Bahrain a gateway to reforms in the Gulf Dr Abduljalil Alsingace December 2004 Synopsis: 1-Bahrain a fertile environment in the gulf a- Bahrain has been seen to be forward and modern (education, healthcare, openness, readiness and adaptation to change) b- Gulf citizens recognize the cultural and educational background of Bahrainis c- Bahrain has rich history of struggle to reforms and political participation. With Kuwait, first to have socially binding constitution. First to have municipality mandate. Bahraini women first to participate in the political life All the above give Bahrain a key role to introduce reforms which will lead to local and regional stability. Hence, long lasting and genuine reforms will pave the path for similar move in the other states in the area. Nevertheless, and irrespective of the positive move in this direction, many hurdles exist, which augment resistance towards belief and acceptance to change and reforms. 2- Obstacles Constitutional Hurdles: focus of power in the hands of the king, representative of people cannot exercise their role to legislate (king appointee share that role), mandate to allow the executive body to manipulate, obstruct and legislate. Absolute power (final say in the hand of the king): The new constitution produced unilaterally on 14th February 2002 extends and broadens the power of the head of the state, the King. He practically holds in his hands all powers. 1) He appoints the ministerial Cabinet and administers the country through it. 2) He appoints members of the Constitutional Court 3) He appoints the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, 4) He appoints one half of the members of the National Council 5) He proposes changes in the constitution 6) He initiate marshal laws 7) He dissolves the house of representatives with a decree 8) He can extend a legislation as well as dissolution period Focusing of the new Constitution to all powers at the hand of the head of the state (legislation is not enacted without his approval.) undermines the citizens’ actual right to political participation as stipulated by international charters and casts shadows over the claimed democracy No segregation of powers; Judiciary System as means of repression An independent and neutral judiciary is the last resort for rendering justice especially in view of the strength of the executive authority that dominates the executive authority. With the existence of laws that restrict freedoms, the judiciary is not only unable to play its role in protection and rendering justice with respect to infringement of rights and freedoms but becomes an effective tool used by the executive authority to tame the non-government forces and to penalize members of the opposition. Therefore, the court cases filed against the executive authority or its staff members were not admitted. On the other hand, the executive authority used the tough laws and judiciary to rein in the local press as well as bringing pressure upon those who lend their support to cases of administrative and financial corruption. The same applies to the role played by societies and activists The Constitutional Monarchy The basis of the National Action Charter is to employ the concept of the constitutional monarchy, which necessitates the existence of a royal family rooted to the king and his descendants of the virgin son. No member of the royal family should be engaged in any official post. Al-khalifa, Royal Family after 2002 constitution, represents not more that 0.5%, yet they possess about 60% of the official posts in the Government (Director and higher) Continuous abuse of human rights The Bahrain Constitution is glorified by a number of freedoms and rights, but leaves their regulation to the law, which makes laws, how bad they become, to have a constitutional basis. Many of the enacted laws were legislated in absence of an elected legislative body when there was no democracy and violate the principles of the Constitution itself. These laws, especially those related to basic rights, came to restrict freedoms, give a free hand and absolute power to the executive authority. Of the laws that are still in force there are the Penal Code promulgated in 1976, and Societies Law No.21 of 1989. In fact, the laws introduced by the government post Charter period are of the same nature. It includes the new Press, Printing and Publication Law no 47 of 2002. (see Continuous Violations of Human Rights and Curtailment of Civic Liberties in Bahrain ) The economical situation (poverty, deprivation and hardship) As per the Poverty Report for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights issued on 24th September 2004, Half of the Bahrainis endures poverty and dreadful financial situation and tens of thousands are unemployed. There is no social security for the unemployed or underpaid, no there is one for elderly, divorced or widowed. This came as a result of corruption, lack of accountability, and mal distribution of wealth and state resources. Such environment will create popular resentment and could be expressed in many formats reflecting instable situation. There is no doubt that such environment is not suitable for long term planning and investment. The Rule of law and abuse of power: In Bahrain, tycoons and corrupt cannot be brought to justice and are above the law. Al-khalifa cannot be brought to civic courts. They have their own courts formed by the Al-khalifa Family council. There are many instances when investors and businessmen lost their cases as they were involved with some corrupt or linked, directly or directly to a member of Al-khalifa. Recommendations a- Constitutional changes: These changes are very essential in putting life back in the reform program. They should fulfill the following objectives: 1- enabling representatives of people to exercise legislation freely without being obstructed by others (the king or his appointees and/or the executive body) 2- enabling representatives of people to prevent others (the king or his appointees and/or the executive body) from legislation without their consent. 