Bahrain: Pro-democracy figures call for national unity The French “Le Monde Diplomatique” published an important article on 28 April for the British well-known journalist, David Hirst, analysing the recent developments in Bahrain. Mr. Hirst pinpointed the important issues, which he investigated during his trip to Bahrain. He said that although the democratic openness ” has come by decree, it is also an answer to a popular will”. He went on to point out that at present “the moderate forces are prevailing among the opposition ranks”, and these would continue to support the Amir as long as he respects the pledges he had made in public. For the first time in recent history, a political meeting was organised and attended by 45 political personalities. The meeting was held on 27 April at the house of the Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi, who had recently returned from exile. The gathering brought together personalities affiliated to mainly leftist tendencies. The gathering elected a committee of nine people, 3 representing the Popular Front tendency, 3 representing the National Front tendency, and 3 independents. The committee is to draft a constitution and an action list for the grouping. On the other hand, Islah Society, which mainly represents the Muslim Brotherhood tendency, published its draft political programme. The extensive programme detailed the ideas, which Islah would stand for in election campaigns. It is the most detailed programme to be presented to the public by any grouping. On 26 April, Islah organised an important seminar bringing together leading figures from various sections of Bahrain society. Thousands of people packed the halls of Islah Society in Muharraq to listen to Sheikh Isa bin Mohammad Al-Khalifa, Dr Abdul Latif Al-Mahmood, Sheikh Ali Salman and Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi. The speakers reaffirmed their earlier calls for national unity and democracy. On 28 April, more than 100 unemployed citizens gathered in front of the labour ministry. Later on, 16 of them were allowed to meet with the minister to present the miserable situation in which more than 20,000 Bahraini go through without prospects of employment. The minister promised to meet with the representatives of the unemployed on Monday 30 April . The labour force in Bahrain is 259,000 and more than 60% are foreign. The labour minister refuses to recognise the existence of unemployment, falsely insisting that the unemployment rate is below 2%, while in fact the rate is more than 15%. Al-Oroba Club will be hosting an important event on Wednesday 2 May. Several key pro-democracy figures will speak on the “Priorities of the Present Political Phase”. Dr. Alaa Al-Yousuf, who returned home on 28 April after around 20 years in exile, will also participate in the seminar. Bahrain Freedom Movement 29 April 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Le Monde Diplomatique
Paris, April 28th 2001 Under the title “Democratic breakthrough in Bahrain”, with “The Gulf Emirates facing popular aspirations” as a subtitle, the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, which is, with 280,000 copies circulation, the most influential French newspaper on international relations, published today (May issue) a lengthy article analyzing the recent events in Bahrain. «~This democracy has come by decree, but it is also an answer to a popular will~» writes the author, David HIRST, the Guardian correspondant in Beyrouth who has investigated in the country and met various officials and pro-democracy leaders. «~With the Gulf war and the blow that it brought to the prestige of the hereditary based systems in the Gulf, the reformists have resorted to the petition method to the amir and gathered an impressive 25,000 signatures. These were repelled with despise by the (former) amir who installed a powerless consultative council. The opposition then widened to became “The Intifada”. Although unarmed and mainly unviolent, this was crushed with brutal force and constant close watch over methods. 25,000 persons over a population of 400,000 were imprisonned at a moment or another. 30 demonstrators died in street demonstrations and among a dozen persons killed under torture. One of them, Saeed Al-Eskafi, aged 16, was kidnapped at his home, in the shia village of Sannabis, and his body sent back to his family a few days later. Some 200 opposition leaders went to forced exile, with the regime flagrantly stressing its confessionnal policies. (…)~» «~Bahrain was once one of the most uncorrupted societies of the Gulf. The grand-father of the new amir had forbidden several members of his family from engaging in business activities, considering that this might compromise their status and tribal advantages. “To day, points a businessman, my foreign friends say that we are equal with Nigeria…”~(…) The amir’s uncle, the prime minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, runs interwined structures of public affairs and private benefits. Since in power in 1961, he has filled the administration with his own protégés, posting eight Khalifas in the cabinet and many more everywhere else. “He runs the Government as his own company” sums up an economist in the opposition.~» After a full economic analysis of the rôle of the land, of the recruitment of foreign Sunni “mercenaries”, of Asian workforce, “in order to restore the demographic balance”, of the “free visas business” and of the growing debt of the Bahraini middle class, the author quotes an economist stating that, with 30~% unemployment rate, some villages “are alike what you can find in Bangladesh”. On the political situation and prospects, David HIRST quotes an opposition leader, Mr. Abd al-Nabi al-Ekri, who has returned to his country ”triumphantly, after 27 years exile”. Mr. al-Ekri concedes that “Sheikh Hamad has showed courage, but he has still to confront with the edification of a really democratic state”~». HIRST sees a conflict, for the Amir, «~between the continuous dependance on a loyalist apparatus and the necessity to reach the society as a whole. This conflict is not only the personal dilemma of the ruler. It could also derives in a confrontation between himself and the crown prince, on the one hand, and the “old guard”, led by the Prime minister who has waged an underground campain against the reforms, on the other hand.~(…)~» And David HIRST concludes~: «~For the moment, the moderate forces are prevailing among the opposition ranks and will reinforce as much as they will see that their trust in the amir was justified, that he will respect his engagements. In last analysis, as the opposition states, there is no alternative. Of course the amir has proposed the reforms, but it is the people’s uprising which has forced him to do so. If deceived, the people could reactivate the Intifada, and “It will not be satisfied with requesting a Parliament and a constitution”, ponders a journalist in the opposition. “It will call for the change of the Khalifas too”.~»
Bahrain: Citizens urged toward cooperation for national unity BBC Monitoring Service – United Kingdom; Apr 27, 2001
Manama: Bahrain’s Shi’i and Sunni populations were last night urged to work together in a spirit of unity and mutual understanding for the benefit of the nation.
