Bahrain: Women’s union given the go-ahead
Bahrain has become this year one of the first countries to celebrate the 26th June, the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims. The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) organised a series of activities including a seminar on 26 June. A key contribution was a speech delivered on behalf of the Amir in which he supported the UN day and reaffirmed his support for human rights. Earlier, on Friday 22 June, Sheikh Al-Jamri called for celebrating the UN day all over Bahrain so that the black era which Bahrain went through for the past three decades may not return. A seminar, organised in Ma’amir on 27 June, was addressed by Seyyed Dhia Al-Mosawi, who explained the convergence of all cultures with regards to the concepts of human rights and combating all forms of torture and ill-treatment. Another seminar is planned for 1 July in Karbabad. The seminar will be addressed by Dr. Saeed Al-Shehabi, Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain and Mr. Abdulla Al-Shamlawi. Another reform step was announced on 28 June relating to a permission to form a new union grouping women’s societies in Bahrain. This will be the second union to be approved “on principle” by the government. It follows a recent pledge made by the Amir to allow the formation of a long-awaited labour union. The demand for the formation of unions was first raised by Bahrainis in 1938. In a move to curb the large number of illegal foreign workers, the government announced a six-month grace period to legalise their stay. There are more than 200,000 foreign workers in Bahrain, while at the same time there are more than 20,000 citizens searching for work without luck. The problem in Bahrain is compounded because the government has not yet lifted its ban on certain sections of Bahrain society in relation to employment in certain sectors, such as defence. It is also acknowledge that for unemployment to be eliminated, a new national culture would be needed so that Bahrainis can join all types of work without suffering prejudice or unacceptable working conditions. A seminar will be held in London entitled “Democratisation in Bahrain – Obstacles & Opportunities”. The seminar will be addressed by Dr. Abdul Hadi Khalaf and Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri and will be chaired by Dr. Saeed Al-Shehabi. It will take place on Friday 13 July, 6.30pm, at the Gulf Cultural Club, 45 Chatlon Street London NW1 1HY, UK. Bahrain Freedom Movement 29 June 2001
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UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims
The following press release was issued today (25 June 2001) by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims: Every government, which has to date failed to ratify the UN Convention against Torture, is today being urged to say no to torture. As part of a global appeal for the universal ratification of the UN Convention against Torture, which remains the least ratified of the six core human rights treaties, a total of 156 Governments worldwide are being urged to make a commitment to end torture. The International Rehabilitation Council conducts the global appeal for Torture Victims (IRCT) on behalf of the Coalition of International NGOs against Torture.
Tuesday, June 26 is the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, will today launch the Global Appeal to urge all world governments to ratify and adhere to the UN Convention against Torture in a New York event that spearheads the global “Together against Torture” campaign.
The global launch, at which IRCT Secretary General, Dr. Jens Modvig, will also speak, will take place at 5:30pm at Scandinavia House, is one of more than 250 commemorative events in support of torture victims being held in more than 95 countries worldwide, as part of a global campaign coordinated by the IRCT, based in Denmark.
No government is publicly in favour of Torture. It is difficult to combat torture, because it mostly takes place clandestinely and in spite of public denial. But on 26 June 2001, the IRCT will expose the horror of torture. Last Friday the Bahrain Human Rights Society raised questions about torture and its victims together with religious leaders in lectures normally delivered before Friday’s prayer. They have prepared for the events that take place in Bahrain today on June 26, the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims.
The international community should stop all support to governments, which use torture to hold people in a state of poverty, fear and desperation. Instead the international community should transfer all their efforts to support the organisations working to improve the human rights situation and to give the people a choice of government and a life in dignity.
The fight against torture is an uphill struggle. Human rights activists put their lives at risk when they speak out loud against the inhuman behaviour of the torturers. Many activists themselves are put at risk and even tortured. Some are tortured and killed because of their work against torture. In Sudan, Aceh, and Turkey, doctors working for torture victims have been harassed and tortured by the State. The IRCT today calls upon the international community — every government, the EU, the UN and other multilateral organisations. The IRCT called on the world governments to ensure the safety and stop the discrimination of these brave human rights activists who monitor the governments of the world and reports about torture for the world to see the cruel and inhuman acts. Stand with us “Together against Torture.”
(Bahrain:)> The Friday prayer in Bahrain was only the beginning of more than 250 events against torture being held on June 26, 2001.
In Bangladesh, a journalist will receive an award for extraordinary/fearless contribution against torture in journalism. In Ghana Torture victims will testify and take part in a round table discussion of torture involving representatives of human rights organisations, the medical profession, the media, the legal profession, the police, the juvenile unit of the police, prison service, parliament, and government and religious bodies.
In Nigeria people will march against torture. In the Indian State of Tamil Nadu a two-day seminar will be followed by a Procession as a mark of solidarity for the victims of Torture. The procession will include the participants of the seminar, teachers from schools where Human Rights Education programme is being conducted by People’s Watch, students of Social work and Law colleges in and around Madurai, Non-Governmental Organisations, Movement Leaders, Dalits and Women Activists.
In Washington DC Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) plan a vigil in front of the White House remember those who died under torture and those being tortured at that very moment somewhere in the world. The vigil will start at 7am and continue until June 27 at the same hour.
While the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the IRCT Secretary General are launching the campaign in New York, the IRCT President, Dr. Maria Piniou-Kalli, will be in London at a press briefing together with representatives of other organisations committed to the global fight against torture. The IRCT hon. Secretary General, Dr. Inge Genefke, will be in Chile, where NGOs will present a petition to the President for establishing a Commission on Truth, Justice and Reparation.
The global campaign is supported by the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and the OAK Foundation.
IRCT Secretary General, Dr. Jens Modvig, will be in New York from June 25, 2001.
By ADNAN MALIK Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain has given six months to illegal workers to leave the country or legalize their stay before a new labor regulation comes into force later this year, the labor minister said Monday. “The government has already approved a series of procedures to help the illegal workers easily legalize their stay,” Labor Minister Abdulnabi al-Shoa`la told The Associated Press. The new labor regulation will enable foreign workers to stop relying on their Bahraini employers who often take advantage of them by paying for their travel and work permit, then leave them without regular pay, forcing many of them to look for a second job illegally, al-Shoa’la said. Most of the estimated 50,000 illegal workers are believed to be Indians, who number more than 100,000 in Bahrain. Other illegal workers come from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Millions of unskilled Asian workers have been drawn to Bahrain and other oil-rich Gulf states by jobs in the construction, factories, restaurants and households. On arrival, most workers are forced to turn their passports over to their Bahraini sponsors, many of whom never pay them or renew their work permits. To switch jobs, all foreign workers need a written release letter from their employers, even after they have completed their contract. “After six months, all these practices will stop,” al-Sho’ala said, adding the workers will only have to complete the period of their work contract after which they can join any other employer on a two-year contract basis.