3-enabling representatives of people to exercise administrative and financial monitoring on all members of the executive body, including the prime minister b- Immediate action, in parallel to a long term plan, has to be made to alleviate the poverty and economical hardship. These would include introducing a social security scheme for the unemployed, underpaid, disabled, elderly and homeless, as well as employing Bahrainis in the State security establishments (Ministry of interior, Ministry of Defense and the National Guards) and replacing the non-Bahrainis in them. c- Fighting all forms of corruption and stopping flow of public funds to the pockets of the tycoons in the country, starting by the prime minister, who has been in this post for over 30 years and responsible for all the corruption, poverty and unemployment, degradation in the human rights values and freedom of expression. It is under his government which was responsible for the set back in all these issues over the last period and a call for his prosecution and retirement is a must to enable process all development schemes in the country. d- Legislating Election Constituencies by a code and not by a royal decree, ensuring a fair distribution of equal constituencies of tolerance governed by international standards.
e- Inaction of the constitutional monarchy as stipulated in the National Action Charter, unanimously ratified in February 2002, which necessitates that members of Al-khalifa belongs to the Royal family and hence should not be engaging a public posts.
Nested Circles of Absolute Powers Dr Abduljalil Alsingace – Bahrain December 2004 Introduction: There are many questions as to why the regime has failed to attract the main political forces to its political program. Absolutism in power, the fact the regime doesn’t believe in people’s role and the need for their true participation in the decision making and running of the state, are among reasons for the failure of the regime and the deadlock of the political situation in Bahrain. In addition, there has been a realization that the ruling family had no intention to uphold the rule of law, respect human rights or grant freedom to political societies. Furthermore, the people of Bahrain are dismayed by the government’s dangerous program of demographic change which augmented during the nineties when the constitutional movement was at its pace. Many protective (to the regime) circles, nested, to ensure that the representation of people is most minimized or nullified. The role of the Elected body in legislation and monitoring, the relationship between the Elected and the Appointed body, the role of the executive body in legislation, the relationship between powers, distribution of Election constituencies (political naturalization) and, above all, the absolute powers in the hand of the head of state, are examples of these circles making it rather impossible for the people to play a major role in democratization of Bahrain. Furthermore, the practice in the continuous curtailment of the civic liberties and abuse of human rights, in addition to the worsening economical situation (poverty, deprivation and hardship) for thousands of Bahrainis, will inevitably cause tremendous upset in the stability of the country unless short (quick) and long term (strategic) genuine plans are activated. In this short presentation, it will be shown that the regime has made many “nested” circles of obstacles to ensure the absolute power, which is the nuclei of these circles, with minimum influence from people and their representatives. These could be elucidated as follows: 1) Elected body with no yield and without definite means of legislation and monitoring- over ruling executive body: Due to the limitations laid down by the new constitution, the elected house of Representatives enjoys little room for legislation, yet its effectiveness and performance are poor. This is also due to the fact that such house doesnot enjoy, fully and independently, the privilege of legislation and monitoring. These are shared with by the Appointed house which was made to ensure weakness of the House’s formation because of boycotting the elections by some of the influential political powers. It is worth noting that After TWO years of convention, this council has not been able to yield a SINGLE law or code. In spite of the effectiveness of a modest number of members in raising key and important issues within the House and in the press, the House has so far been unable to adopt effective