gracious acts”, i.e., offering the people personal favours in the forms of grants or sorting out personal problems, and undermining the rule of law. Today, Bahrain is subject to the decisions of the ruler who would issue royal decrees and orders to deal with outstanding issues relating to the lives of the people. The ordinary citizen has no legal rights, and has to ask for favours of the ruler in order to alleviate poverty or other social problems. Perhaps the most significant and far reaching decision undertaken by Sheikh Hamad has been to change the demographic composition of the country. In 2002 he issued a decree that makes citizens of other Gulf states comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council, the right to obtain Bahraini nationality while maintaining their original nationalities. This means that up to 20 million people are allowed to get the nationality of a country whose natives are less than half a million. This is a political prostitution at its worst. Tens of thousands of non-Bahrainis have been made nationals at the stroke of Sheikh Hamad’s pen. They were chosen from countries and areas where the most extremist elements of Al Qaeda were recruited in Southern Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan and Syrians. The aim is to create a unique power base that would offer a balance with the natives with whom the ruling Al Khalifa had never been able to make fraternal relations. The feeling of superiority among members of this family together with the mentality of ownership of the islands (as a result of conquering it militarily) have always been impediments to a peaceful and practical coexistence between the two sides. Sheikh Hamad has thus sought to alter the situation fundamentally by changing the human composition of the land in favour of his dynasty. This is a cultural genocide that aims at undermining local human culture and identity. This is a crime that must be stopped. To address this political and human crisis in Bahrain, the opposition societies are organising a constitutional conference on 14th-15th February to highlight the new forms of despotism that is both legalised and practiced. With the participation of international and local constitutional experts, the hope is that the international community would come to the aid of the Bahraini people in their struggle against this tyrannical regime. It is time that policies of deception and extravagant public relations would not be allowed to hide the truth, and that the new form of tyranny and dictatorship would be exposed. The hope is that the removal of Saddam Hussain from power would help uncover other evil regimes in the region, and that of the Al Khalifa has proven to be as cunning and deceptive as that which had reigned in Iraq. Bahrain Freedom Movement London


Bahraini Prisoner in Saudi Arabia Calling You Manama, Bahrain 1st Feb 2004. The health of Shaikh Mohamed Saleh Ali, the Bahraini prisoner in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 22nd July 2003, is deteriorating. He was recently admitted to Incentive Care Unit (ICU) in a hospital in the Kingdom with a heart trouble that resulted in loosing consciousness. Shaikh Mohamed Saleh has been unlawfully detained with no official charges last July by Saudi authorities while travelling to Saudi Arabia via King Fahad Causeway in a business trip. He was ill-treated and not given the right to have a lawyer who can defend him and protect him from any unlawful act. We would be grateful if you call upon the authorities in Saudi Arabia to: Release Shaikh Mohamed Saleh immediately since there are no charges against him; Take care of his health as the Kingdom is responsible for this breakdown; Stop all kinds of ill-treatment (physical and psychological); and Allow him to Return home to his family in Bahrain as soon as he gets well.

The news about the health of Shaikh Mohamed Saleh was published in all Bahraini daily newspapers on 1st February 2004. For more details, you may contact the Coordinating Committee in Support of Shaikh Saleh at: Telephone: (973) 39609656 ; (973) 39064228 ; (973) 39400954; Fax (973) 17778967 or (973) 17761923.

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