Of the country’s 400,000 citizens, more than 20,000, including registered and unregistered job seekers and school dropouts, are reportedly unemployed.
MANAMA, June 24 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s cabinet decided on Sunday to give illegal foreign workers a six-month grace period to legalise their stay, the official Gulf News Agency reported. It quoted the Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammad Ibrahim al-Mutawae as saying the Labour Ministry would issue a decree based on the decision, but he did not specify a date. Last year, illegal labourers were given a three-month amnesty. An immigration official said more than 33,000 people had taken advantage of the decree to get their papers in order. Foreigners, mostly unskilled and low-paid workers from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines, make up about one-third of Bahrain’s population of 660,000.
WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) – U.S. military forces in the Gulf remained on their highest state of alert on Sunday as the United States maintained a vigil against threats believed to be linked to Saudi-exile Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said. U.S. warships in Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. 5th fleet, were ordered to sea late last week, a U.S. Marine Corps training exercise in Jordan was cut short, and Americans abroad were warned of an increased risk of attacks. Bin Laden’s organization, al Qaeda, was believed to be planning strikes in the near future, U.S. officials said. “There was some indication that there might be a terrorist act in the not too distant future,” one U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. “There are a number of threats out there, as there always are, including some from al Qaeda,” the official said. Officials said the threats, while “credible,” were non-specific — meaning there was not a particular geographic region or target. The threats that caused the military to go on high alert and the State Department to issue the worldwide warning to U.S. citizens were unconnected to threats that resulted in the FBI pulling its agents investigating the USS Cole bombing out of Yemen, U.S. officials said. It was unclear who was behind the Yemen threats and the FBI was still assessing the situation to determine when to send its agents back to Sanaa, officials said. While bin Laden is the prime suspect behind the apparent suicide bomb attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors on the destroyer Cole in Aden harbor, no definitive link has been established, U.S. officials said. The military alert and worldwide caution was also not connected to last J people for the 1996 bombing which killed 19 U.S. servicemen at Khobar Towers in Saudi ArazJ After the indictment, the FBI sent an advisory to U.S. law enforcement and other agencies saying it was unaware of any specific or credible threatrttack on U.S and Israeli interests in the next two weeks. Afghanistan’s Taliban movement on Sunday dismissed the reports and said bin Laden’s activities were “under control.” The Taliban considers bin Laden a guest in Afghanistan and has resisted international pressure to turn him over to outside authorities. The United States has blamed bin Laden for the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Bahrain: Constructive criticism is needed to foster a democratic future The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) will be organising several functions to celebrate the UN-sponsored International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, due on 26 June. Between 22 and 24 June, a special event for displaying art-work will be organised at Al-Aali Shopping Mall in Manama. Two other functions will also be organised on 25 and 26 June to promote the cause of human rights and to support the victims of torture. The celebration of the UN-sponsored day is one of the outcomes of the recent developments During the past four months, the Amir positively responded to several key demands and undertook several steps to open up channels of dialogue with the active political forces inside and outside the country. The main steps of reforms included the following: 1. Abolishing the State Security Law and Court 2. Releasing all political detainees and prisoners 3. Allowing most exiles to return home and promising to allow the rest back as soon as possible. 4. Allowing citizens to debate political issues with greater freedom of expression than ever before. 5. Allowing citizens to for non-governmental organisations that are important for activating civil society. 6. Initiating a new process for granting public contracts that avoid corrupt practices. 7. Allocating temporary benefits for the unemployed and allowing a committee of citizens to monitor the work of the labour ministry in relation to finding jobs for the unemployed. 8. Authorising the formation of labour and women unions. 9. Lowering the fees for the university students. 10. Announcing future plans for improving the housing conditions. The above steps created a new environment of hope in the country. Nevertheless, it is noted that there are still some negative aspects which require careful attention. These include: 1. Freedom of press is not yet achieved. The press is mainly controlled by an elite that has not yet identified itself with the reforms. There are many restrictions on freedom of expression that must be removed to enable Bahrainis to fully express themselves within the bounds of the Constitution. 2. There is a lack of transparency in relation to a programme aimed at changing the demography of Bahrain. The people of Bahrain continue to express their concern in relation to the granting of passports to large number of imported people. 3. Bahrain is going through a transitional period, and this period lacks any popularly accepted mechanisms for monitoring the situation. 4. Bahrainis are yet to be treated as equals in relation to employment in several key sectors, such as employment in the interior and defence ministries. Bahrainis are striving to play an active part in an open, plural and constitutional political process. An integral part of such participation is to point out the areas of democratic deficit, so that a brighter future for Bahrain can be secured. Bahrain Freedom Movement 22 June 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Assisting the reform process requires a focus on certain priorities Continuing the series of talks behind delivered in Bahrain, Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri, delivered a speech before a mass gathering organized by Matam Bin Khamis in Sanabis on 16 June. The talk was entitled “The Liveliness of the Bahraini Civil Society is the Best Safeguard for Achievements”. After defining and discussing the concepts of democracy and civil society and how they apply to Bahrain, he pointed out that there are four priorities to be addressed in this area. These are the necessity for all political forces to form themselves within the acceptable laws (that are being amended) so that each tendency would have a non-governmental organization representing it and enabling it to present its political programs before the people. That all forces in the society ought to come together to solve the problem of unemployment. The 25 million dinars allocated for six months by the government to distribute benefits will run out next November. It is forecast that only 3000 – 4000 citizens would join the work force while 6000 – 7000 of them who had registered will still be looking for work. There are other 6000 – 7000 others who are expected to start looking for work by that time. Hence a possible total of 14000. Already slogans started to appear on the wall warning of a time bomb waiting to explode as a result of the failure to employ Bahrainis. Dr. Al-Jamri pointed out that the failure to recruit Bahrainis can not only be attributed to the government. The entire culture requires changing so that the values and virtues of seeking knowledge and working in all fields can be held at high esteem. A campaign of education is needed and this must involves all religious, social, political and governmental efforts. The majority of Bahraini business people who are resisting the calls to recruit Bahrainis and are using all sorts of tricks to get away from their responsibilities. There are several key sectors that can be targeted for absorbing the jobless. Moreover, Bahrainis seeking work must be prepared to enter all types of professions. Dr. Al-Jamri also pointed out that women must be incorporated as an integral part of the political decision making process in each political tendency. Any political tendency that may turn a blind eye to this requirement will face a possible rebellion by the many women who will refuse to be dealt with second-rate individuals. Fourthly, the government ought to open up and allow popularly accepted bodies to act as watchdogs during the transitional period up until the election of the parliament. The example of the “Committee to Assist the Jobless” is a good one. This committee was given the authority to observe and monitor all actions being implemented by the ministry of labour with regard to the jobless. More of the same sort is needed to monitor the situation with regard to other critical issues. The talks at Matam bin Khamis in Sanabis was a continuation of an earlier one that was delivered at Karbabad on 14 June. The Karbabad’s talk assessed the present political situation in Bahrain and detailed the various threats facing the reform movement. The talk also presented the opportunities available to all citizens to utilize for passing this critical period. Bahrain Freedom Movement 17 June 2001
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17 June 2001
From Latheef Farook Our Bahrain Bureau Chief Last Monday was yet another milestone in the history of Bahrain ,known for its dramatic and remarkable political changes which has created the much needed sense of unity and understanding in the drive to modernize the country.