decisions with respect to any of the rights and freedoms issues whether with regard to legislation, control and accountability. So far no laws have been introduced establishing national mechanisms for protection of basic freedoms. Until now the two houses have not been able to adopt any effective decisions related to economic rights, citizens’ living conditions or administrative and financial corruption. Nevertheless, the two Houses or some of their members have been involved in practices supporting the executive authority in restricting freedoms and condemning non-government organizations for participating in activities that can be classified as exercise of basic rights (as in the case when the political societies raised the issue of political naturalization and also when BHRC raised the issue of privileges and discrimination). Although there are significant draft laws tabled for the next period by some House members (related to the provision of social security and minimum wage level) and although investigation committees have been formed and are scheduled to submit their results shortly (such as the issue of GOSI and Pension Fund Commission funds and issue of political naturalization), there are still doubts that there could be results leading to real changes owing to the poor structure and powers of the House compared to the continuous domination of the executive authority. The articles of new constitution are tailored in such manner to ensure that what ever the quality of the members of the parliament and their political background, the elected body cannot secure an outing of legislation, without the consent of the executive (state) body. This could only be done when the executive body passes the legislation, through its mechanism of approvals (examples: articles 92, 83, 87, 109 of new 2002 constitution), or proposes a legislation The National Council has become unable to put forward a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister. The Council proposes legislations but it is drafted by the Government, which gives it the upper hand to delay and manipulate the format and wording of the legislation. 2. Appointed body sharing legislation and monitoring responsibilities According to the new constitution, legislation is not a privilege to the Elected body, but also shared with by the Appointed “Shura” council. All legislations, proposed by the representatives, the government or the king, must be scrutinized and approved by the Appointee. This is in addition to their privilege to legislate, no legislation can pass without the appointee’s consent. 3. No segregation of powers; Judiciary System as means of repression An independent and neutral judiciary is the last resort for rendering justice especially in view of the strength of the executive authority that dominates the executive authority. With the existence of laws that restrict freedoms, the judiciary is not only unable to play its role in protection and rendering justice with respect to infringement of rights and freedoms but becomes an effective tool used by the executive authority to tame the non-government forces and to penalize members of the opposition. Therefore, we find that the court cases filed against the executive authority or its staff members were not admitted or achieve any real results until now . On the other hand, the executive authority used the tough laws and judiciary to rein in the local press as well as bringing pressure upon those who lend their support to cases of administrative and financial corruption . The same applies to the role played by societies and activists 4. Mal distribution of Election constituencies Electoral Constituencies are produced by Royal Decree and not by a law, as it used to be in 1973 election. Furthermore, the constituencies were produced on sectarian, tribal and other basis, but not on International Standards which preserve of all citizens and treat them equally. The constituencies were formed to enable majority winning of pro regime and minimize those who are not considered to be “loyal”. The southern constituency of not more than 2000 people are represented by one, where as the same representation is given to an northern constituency of 13000 citizens. The Southern Governorate, not more that 13000 voters (most of them newly naturalized), are represented by 6, whereas the Central or Northern Governorates of 72 thousands eligible voters are represented by 8. Such way of setting out constituencies not only treats citizens unequally in the voting power, it also assumes no equality in the value of representatives. 5. Political Naturalization The State started giving out nationality to tens of thousands of people from specific sect and background, without an effective need for it (they already have a nationality), and use them to manipulate election results, and employ them in state security establishments (interrogation, torture, riot police, etc). Evidence have shown that the regime have used the politically naturalized in the voting for the National Action Charter as well as the municipality and Legislative Election, to ensure support for pro regime candidates. 6. Al-khalifa and the constitutional
