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Electricity cuts add to summer misery Summer 2004 proved to be one of the worst on record in Bahrain in terms of power cuts. Power supply was frequently disrupted in the first half of July in particular. Repeated interruptions were occurring despite soaring temperatures, which crossed 40 degrees Celsius, to be made more miserable with almost 100 percent humidity. Power cuts have hit residential districts as well as industrial parks. Many parts of Bahrain have experienced interruptions of electricity notably rural areas, as the authorities had been paying negligible attentions to villages. Additionally, industrial complexes such as the petrochemical plant, known as GPIC, had no reliable electricity supply for three consecutive days. However, residences of the “royal family” had experienced no disruption whatsoever. For obvious reasons, the authorities had failed to furnish the United Nations Development Programme with some vital details. The UNDP 2004 report has placed Bahrain on top of Arab countries in respect to human development. However, Bahrain officials had not supplied important statistics to the report concerning access to electricity supply and water, amongst others. Over the last few years, the portfolio of minister of electricity & water has changed hands more so than any other position. Four ministers in a span of five years have taken up the job. The current minister, Abdullah bin Salman Al Khalifa is a member of the royal family. He was named to the job in late 2002. But he is uniquely not fit for the job, having spent most of his career life in the military establishment. His last job was that of joint chief of staff. In a recent news conference, the minister conveniently fixed all debacles related to power supply on his predecessors. Still, he condemned the media for its “negative” coverage of the matters. Strangely enough, there is no shortage of power supply, only if one trusts the authorities. Power generation amounts to 1,840 megawatts, with peak demand put at nearly 1600 megawatts. Hence, there is excess supply of 240 MW. Officials at the ministry have attributed the problems to transmission and maintenance. Thus, the government has focused efforts on generation but overlooked transmission to clients. Yet, one wonders of the logic behind carrying out maintenance works during the demand period, namely the lengthy summer season. Reacting to mounting complaints of the interruptions to the power supply, the government has announced that it would increase spending on the utility sector. But one wonders about the source of such extra funds! Yet, the regime has decided not to issue any apologies for the debacle. Also, it has failed to admit any guilt or wrong planning whatsoever. In conclusion, the losers of repeated electricity interruptions include ordinary people, industrial undertakings and of course the economy at large. How could Bahrain attract new investments if the country suffers from shortage of such basic services? Clearly, those in power do not care if others have no access to power. Bahrain Freedom Movement

22 July 2004

Security services are tarnishing Bahrain’s reputation In a span of six weeks, al-Khalifa’s security services demonstrated lack of sophistication in handling simple security matters. In May,for example, the security forces attacked a peaceful rally concerning developments in Iraq, causing public outrage. In June, six people were accused of potentially grave crimes and then suddenly released. Then in early July, the US demanded the departure of Americans from Bahrain citing terrorist threats. The following paragraphs provide some details about the entire fiasco. On May 21st, security forces attacked a peaceful rally organised to protest coalition forces’ attacks on Iraq’s religious sites. Specifically, the rally was meant to register the displeasure of Bahrainis against American military actions in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Suddenly, and without warning, security forces (mainly non-locals) assaulted the protestors and in the process injured scores of people. Several protestors had to be hospitalised and one was sent abroad for treatment, at government expense. The presence of senior religious figures in the rally failed to deter the security forces from carrying out such cowardly acts. Nevertheless, the protestors elected not to confront riot police. Fearing possible backlash, Bahrain’s ruler, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, took a symbolic gesture that had no relevance of relieving the interior minister Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Khalifa of his duties. The minister had been largely dormant due to ill health. Chief of staff of Bahrain’s Defence Forces Rashid bin Abdullah bin Ahmed al-Khalifa was named the new minister. Sheikh Hamad had promised an in-depth investigation into the causes of the problem. However, in June, the new minister declared that no such probe was necessary since the “king” had intervened in resolving the problem. In June, barely a month following the May aggression, security forces used customary tactics to break into the houses of six locals on charges of plotting attacks against the country’s interests. The procedures included breaking gateways and handcuffing suspects in front of family members. In a statement, the interior ministry asserted that the six were planning to carry out “dangerous acts targeting citizens and properties by using dangerous materials.” Nevertheless, in less than 48 hours, the interior ministry completed its investigations and referred the case to the general prosecutor. To everyone’s surprise, the general prosecution office ordered the release of six for lack of evidence. Later, the six held a news conference and lashed at the inhumane practices of the security forces (i.e. breaking doors and handcuffing in front of crying children). Some have attributed the whole debacle to infighting within the al-Khalifa family, with one camp demanding the arrests and another ordering the release of the suspects. Prime minister khalifa bin Salman and ruler Hamad bin Isa continue to rival each other for influence. Yet, in early July, the US government declared that Bahrain was unsafe and could be subjected to unspecified terrorist threats. In subsequent moves, the Pentagon demanded evacuation of some 650 American from Bahrain. It was widely believed that the Americans, like many others, were displeased with the interior ministry. Clearly, the actions of the security services are undermining the country’s reputation. The regime should be condemned for its damaging practices. Bahrain Freedom Movement

8th July 2004

Once Again: The Minister of Labour Threatens To Close the BCHR Response by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights 7 July 2004 In an interview with Al Arabiya satellite TV channel, on 30th June, 2004, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Dr. Majeed Al-Alawi, threatened once again to close the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) because of what he described as “political activities”. The minister reaffirmed the threat made by his ministry to close the BCHR “if some of its members do not stop practicing roles, which are not permitted by the societies law”. He stressed that the BCHR is a political opposition body that has adopted a political agenda, adding that this would harm and impair its neutrality. He pointed out that the human rights bodies should not call for demonstrations, because that would turn it into a political body. When asked if the ‘threat’ was an appropriate manner to deal with the BCHR, the minister replied ”no”, claiming that for two years the centre has been carrying out many political activities, thus the ministry previously notified the centre that if it does not comply with its internal regulation and objectives, legal action will be taken against it. When asked about the BCHR current activities, he said,” the BCHR is merely writing articles and sending letters to organizations abroad, and not pursuing professional work like that of the Bahrain Human Rights Society” which is engaged in providing training for public employees. When asked if he considered the BCHR to be preoccupied with the opposition, he replied ”yes”, hinting that the BCHR is clearly anti-government. Response by the BCHR: The BCHR considers the accusations stated by the minister as unfounded, noting that the ministry failed until now to officially respond to 2 letters by the centre, recommending written clarifications of such accusations. The BCHR considers the minister’s threats as a part of a campaign by the authorities to discredit the BCHR, and to hinder its amounting role in monitoring violations of human rights.The centre had staged effective awareness and advocacy campaigns especially in issues such as discriminations, corruption, privileges enjoyed by some members of the ruling family, impunity for perpetrators of torture, defects of the political and judicial system, and the laws that restrict and criminalize the practice of basic freedoms such as the freedoms of association, assemble and expression. The BCHR is highly concerned in regard to the threats to be closed down, and stresses on the importance to amend the Penal Code and the Law on Societies, which could be used effectively by the authorities to restrict, influence or close human rights societies for not complying with its policies and undefined criteria of what should human rights activists do and not do. Background The BCHR received the first warning letter to have its premises closed down by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, last October, 2003, following the release of the report on discrimination in the symposium held on 16th October, 2003.The second warning letter was faxed to the centre on 14th May, 2004, following the campaigning for the immediate release of the prisoners of conscience in Bahrain and all charges against them to be dropped. Nabeel Rajab


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