Under these waves of changes ,unleashed by the Emir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa,since he announced the National Action Charter,NAC , held popular referendum, offered general amnesty and the abolition of State Security Law and the State Security Court , one after the other almost all Bahrainis who lived in exile have returned home.Some came home after more than 30 years.
The latest to return home was 39 year old Dr. Mansoor Al Jamri, the son of Shiite leader Shaikh Abdel Amir Al Jamri who led the long campaign for political reforms. Within five days of his arrival , last Monday ,the Emir Sheikh Hamad , the architect of new Bahrain who is spearheading an envious campaign to usher in political, economic and social reforms, received Dr. Mansoor Al Jamri who ,as the head of London based Bahrain Freedom Movement , once carried out campaign for political reforms.
On the same day Dr. Mansoor was also received by the Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. These meetings turned out to be pinnacle in the efforts aimed at reconciliation.It was especially so in the context of the Emir Sheikh Hamad’s ” one family” spirit philosophy to bring the nation together as he always described people’s participation as the core of all modernization programmes.
During the meeting Sheikh Hamad who reiterated Bahrain’s warm welcome to all Bahrainis who return home from exile also spoke about the move towards introducing parliamentary reforms. He emphasized the importance of popular participation in the envisaged parliamentary process and highlighted the need for every citizen to make his own contribution to ensure the success of the next stage which will witness major development programes covering all levels besides parliamentary process.
Already a two billion dinar national housing scheme aimed at developing townships and villages to provide a decent house to every Bahraini family . Meanwhile Dr. Mansoor who profoundly thanked Sheikh Hamad for allowing those lived in exile to return home and the initiatives for modernization said” I was very pleased with the meeting with the Emir Sheikh Hamad” ” It was a very relaxed , open and frank meeting when we discussed many topics.The atmosphere was such that I felt as if I was talking to a childhood friend without any kind of inhibition whatsoever.Time and again during this meeting I also noticed his sincerity and burning desire to develop Bahrain to provide a better life to the people ” said Dr. Mansoor who is glad to get the opportunity to visit the island,see for himself the changes and explore the role he could play on his own free will to make his own contribution.
” Give my salaams to the people in Sitra and feel free” was Sheikh Hamad’s response when I expressed my desire to address people there .This speaks volume for his desire to be in touch with the people” said Dr. Mansoor who also brought to the notice of the Emir his observation that for the first time in 20 years the people are happy ,smiling and going home without any fear of being taken to custody. He described this as new atmosphere as the greatest achievement of the recent changes and he himself didn’t dream of such a pleasant environment even around January this year. Credit should go to Sheikh Hamad and paying tribute to him for initiating these reforms Dr. Mansoor said ” there is no doubt that the island is blessed with an enlightened leader and, as things are and if the same trend continues , Bahrain could become the beacon for a new model of hope for the Arab and Islamic world “.
Despite all what has been achieved so far Dr. Mansoor feels ” the road towards parliamentary process is a long, tough and rough one with many unexpected and inevitable pitfalls.But the journey will be made easier as Sheikh Hamad had changed the style and content of leadership and the
people are always willing to rally round him . Dr. Mansoor described the task of building constitutional institutions as the biggest challenge in the next stage and highlighted the need for people to have their expectations measured properly. Because the new atmosphere, he said , is the baby just born and one should not expect it to walk or run overnight as it is a gradual and natural process.
So far the changes had help clear the atmosphere and bring the people together paving the way for national unity and a healthy environment.These changes have given hope and confidence to the people. This is the most essential prerequisite .The on going dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites is bound to bring better understanding between the two major communities which turn is expected to consolidate national unity.