Monarchy The basis of the National Action Charter is to employ the concept of the constitutional monarchy, which necessitates the existence of a royal family rooted to the king and his descendants of the virgin son. No member of the royal family should be engaged in any official post. Al-khalifa, Royal Family after 2002 constitution, represents not more that 0.5%, yet they possess about 60% of the official posts in the Government (Director and higher) 7. Continuous abuse of human rights The Bahrain Constitution is glorified by a number of freedoms and rights, but leaves their regulation to the law, which makes laws, how bad they become, to have a constitutional basis. Many of the enacted laws were legislated in absence of an elected legislative body when there was no democracy and violate the principles of the Constitution itself. These laws, especially those related to basic rights, came to restrict freedoms, give a free hand and absolute power to the executive authority. Of the laws that are still in force there are the Penal Code promulgated in 1976 and its amendments enacted in 1982 , and Societies Law No.21 of 1989 . In fact, the laws introduced by the government post Charter period are of the same nature. It includes the new Press, Printing and Publication Law no 47 as well as Impunity Codes of 2002. 8. economical situation (poverty, deprivation and hardship) As per the Poverty Report for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights issued on 24th September 2004, half of the Bahrainis endures poverty dreadful financial situation. The official figure for the poverty line is $817 (Bahraini Dinar 309). There are over twenty thousands families (about 80 thousand individual) whose income donot exceed $817. There are thousands of citizens lack proper housing, moreover, the unemployed, the underpaid and those receiving financial assistance, are not qualified to benefit from the housing services. 44 thousands of low income families wait as long as 12 years. Irrespective spread of poverty and deprivation, Bahrain Monetary Fund statistics shows the existence of 5200 rich with an average income of 4.2 million dollars, exceeding the world record of 3.8 million dollar. The same study shows the private wealth in Bahrain ranging between 20 and 30 billion dollar. Bahrain is proud of its record is freedom of investment and nullification of tax on income and interests. On contrast, there are over 23 instances in which the State exerts fees on citizens in return for its services. These include, municipality services, mandatory vehicle inspection, issue or renew of identification cards (passport, personal identification, central population record (CPR)), construction fees, extending water and electricity services, certificate endorsements, pension fees, documentation, etc). Irrespective of the strength of the economy, the deterioration of the citizens financial situation is attributed primarily to the mal distribution of the financial resources, waste of public funds, corruption, improper planning, and the policy of flooding the market with cheap labour, which represents 60% of the labour force. concluding remarks: The regime couldn’t convince the opposition of its program which could fruitify by popular participation in the political life. In contrary, the regime was successful in sending strong signal about its plan to change demography of the country through the notorious plot of “political naturalization”. It has delivered a revolting impression about its disrespect to human rights and its on ground support of all sorts of discrimination and abuse of power. The regime, and its allies, have to take the above concerns very seriously This could be done by: 1- Immediate action, in parallel to a long term plan, has to be made to alleviate the poverty and economical hardship. These would include introducing a social security scheme for the unemployed, underpaid, disabled, elderly and homeless, as well as employing Bahrainis in the State security establishments (Ministry of interior, Ministry of Defense and the National Guards) and replacing the non-Bahrainis in them. 2- Fighting all forms of corruption and stopping flow of public funds to the pockets of the tycoons in the country, starting by the prime minister, who has been in this post for over 30 years and responsible for all the corruption, poverty and unemployment, degradation in the human rights values and freedom of expression. It is under his government which was responsible for the set back in all these issues over the last period and a call for his prosecution and retirement is a must to enable process all development schemes in the country. 3- Reversing naturalization (those politically naturalized and without fulfilling naturalization requirements) with consideration to the human rights of those naturalized in this manner. 4- Removing the obstructing circles which prevent popular participation in the political life. These would be headed by introducing the necessary constitutional changes to enable full and absolute power of legislation and monitoring to the Elected council with the removal of all legislation hurdles and obstacles attributed to the Appointed (Shura) council, the Executive power or the King. 5- Legislating Election Constituencies by a code and not a royal decree and ensuring a fair distribution of equal constituencies of tolerance governed by international standards.