The challenges are many in the stages yet to come. But as once pointed out by Prof. Bertram S Brown, head of the three member team from human rights organization Amnesty International” this is a transition period and it is also a challenging and testing time both for the government and the people.We should not forget that Rome was not built in a day”. Ends
Bahrain: Citizens are ill-treated in defiance of the reforms programme During a radio programme, a group of employees who work for the Passports & Immigration Directorate and control the flow of people over the Bahrain-Saudi Causeway, complained (on air) about the bad conditions and the way they are ordered to process the passport-stamping of people crossing the Causeway. They also requested to be treated as equals to the passports’ employees in the airport. On the next day, the director of Passport Directorate, Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, summoned the six complaining employees and lined them up for interrogation. Then he gave them the options of writing an apology or be sacked. He threatened them that on next Saturday, he will give his final decision about their case. Also a notorious torturer has resumed his work in defiance of the reform programme of the Amir. Mahmood Al Akkoori, a Jordanian torturer working for interior ministry, has dismissed the reforms and repeatedly told his victims that he did not recognise them. His latest victim is Hussain Ahmad Essa Al Sayegh, from Abu Saibe’, who was summoned to appear at his office on 13 June for interrogation. Mr Al Sayegh was subjected to ill-treatment by Al Akkoori throughout the session. The torturer told him that he would continue the interrogation, arrest him and then convict him. It is a shame that this notorious torturer is still enjoying the protection of the system and inflicting pain on the people of Bahrain. An investigation into Al Akkoori’s behaviour must start immediately. The Bahraini Human Rights Society is called upon to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of Mr Al Sayegh and hold Al Akkoori to account for his black record of human rights violations and contempt of the Amir’s reforms. On the other hand, the Government has performed a U-turn with regards to the proposed visit by Lord Avebury, the vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group. A letter dated 10 June from Peter Ford, the British Ambassador to Bahrain said: “I am sorry your visit had to be postponed. I have just learned from the Foreign Minister that the visit is on again for July which is excellent news”. The next day, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Ambassador in London wrote to Lord Avebury saying “In my letter to you dated 5 June I said that I hope it would be possible for me to extend an invitation to you to visit Bahrain in the not too distant future and this was only a postponement to allow many of the developments currently underway in Bahrain, to come to fruition. I am now pleased to be in a position to be able to extend an invitation for you to visit Bahrain and I wondered if the first two weeks in July might be a convenient time”. In reply, Lord Avebury said: “I do hope that if we plan accordingly, it will be third time lucky. It is embarrassing for me to have put a lot of people to some trouble on this occasion, and I have to say that it is still not clear to me why the pace of the reform programme at the moment was an insuperable obstacle to the June visit. If leave to visit Bahrain is withheld at short notice after a press campaign against the visit which appeared to have official sanction, how are we to be sure that won’t happen again?”. Bahrain Freedom Movement 15 June 2001
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MANAMA, June 12 (Reuters) – Bahrain has ended a year-long state of military alert on the potentially oil-rich Hawar islands after the World Court ruled in its favour in a territorial dispute with neighbouring Qatar, the official Gulf News Agency reported on Tuesday. The move came ahead of a June 30 deadline Bahrain had given to international companies to submit bids to drill for oil and gas in and around the small islands off Bahrain’s coast. Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, commander of Bahrain’s armed forces, announced the decision during a tour of the islands on Monday, the agency reported. “We announce the end of the state of alertness upon the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the return of the situation to normal on Hawar islands,” Sheikh Salman was quoted as saying. Bahrain said in June, 2000, it had put its armed forces on the islands on alert for fear that Qatar would try to occupy them by force. The Hague-based ICJ in mid-March awarded the Hawar islands to Bahrain, denying Qatar’s claims and ending the decades-old dispute between the two Arab neighbours. The court also awarded Qatar three small islands previously controlled by Bahrain. Soon after the court ruling, Bahrain invited international firms to drill for oil and around the islands and gave them until June 30 to submit their bids. Local media had reported that around 10 international oil companies were competing for a deal in what was seen as a promising area in the oil-rich Gulf region. Bahrain is an independent oil producer, pumping around 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) from its own fields. It also gets the entire output of 140,000 bpd from Abu Safa offshore field, which it shares with Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain: Repressive measures and censorship contradict the spirit of reforms People in Bahrain welcomed the announcement on 11 June for a US$ 5bn plan to construct and reconstruct new areas with good houses for the citizens. The opposition hopes that the ambitious and long term plan will be deployed to relive the poorer sections of society from the downtrodden conditions. Despite the recent improvements in human rights, a well-known torturer is still enjoying a free hand to practice torture. Mahmood Al Akkoori, the notorious Jordanian torturer, has, over the past month, subjected Hussain Al-Sayegh to enormous pressure to sign false testimonies. Mr Al Sayegh, who returned from New Zealand, has refused to sign any of them, but is being threatened that he will not get his Bahraini passport if he does not sign. At the same time the notorious “black list” containing the names of many citizens is apparently still in posted on the border points. On 9 June, week, Sheikh Hassan Ali Abdul Wahab, 32, from Duraz, was held at the Crossing point on the Bahrain-Saudi Causeway, and returned back because he was on the “black list”. Last month, the authorities promised to remove these black lists after a delegation consisting of prominent opposition figures on a visit Kuwait was maltreated by the Kuwaiti authorities. It has also been revealed that some elements inside the government who are opposed to the recent reforms are behind the recent media attacks on human rights orgaisations and personalities. One of these elements is hiding behind the name of “Yousif Ahmad” which is used to sign articles published in Al-Ayyam for attacking prominent figures in the opposition and international personalities such as Lord Avebury who was recently denied a visa to Bahrain. Lord Avebury has now received a letter from the British Ambassador in Bahrain telling him that the Bahraini authorities have now agreed to let him visit the country in July. However, Lord Avebury said that he may not be able to take up this offer at the moment. His case has aroused media interest and was interviewed by Al Jazeera satellite channel on the case. The government-controlled media has continued its censorship policies. Interviews conducted with returning exiles have not been published. An interview conducted by Al Ayyam newspaper with Hani Al Rayyes who returned recently from Denmark, has been shelved. An article by the human rights activist, Abdul Nabi El Ekri, defending another opposition figure, has also been denied publication. At the same time, the people are trying to make use of the newly-opened opportunities. The Bahrain Bar Society is organising a seminar on the Constitutional Court which may be established in the future. The Workers Committee is also plan ning to take further the task of becoming a trade union. Bahrain Freedom Movement 12 June 2001
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11 June 2001
MANAMA, Bahrain (Reuters) – Bahraini Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa Monday met a leading opposition activist who is visiting his homeland after 15 years of self-exile. Mansoor al-Jamri, head of the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement, praised the landmark political and economic reforms launched recently by Sheikh Hamad as well as a general amnesty issued in February, the official Gulf News Agency said. The movement is the main opposition group in exile. It has been supporting calls by Shi’ite Muslims for political and economic reforms from the Sunni-led government. Most of Bahrain’s exiled opposition activists have come home since Sheikh Hamad issued the general amnesty. The emir, who took power in 1999 on the death of his father, has also pardoned more than 900 political prisoners and abolished two controversial emergency laws. The news agency said he welcomed the return of all Bahrainis in exile to contribute to the strengthening of the Gulf Arab state, which was shaken by anti-government unrest from 1994 to 1998 by members of the majority Shi’ite community demanding political and economic reform. Jamri, who holds British citizenship, arrived in Manama Friday for a two-week visit to assess the situation in Bahrain, the Gulf’s financial center. Jamri, the son of prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdel-Amir al-Jamri, said Saturday his movement planned to support the reform process in Bahrain.