6- Inaction of the constitutional monarchy as stipulated in the National Action Charter, unanimously ratified in February 2002, which necessitates that members of Al-khalifa belongs to the Royal family and hence should not be engaging a public posts.
We demand democratic rights enshrined in a contractual constitution It is now more than thirty years since the US started to take active role in the politics of the Gulf. Following the withdrawal by Britain of her forces from the region in 1971, the United States entered into bilateral agreements with the small sheikhdoms that allowed them to use the bases that had been evacuated by the British. In the subsequent three decades the US did little to encourage democracy in those countries, while human rights violations became rampant. Tension within the evolving educated generation was rising as the monarchies became more dictatorial and repressive. Bahrain has always stood out as a country of educated people who are aware, progressive and moderate. The opposition to the Al Khalifa ruling family had always existed, but became more organized and focused in the past two decades. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 marked a new phase in the geo-politics of the region. The American-led war against the Iraqi forces of occupation led to a marginal improvement in the internal situation. This is partly due to the fact that those monarchies were exposed as extremely weak in the face of any outside aggression, and that an internal openness was necessary. In 1992 the Bahraini elites, having sensed the international concern for the democratization process in the Gulf, signed a petition to the Amir calling for the reinsatatement of the 1973 Constitution (that the ruling Al Khalifa family had suspended two years after it had been approved), the release of political prisoners and the repeal of the State Security Law. There was no response from the ruling family. In 1994 a popular petition was signed by 25,000 people calling for the same demands. A popular uprising erupted in December 1994 raising the same demands. The following five years witnessed one the bleakest periods of the country’s history, as thousands were arbitrary detained and tortured, scores killed and collective punishment exerted on the people. In March 1999, Sheikh Isa bin Salman al Khalifa died and was succeeded by his son, Sheikh Hamad. After two years of silence, he introduced his “reforms programme” and lured the people to endorse a deceptive “National Charter”. Under the continuing international pressures from human rights organizations and political groups, the new ruler ordered the release of political prisoners and allowed the return of the exiles. One year later, Sheikh Hamad took the most destructive action none of his predecessors had undertaken. He, unilaterally, abrogated the 1973 constitution and imposed a tailor-made constitution . The people reacted angrily to this blatant step that had ignored the people’s will, annulled the only binding legal document between the people of Bahrain and the ruling Al Khalifa family. The fury of the people led t a new political emergency that has thrown the country into confusion and uncertainty. Toady, the people of Bahrain have resumed their peaceful struggle against the Al Khalifa dictatorship, calling for the reinstatement of the contractual constitution of 1973, abandoning the political naturalization programme (which aims at effecting a demographic change) and upholding the rule of law instead of Sheikh Hamad’s way of ruling through gracious acts. The past few weeks have witnessed a serious decline in the political process. A known human rights activist was detained for several weeks for expressing a critical opinion of the prime minister, and tens of others were detained for protesting his arrest. It was, once again, the international pressure on the Al Khalifa family that forced them to release these innocent people. Bahrain is today governed by absolute monarchical dictatorship, unprecedented in the country’s history. It is backed by a constitution, written by the ruling family without the people’s consent. It is being marketed through a programme of deception financed by increasing oil revenues. The public have no right to question the country’s finances which are in the hands of the ruling family. Human rights violations are rampant, and were administered heavy-handedly during the detention of the protestors. These rights have been compromised by Sheikh Hamad’s Decree 56 which sheltered torturers and human rights violators. This decreed must be repealed. Freedom of expression is curtailed by the “Press bill” which makes it an offence to criticize the ruling family or exchange leaflets that are not sanctioned by it. The Societies bill is yet another example of the extent to which the Al Khalifa family are ready to go to institutionalize absolutism, totalitarianism and repression. Political naturalization remains the most dangerous programme undertaken by Sheikh Hamad, and is threatening the culture and existence of the original Al Baharna inhabitants of Bahrain. It is tantamount to cultural genocide. The US is well-advised to take serious steps to urge real democratization in Bahrain. This is an effective way to combat dictatorship that breeds extremism and terrorism. We have often called for a national reconciliation process which leads to a binding contractual constitution starting from the 1973 constitution. These are moderate demands that the Al Khalifa rulers have all along rejected. We appeal to you to support the struggle of the people of Bahrain to achieve democracy, stability and civility through peaceful means. Bahrain Freedom Movement, Washington