Bahrainis voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in February to support Sheikh Hamad’s reform charter, which calls for an elected parliament alongside an appointed consultative council, a constitutional monarchy and an independent judiciary.
Gulf News , 11 June 2001 Winds of Change in Bahrain praised London-based Mansoor Al Jamri returns from 15-year exile From Latheef Farook Our Bahrain Bureau Chief Mansoor Al Jamri, who returned to the island after around 15 years in exile, said he never dreamt that he would see during his lifetime the pleasant atmosphere created by the dramatic changes initiated by the Emir his highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The son of a Shiite leader Sheikh Abdel Amir Aljamri and head of London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement, said:” I am very happy to see that the people are smiling out being haunted by any fear and this is the greatest achievement. All what’s required now is to preserve this environment if tranquility for generations to come”. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Mansoor said the winds of changes now blowing all over Bahrain has given a new sense of belonging and confidence to the people. There is no doubt that the island is blessed with an enlightened leader and, as things are, Bahrain could become the beacon for a new model of hope for the Arab and Islamic world. “Even around January this year I never thought I would see the abolition of the State Security Law and the State Security Court and what happened since then were beyond my predictions. “The release of prisoners and the abolition of the State Security Law and Court sent clear signals that things are really going to change” said Mansoor who described the new environment as a baby just born and should not expect it to walk now as it is a gradual and natural process. He pointed out that the people of Bahrain had suffered a lot and they were steadfast in seeking their rights. But the major credit should go to the Emir Sheikh Hamad for courageously initiating these farsighted changes which had made Bahrain a focal point for the entire Middle East. He also described these initiatives as a remarkable turning point in the island history. “The personality of the Emir Sheikh Hamad is a very big factor. He took one step towards the people only to find there is enormous love, passion, affection and so much respect from the very same people who once suffered. “The Emir won the hearts of the people by going to their house and listening to them direct. Therefore, the need of the hour is strengthen these reform programmes to bring about political, economic and social changes. “Beyond any doubt we have an enlightened Emir who had changed the style and content of leadership and the people should rally round him to help build constitutional institutions which will be the biggest challenge.” He said some people think that by allowing freedom of expression things will be solved. But they should know that the freedom of expression is a prerequisite and they are not solutions which must be produced jointly by all alike. He also urged the need for Bahrain to put its basic in place to create an economic base to ensure economic stability which is not be based on oil income alone.
“Bahrain is blessed with a highly literate population which could make its own contribution for the growth of the country” he said.
Bahrain: Dr Al-Jamri returns after 15 years in exile Dr Mansoor Al-Jamri returned yesterday to Bahrain ending 15 years of exile. He received a hero’s welcome from the people who flocked to greet him upon his return. Upon arrival to his homevillageof Bani Jamra, Dr Al-Jamri addressed a large gathering expressing his gratitude to the people whose “steadfastness, unity, attachment to your principles and love of the country have led to the present success”. He paid tribute to the martyrs, former prisoners and human rights activists, Bahrainis and non-Bahrainis. Calling for unity, he further added” “We need to reconcile our differences and resist attempts of dispersion”. His return trip was initially resisted by the authorities, but had to acquiesce at the last minute. The green light to permit him to return came only hours before the scheduled flight to Bahrain. Dr. Al-Jamri thanked the Amir of Bahrain for fulfilling key aspirations of the nation. On another front, the slow pace of the reforms is creating unease among the people who feel that what they have until now is limited to promises. In his daily column in Akhbar Al Khaleej daily, Ali Saleh expressed annoyance at the delay in implementing the promised municipality council elections. He said” We first heard of the elections to the municipality council in 1999. It was said then that they would be held in November/December of that year. That date was re-scheduled to March 2000, then to October, December and finally February of this year. Until now, silence about the date of elections has become the order of day. Meanwhile, secrecy has surrounded the reasons behind the decision by the Bahraini Government to ban the long-awaited visit by Lord Avebury, Vice-Chairman of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group. He had planned to fly to Bahrain today, having secured an official agreement from the Bahraini Ambassador to London. Questions are now being asked about the role of the old guards in banning the visit. In another development, the Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) announced its equity partnership of $2.5 million yesterday in Retail Arabia, the holding company of Gant Hypermarket, and Bahrain Mall. The announcement was made at a Press conference held at Bahrain Mall. Present at the conference were BDB chairman and Finance and National Economy Ministry Under-Secretary Shaikh Ebrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, French Embassy economic and commercial counselor Alain Boutebel, Retail Arabia managing director Ayub Shaikh, Retail Arabia director Mazhar Papar and BDB managing director Khalid Shaheen. Retail Arabia, Gant Hypermarket, and Bahrain Mall belong to the prime minister. Bahrain Development Bank was established to give long term interest free loans to industries and development business in Bahrain, to promote the industrial base and investment in Bahrain. This is a mix of politics and business that should not be allowed as Bahrain enters an era of reforms requiring accountability and transparency. Bahrain Freedom Movement 9 June 2001
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MANAMA, June 9 (Reuters) – The head of a Bahraini opposition group has returned home after 15 years of self-exile, expressing support for landmark political and economic reforms recently launched by the emir of the Gulf Arab state. Mansoor al-Jamri, the head of the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement, arrived in Manama on a two-week visit on Friday to a hero’s welcome. “We are planning to redefine the role of our movement on the basis of our assessment (of the situation in Bahrain),” Jamri, the son of prominent Muslim Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Abdel-Amir al-Jamri, told Reuters. “We are trying to assess the situation and forecast where it is heading and how do we play our role to support the reform process basically,” he added. The Bahrain Freedom Movement is the main opposition group in exile. It has been supporting calls by Shi’ite Muslims for political and economic reforms from the Sunni-led government. Most of Bahrain’s exiled opposition activists have returned home since the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, issued a general amnesty in February. The emir, who took power in 1999 on the death of his father, has also pardoned more than 900 political prisoners and abolished two controversial emergency laws. Bahrainis voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in February to support Sheikh Hamad’s reform charter, which calls for an elected parliament alongside an appointed Shura council, a constitutional monarchy and an independent judiciary. Bahrain dissolved its first elected parliament in 1975, two years after it was set up. The move led to the 1994-1998 unrest by members of the majority Shi’ite community demanding political and economic reforms. Jamri, who currently holds British citizenship, said he would remain in Bahrain for two weeks to study his future residence plans. “There is absolutely more freedom in Bahrain now and you can feel it. People are happily smiling and are looking forward,” he said.