13th December 2004
Bahrain: From Hope to Crisis Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen It is my honor to stand in front of you to bring to your kind attention the voice of people of Bahrain. I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your help and support. We are delighted to see that progress is being made in the areas of democracy and human rights. We are against torture and believe in peace. We will continue our peaceful struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights As most of you know, we have submitted petitions signed by the general public to the government of Bahrain, calling for the implementation of political and economical reforms compatible with rapidly changing environment. The petitions have called for positive response to satisfy the aspiration of the Bahraini people by allowing a free environment for political participation and socialization. The government has refused to engage in serious dialogue to achieve a way out of the persistent crisis. The people responded with restraint in highly civilized manner. They have sought serious dialogue between the opposition and the government. The USA, Britain and others who are interested in stability are aware that Bahrain’s opposition has been striving to achieve a democratic transformation in Bahrain and the Gulf. Now let me highlight some relevant facts: Bahrain is a small island in the gulf. It is the smallest among it’s neighbors with a total area of 695sq.km. It has a population of about 650,000 as in the census year of 2001 (around 60% citizens, and 40% foreign residents). There are approximately 190,000 workers of whom 84.000 are citizens and 106.000 are foreigners, many of whom are employed in the military and security services. You may have heard about the kindness and good nature of Bahrainis. This peaceful and generous nation is, yet under another threat. This is conducted through what is known as “political naturalization. The government is trying to oppress the natives by means of naturalizing selective people from selective regions for political agenda. We call upon you to assist us in combating this humanitarian crime and bringing it to an end. The political naturalization Bahrain violates human rights in many aspects: 1- Discrimination against native Bahrainis. While 18.000 Bahrainis are unemployed-15% of the labor forces as per the official figures, most of the naturalized people enjoy state jobs upon their arrivals to Bahrain. The ministries of defence, interior affairs and the national guards are the main employers of these new “Bahrainis”. It’s important to remark that the majority of the indigenous people are not allowed to work in these institutions. Most of the politically naturalized are granted houses from the government from day one of there arrival, whereas the native people have to wait for years. 2- It is an abuse of power and violation of the rule of law. 3- Political naturalization is a tool to achieve fake democracy and manipulation of election results. 4- Political naturalization is employed for security reasons and to ro repressive political dissent by natives. 5- Exploitation of naturalization for creating social and sectarian division. The AL-Khalifa, who rule the only GCC state with a Shia majority, have adopted a resolutely repressive policy toward their vociferous opposition. This gives Bahraini political opposition a different feel from those of the other Gulf states. The AL-Khalifa, clearly lacking any legitimacy among a substantial part of the population, rule through force. Call in THE FAMILY-Michael herb) They do not eschew parliaments because they are weak and fear that a parliament will push them into the abyss of revolution, and this shows why the experiment of 1975 was abandoned and why the ruling family’s current refused to resume parliamentary life under 1973 constitution. The immediate cause was the imminent loss by the government of a vote on a restrictive public security low, and they seem to have decided that they did not want to pay the moderate cost of sharing some of their power with the parliament. Today’s constitutional crisis is worse than the crisis of the nineties. Between 1992 and 1999 (when the present ruler took over from his deceased father), Bahrain experienced a fierce struggle for democracy and the rule of law. When the king came up with his project of political reform, the whole democratic forces embraced his calls for political and administrative change with unprecedented vigor. The Amir’s project was