Bahrain: Lord Avebury deplores the government-sponsored slanderers In a letter sent to the Bahraini ambassador in London, Lord Avebury questioned the rationale behind the ban on his visit to Bahrain on 9 June. In the letter dated 6 June, Lord Avebury said “As you will appreciate, this is an enormous disappointment for me. I was originally invited to visit Bahrain by your Government in 1994, and that invitation was cancelled at the last moment. Ostensibly it was postponed, but when I suggested dates in January 1995, and later in the same year, all were equally inconvenient… After that we spoke on the telephone last Wednesday, and you appeared to be satisfied with the assurances I had given, but you said you would come back to me within 48 hours – to let me know, I assumed, what arrangements could be made for me to meet officials or Ministers during my visit. I did not hear from you on Friday, but the Bahrain newspapers of Saturday June 2 – the Tribune, Al Ayyam and Akhbar al-Khaleej – all carried articles referring to anonymous protests against my visit by a previously unknown organisation called Supporters of the Sunni People, and quoting an unnamed government official who said that I would not be given leave to enter Bahrain.” Lord Avebury went on to say “The anonymous organisation made scurrilous and vituperative attacks on me, all of which were prominently reported in the local media. Since your newspapers do not ordinarily publish defamatory statements, let alone gratuitous vilification of citizens of countries friendly to Bahrain, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that an orchestrated campaign of this sort could not have been mounted without high-level official approval… May I reiterate, that I have never said anything critical about the Sunni people of Bahrain. Several prominent Sunnis have done me the honour of calling on me from time to time when they have been here on visits from Bahrain. I could not imagine that the Ansar al-Sunna, which issued hostile and insulting attacks on me in their name, was representative. The fact that no name or address was given for this organisation, and that their letter to our Ambassador in Bahrain of May 28 was unsigned, is worthy of note as I am sure you would agree. No wonder the authors of this scurrilous and defamatory missive, and of the even more offensive ‘Some recent history’, prefer not to identify themselves. I still hope that you would also join me in deploring the prominence given by the media to this sectarian body with no credentials – especially so, when none of these newspapers had published the conciliatory statement I made on May 9.” The claim by the bogus group was refuted by the president of Islah Society, Sheikh Isa bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, during a key-note speech delivered in Bani Jamra on 5 June on the occasion of the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (SAW). He said that Bahrainis have before them the principles of Islam to unite against those who attempt to divide the nation. Other speakers included Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri and Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, both of whom reiterated the call for unity amongst the people. Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri is to return home on Thursday 7 June after fifteen years outside Bahrain. Dr. Al-Jamri confirmed his support for the reforms introduced in the country saying that Bahrainis are the only ones entitled to determine their own future through a democratically acceptable process. Bahrain Freedom Movement 7 June 2001
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Lord Avebury responds to the Bahraini Ambassador’s letter regarding banning his visit to Bahrain
“June 6, 2001 Thank you for your letter of June 5, in which you tell me effectively that if I went ahead with my proposed visit to Bahrain, I would be refused leave to enter your country. As you will appreciate, this is an enormous disappointment for me. I was originally invited to visit Bahrain by your Government in 1994, and that invitation was cancelled at the last moment. Ostensibly it was postponed, but when I suggested dates in January 1995, and later in the same year, all were equally inconvenient. Last year, in the light of the reforms announced by H H the Amir, I was encouraged to visit Bahrain and see for myself the improvements being made on human rights and good governance. You and I met three times to discuss my visit, and I was also in touch with the Minister, Brian Wilson MP, officials in the FCO, and the British Ambassador in Bahrain. (Earlier, when Peter Hain was Minister, he had encouraged me to visit Bahrain, and he would only have done so with the approval of the authorities in Manama). I notified you of the plans made for the private part of my visit by the Bahrain Society for Human Rights, and I responded to the concerns you expressed about what I might say at those meetings, acknowledging the need to keep the reform process on track. After that we spoke on the telephone last Wednesday, and you appeared to be satisfied with the assurances I had given, but you said you would come back to me within 48 hours – to let me know, I assumed, what arrangements could be made for me to meet officials or Ministers during my visit. I did not hear from you on Friday, but the Bahrain newspapers of Saturday June 2 – the Tribune, Al Ayyam and Akhbar al-Khaleej – all carried articles referring to anonymous protests against my visit by a previously unknown organisation called Supporters of the Sunni People, and quoting an unnamed government official who said that I would not be given leave to enter Bahrain. The anonymous organisation made scurrilous and vituperative attacks on me, all of which were prominently reported in the local media. Since your newspapers do not ordinarily publish defamatory statements, let alone gratuitous vilification of citizens of countries friendly to Bahrain, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that an orchestrated campaign of this sort could not have been mounted without high-level official approval. Yet as I said in my letter of June 2, it was difficult to reconcile these articles with your kind offer to arrange meetings with officials during my visit, and assurances given by the Amir himself to the Bahrain Society for Human Rights – who were arranging the non-official parts of my visit – that he supported their work and welcomed my visit. May I reiterate, that I have never said anything critical about the Sunni people of Bahrain. Several prominent Sunnis have done me the honour of calling on me from time to time when they have been here on visits from Bahrain. I could not imagine that the Ansar al-Sunna, which issued hostile and insulting attacks on me in their name, was representative. The fact that no name or address was given for this organisation, and that their letter to our Ambassador in Bahrain of May 28 was unsigned, is worthy of note as I am sure you would agree. No wonder the authors of this scurrilous and defamatory missive, and of the even more offensive ‘Some recent history’, prefer not to identify themselves. I still hope that you would also join me in deploring the prominence given by the media to this sectarian body with no credentials – especially so, when none of these newspapers had published the conciliatory statement I made on May 9. I am being asked by the media for an explanation of the sudden cancellation of my visit, and of course I will give them the reasons outlined in your letter of June 5. I must observe, however, that other visitors, including Members of both Houses of Parliament, have not been asked to wait until the reform process is complete, and if indeed this was so important, it is difficult to understand why it only cropped up at the last minute. As you know, I applaud the reforms which have been announced by the Amir, and hope they succeed. The release of political prisoners, return of the exiles, abolition of the State Security Courts, and democratic elections for a Parliament, are precisely the demands of the Bahraini people, which I have supported over the years, and it is wonderful to see this programme being implemented. It strikes a discordant note, however, when friendly would-be observers of the process are not allowed to enter Bahrain until it is further advanced. The right to freedom of expression in Article 19 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has signed, includes ‘freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers…..’. The proscription of my visit is a breach of this obligation, and may undermine confidence in the rest of the programme.”
Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group
Bahrain: Lord Avebury’s visit banned The government of Bahrain confirmed that it has banned Lord Avebury from visiting Bahrain in the period 9-15 June. The confirmation of the ban came in a letter sent by the Bahraini ambassador in London to the honourable Lord on 5 June. The same ambassador had himself wrote to Lord Avebury welcoming him to Bahrain. The Amir also said to the Bahrain Human Rights Society on 22 May that Lord Avebury could visit the country as there was “nothing to hide”. However, the government formed a bogus group called “Ansar Al Sunnah” (i.e. Supporters of the Sunni People) and this group issued two slanderous statements against Lord Avebury. This government-sponsored group also labelled any person who deals with Lord Avebury a “traitor” for the country and the nation. Nine people, four men, four women and one interpreter made their way to the British Embassy on 28 May and claimed that they represented the so-called “Ansar Al-Sunnah” to protest against the invitation of Lord Avebury by the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS). All these moves were not as astonishing as what happened on 2 June when the two semi-official dailies, Akhbar Al-Khalij and Al-Ayyam, together with their sister English ones, Gulf Daily News and Bahrain Tribune, gave full coverage and full support for the bogus group. The dailies published exact sentences that came in the two pamphlets distributed by the government-sponsored group. The people of Bahrain were angered to witness the hypocrisy of the government at a time when the Amir has repeatedly said that all citizens are equal before the law, and that all discriminations will end. Yet, the government sponsored a sectarian name to distribute slanders and insults against one of the most respected human rights campaigners who stood for the people of Bahrain during all the years of oppression and repression. The return of Bahrain to the black era is now looming with many indications that the torturers and the mercenary elite that ruled the country in the most vicious manner are back in action on many fronts. These selfish and influential holders of power have been angered by the unity of the people who have come together from all sects and sections of the society to vow their support for a better future for Bahrain. Bahrain Freedom Movement 6 June 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain: BHRS condemns the media attack against Lord Avebury The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) issued a statement on 3 June condemning the savage attack launched by the two daily newspapers in Bahrain (Akhbar Al-Khalij and Al-Ayyam) and their English versions on Lord Avebury on 2 June. The BHRS said that it was “astonished that the daily newspapers attributed the source of their attack to some elements whom they called as “activists”, and that these activists have decided that anyone dealing with Lord Avebury was a traitor. We are dismayed at this type of language which contradicts the political openness, which Bahrain is undergoing. The BHRS had hoped that the media would refrain from such language and would upgrade their level to the style of the Amir and his approach. The Amir has managed to reverse the bad image of Bahrain abroad and the media should have been responsible enough not to become a forum for unknown individuals calling themselves “activists”. ” The BHRS went on to say that “recently Bahrain was visited by delegations from Amnesty International, French Socialist Party, and International Labour Organisation. All these were critical of the situation in Bahrain in the past. Following their recent visits, they issued statements in support of the reforms in Bahrain. ” “The BHRS does not want to introduce who Lord Avebury is, for all the people know the noble role played by the honourable Lord in support of the Bahraini people and all the nations of the world. ” “On the basis of our national duty, we would like to welcome Lord Avebury and all other personalities to visit our country and to see for themselves the recent developments. During our meeting with the Amir on 22 May 2001 we mentioned the visit of Lord Avebury (on 9 June) and HH the Amir replied that “he (Lord Avebury) is welcome to visit our country, and we have nothing to hide”. The BHRS call on all people to unite in the face of troublemakers and those who are seeking to derail the reforms programme Bahrain Freedom Movement 4 June 2001
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Bahrain: Official media launch a vicious attack on Lord Avebury The official media launched an attack against Lord Avebury accusing him of interfering in internal affairs and effectively declaring that his planned visit of 9 June is cancelled. Lord Avebury planned to visit Bahrain on 9 June for one-week during which he had planned to meet with ministers and NGOs. He has also received a letter from the Bahrain Embassy in London welcoming him and offering to assist in planning his meetings with government officials. Then last week, two statements were circulated on the Internet. The two statements used a very bad language directed against Lord Avebury. More worrying is the fact that the issuers of the two statements undersigned them with a bogus and inflammatory name “The Sunni People”. These two statements are believed to have been issued by officials working for government. A further proof to this claim is the fact that Al-Ayyam of 2 June referred to these statements and supported the messages they contained. Al-Ayyam is owned by the newly appointed Minister of Information, Mr. Nabeel Al-Hamar. Lord Avebury had initially been invited to visit Bahrain in November 1994. That visit was cancelled and delayed till January 1995. Then, the government cancelled it again and ignored all communications made by Lord Avebury. Lord Avebury then published a major work on Bahrain entitled “Bahrain: A Brickwall”. The banning of the visit is considered as a blow to the reforms announced by the Amir. Lord Avebury recently issued a statement reaffirming his support for the reform programme and confirming that he would not be going beyond the remit of the visit that has already been agreed. The Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BSHR), which arranged the visit, recently met the Amir and pointed out that they had invited Lord Avebury to come to Bahrain. The Amir expressed his support for their work. It is believed that there are shadowy figures inside the government who have launched this attack on Lord Avebury to deter him from coming. The government has not yet officially made a public statement. It is unfortunate that the government is missing a golden opportunity to receive a resounding endorsement of the tremendous progress on human rights from a leading human rights campaigner. The BFM hopes that the government would clarify its position to confirm its invitation to Lord Avebury and would also control the rogue elements that are attempting to derail the reform process. Bahrain Freedom Movement 2 June 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain Tribune 2 June 2001
(The piece published by the Arabic language “Al-Ayyam” used harsher statements than the ones published by its sister “Bahrain Tribune”. Furthermore, Al-Ayyam quoted an official saying that Lord Avebury had not been granted a visa. This is what the Bahrain Tribune said:)
Avebury visit ‘interference in internal issues’
The planned visit of the Vice-Chairman of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Avebury, to Bahrain has been described as “blatant interference in the domestic affairs of the country.”