initiated with a referendum on a national charter that was carried out in February 2001. This Charter presented two specific amendments to the constitution of 1933; changing the status of the emirate to become a constitutional monarchy, and introducing a bi-cameral parliamentary system instead of the uni-cameral one. In order to win the support of the opposition and the public opinion, his highness the Amir made the pledges that the legislative power would be vested with the elected chamber and that the appointed chamber would be merely for consultation. These assurance and commitments were again made by the Crown Prince and the minister of justice on 5th and 7th 2001 subsequently in compliance with the request of the Constitutional Movement. These pledges convinced the opposition to urge the people of Bahrain to endorse the National Charter. The situation has, however, changed on 14th February 2002 when the ruler imposed his own constitution. Instead of honoring the pledges and commitments or abiding by article 104 of the constitution which stipulates that amendments are only implemented by the elected assembly, the state leadership acted alone and appointed a ministerial committee to enact a completely new constitution. This unilateral action was a breach of the 1973 constitution and a violation of the National Charter. The four political societies consider the new gifted constitution to be illegitimate for the following reasons:- 1. The new “constitution” is a clear violation of the non-retrogression principle of constitutional law, which holds that “government may extend protection beyond what the constitution requires, but it cannot retreat from that extension once made “ (Jeffries, j & levins, D, California law review, 1998). 2. By giving the appointed chamber the same legislative rights that are entertained by the elected one, the percentage of the elected membership of the parliament of 1973 has been reduced from 75% to 50% (forty people elected and forty appointed) and this big negative change has undermined the effectiveness of the elected legislative power. In other words it nullified the constitutional doctrine of the sovereignty of the people and abolished the principle of the separation of three powers. Since the new gifted “constitution “does not provide the minimum political participation which was provided in the constitution of 1973 as it gives the executive branch of government a considerable hegemony over the elected chamber. Based on the above, and in order to deprive the government from claiming that the new “constitution“ was consented to, indirectly, through the opposition participation in the election, the four main political associations and many independent political activists have taken the decision to boycott the election. Moreover the election laws and procedures including the restriction put on political societies which forbids them from direct political participation have all strangulated the democratic process. The present constitution has made it impossible for the people to have any effect on the government through the ballot box. The king appoints and dismisses all Ministers are members of theory a family. A government whose members do not have to go before the electorate, and is 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 marital law (Article 36). He appoints civil servants, m
ilitary personnel and ambassadors (many of those in important embassies are also members of the royal family (Article 40) and he has power to dissolve the chamber of Deputies. 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 practiced under his father, but the torturers were granted immunity for their crimes. Decree law 56 has allowed known torturers to escape retribution for the suffering they had inflicted on hundreds of people. That Decree is unlawful, and is in breach of the state’s obligations under the convention against torture. I am sure that life in Bahrain will not stand still. The opposition forces are determined to pursue their straggle to the end. The government faces a choice: uproot all the people, which is impossible, or satisfy the aspirations of the democrats. The people of Bahrain assure all governments and nations of the world of their peaceful nature and urge free people of the world to support the constitutional demands. These demands, if implemented, will save the country from endless violent cycles. We wish all just governments further security and stability and we wish for all nations freedom and dignity. Thank you for your kind attention.
Hassan Mushaime’, Washington, 13th December 2004
The Parliamentary Human Rights GroupCordially invites you to a seminar onThe struggle against Institutionalised dictatorship and human rights violations in BahrainSpeakers include: Mark Muller (Bar Human Rights Committee), Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Hassan Mushaime’, Al Wefaq Islamic Society, Carla Ferstman (Redress)11.00 am, Thursday 16th December 2004Committee Room 3, The House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW
For further information, please contact Lord Avebury on 020 7274 4617