“We have written letters protesting against the planned visit of Lord Avebury to the UK Foreign Ministry, the Bahrain Foreign Ministry, the UK embassy in Bahrain, and the Bahrain embassy in London,” Bahrain activists told Al Ayam, sister paper of the Tribune, yesterday. The protesters said they strongly objected to the visit of a man who had always been against the best interests of the people of Bahrain.
“The visit amounts to foreign dictation at a time when Bahrainis have reached an advanced level of maturity, and are capable of making decisions by themselves,” they said, adding that the lord was a British official, and should understand that it was up to the people of Bahrain to decide how they wanted to lead their lives and plan their future.
The protesters said they would stage a series of demonstrations against Lord Avebury in case he is allowed into the country. “We have urged the local authorities not to grant Lord Avebury a visa to enter Bahrain,” they said. “If Lord Avebury is as interested in promoting human rights as he claims, then why doesn’t he visit Palestine and observe the crimes of the Zionists,” asked some of the protesters.
“This is a crucial issue, and we shall consider anyone dealing with Lord Avebury in Bahrain a traitor to the country and nation.”
Voice of Bahrain Commentray: June 2001
Curtailing the old guards and establishing the rule of law
Decisive steps are needed to save reforms
As the country reels itself off its recent black past, there are elements within the regime, the so-called “old guards”, who continue to resist the positive changes. Their actions have disappointed the pro-reform forces. The future of the country now hinges on the willingness of the Amir to take seriously this resistance and deal with it in accordance with the rule of law. The reform programme will undoubtedly compromise the positions and interests of those who formed the pillars of the ancient regime. It is difficult to see positive prospects for the reforms without upsetting these forces. After all, the system was propped up and run by a large network of people who profiteered in the absence of the rule of law.
They see any serious reform as a threat to their existence. For example, the secret police, is unlikely to accept the new realities in which the practice of torture is considered a crime, and in which victims of ill-treatment are entitled to proper hearing from a reformed judiciary. They will resist to the end. Then comes the issue of judiciary. For 25 years this institution has been run by an unfair team which recognised no laws or values. Today, they are being asked to reform their procedures and adapt to the new realities.
The judiciary was directed by the secret police in all political cases and verdicts of the courts were made by them. The media was also one of the pillars of the ancient regime and it served its purposes and objectives.
Today, all these players are required to reform themselves. While reform is possible, many questions are being asked as to whether positive change is possible while the old guards are in place. How could those elements of the torture regime accept the rule of law knowing that they would be the first to be tried in accordance with domestic and international laws. The problem is that there has been no move to curtail these forces. On the contrary, medals were bestowed on many members of the old guards in recognition of their “contributions” to the security of the regime. It may be difficult to remove them at once, but the least that could be done is to take steps to restore the rule of law and open up to the victims of torture and enable them talk about their ordeals.
Furthermore, a programme of rehabilitation is necessary for these people, and that needs more investment, both moral and financial.
What about the patriots who spent the best parts of their lives in torture chambers? It is them who had provided the fuel for change, thus sacrificing their time and well-being for the cause. Is it ethical then to deal with them from a purely technical point of view? Or is it the duty to provide practical assistance to them taking into account their big sacrifices?
Over the past month, a lot was said about the extent of freedom of expression especially to those Bahrainis who have acquired non-Bahrain passports during the black era. The old guards, having lost the moral and political grounds, are now attempting to prevent those who have struggled throughout the crisis from the political process. They say that non-Bahrainis have no right to discuss the affairs of the country.
But they have refused to justify the continued presence of the foreign elements in high office and their free hand in running the affairs of the country. People like Tony Lee, Donald Bryan, James Windsor, David Jump, Mahmood Al Akkouri and others are allowed unrestricted access to the affairs of the country, including state secrets. The old guards are attempting to block any move to bring perpetrators of crimes such as torture, blundering the country’s wealth or terrorising local people through intimidation and threats, to justice. It was only the decision of the Amir to return the money taken by members of the torture team from their victims during the black era, that created an atmosphere of relative calm and dignified feelings.
But, despite the Amir’s decision to grant Bahraini citizenship to all Bahrainis inside and outside the country, many Bahrainis are being denied their basic right to return to their homeland. Black lists prepared by the old guards and distributed over the past decades are still in force. Last month an independent delegation of Bahraini people was ill-treated by the Kuwaiti authorities when they arrived at the airport because Bahrain’s old guards did not withdraw the black list, according the Kuwaiti officials. Instead of helping the citizens these old guards had in the past encouraged other governments to arrest Bahrainis on their soil.
In light of these facts, it is difficult to assess the future of the reform programme in Bahrain. Goodwill gestures from the Amir are not enough to bring about the required change. Several conditions have to be fulfilled. First, a decision to uphold the rule of law must be declared together with a timetable as to the reinstatement of the constitution. Second, the old guards must be dealt with firmly. The first step to relieve them of their high positions. Thirdly, the foreign mercenaries must be relieved of their duties, whether in military or civilian positions. Many of them have committed serious crimes against the people of Bahrain. Fourthly, a time-table for establishing the rule of law in accordance with the country’s constitution must be decided. So far, two committees with no clear mandates have been formed, but their performance to date has not impressed the people.
Finally, it must be remembered that goodwill gestures, while necessary, cannot replace firm decisions and determination to establish the rule of law. The country cannot be ruled by gestures, and its development cannot be achieved by good intentions and royal decrees. People are awaiting a time-table for the election of the National Assembly, employing the unemployed and establishing a sound judicial system, amongst others. It is true that there is a different, more positive political atmosphere in the country, but atmospherics are not laws and cannot be presented as the final destiny of the people. There is plenty of potential in the people. Together with sound policies and appreciation, this potential could create miracles. The country is not poor, and the people are not lazy, Thus the potential for a great economic success in a politically-sound environment will be great if the firmness of the leadership towards the old guards is to be sensed. The hope is that the much-celebrated openness does not fizzle out at the hands of the old guards. That would be a catastrophe.
Bahrain Freedom Movement June 2001
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