The call came as thousands of people packed the Al-Islah Society premises in Muharraq to attend a meeting entitled National Priorities.
The main speakers were society president Shaykh Isa Bin-Muhammad Al Khalifah, Shaykh Dr Abd-al-Latif al-Mahmud and former exiles Shaykh Ali Salman and Abd-al-Rahman al-Nuaimi, who have returned home under an emiri pardon.
Shaykh Ali Salman said that both Sunnis and Shi’is should work together to shelve past differences and misunderstandings between them.
I believe that national unity depends on two things, he said. First, creating closeness between the two Islamic sects and secondly creating political cooperation for our mutual benefit.
Shaykh Isa said that Bahraini society lacked a solid identity, which was the result of a decline in Islamic values and a lack of unity among its people.
Identities cannot be forced on people as many failed Islamic and Arab experiences have shown, he said.
A national identity comes about through working together and building bridges.
Shaykh Ali also said that he did not think links between the people and government organizations were strong enough, despite the great show of affection which greeted HRH Emir Shaykh Hamad Bin-Isa Al Khalifah during his visits to different parts of the country.
Despite the emir’s sincere attempts to help the country and reverse past wrongs, some governmental bodies are still holding on to old files and documents, he continued.
There are many Bahrainis still in exile because of the existence of orders for their arrest…
Mr Al-Nuaimi said that unemployment was one of the most pressing issues which Bahrain had to tackle.
Figures show that there are more than 20,000 unemployed nationals in Bahrain when there are 140,000 foreign workers, he said.
The government and societies should try to solve this problem as fast as they can by enforcing laws against foreign workers with free visas and by stopping the renting of commercial registrations to foreigners.
Shaykh Abd-al-Latif said Bahrain was going through a critical period in its history and should tread carefully.
This is a crucial time and what is done now will affect the country for years to come, he said.
Source: Gulf Daily News web site, Manama, in English 27 Apr 01
Bahrain: The old guards re-launch their repressive policies The military ex-president of Bahrain University, Mohammed Jasim Al-Ghatam, who had been promoted to the position of a minister, re-launched his repressive policies with a new outreach. By becoming the minister of education he was implicitly given the green light to implement his racism and dictatorship on all educational institutions. On 25 April, a seminar was organised in Sanabis Intermediate School. The seminar was nothing more than a normal one with a medical doctor and a religious scholar discussing behavioural approaches to education. The headmistress received a phone call from the ministry of education enquiring whether one of the speakers is Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain. The headmistress confirmed the names of the speakers, none of whom was Mr. Hussain. An official from the ministry said that the “new” mistier of education, has information that Mr. Hussain was delivering a talk at the school. Soon after the phone call, two police jeeps, laden with security personnel, arrived at the school for hands-on investigation. Moreover, Al-Ghatam moved quickly to re-consolidate his military grip on the University of Bahrain by appointing a person from the military ranks. Colonel Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi was officially named as the new President of University of Bahrain. This is another setback in a series of steps that have spread gloom around the country. The Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, met with Bahraini journalists on 24 April and reaffirmed his support for freedom of expression. However, several of the journalists were prevented from commenting on the recent cabinet changes. The Amir called on the press to speak openly, but the citizens are finding it hard to square this reformed call with the ban imposed on journalists to freely air their opinions. The people are also finding it hard to participate in the decision-making process with the channels being increasingly monopolised by handpicked stooges and parasitic-type of people. There are many issues which the people feel powerless to influence. Many thousands of mercenaries are being granted Bahraini citizenship in a re-ignited process aimed at destabilising the demography of Bahrain. The structure, distribution and naming of constituencies have been decided behind closed doors with no say whatsoever for independent views. These and other critical issues are matters of concern for the public at large. While the people hear about transparency and accountability, in practice noting is being realised and no process is being started-up to achieve such aims. Bahrain Freedom Movement 27 April 2001
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MANAMA, (25 April) Bahrain (Reuters) – Bahrain’s emir said on Wednesday he would start a tour of Europe and the United States in May to lure investment to the Gulf Arab state after launching wide-ranging political reforms. “The most important thing in this tour is how we can encourage European, American and international investment to our country…and the whole Gulf,” Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said in remarks broadcast on state television. Sheikh Hamad said Bahrain, the region’s financial and banking center, and other oil-rich Gulf Arab states have created an environment suitable for foreign investment. “They (foreign investors) want stability, security and cooperation,” Sheikh Hamad said. “Now they have no excuse. We have achieved many things and amended some legislation and plan further amendments,” he added. Sheikh Hamad, who took power in March 1999 on the death of his father, has pardoned around 900 detainees and exiles, abolished controversial emergency laws and proposed a national charter that calls for an elected parliament.
Bahrainis voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in February to support the emir’s reform charter which also calls for a constitutional monarchy and an independent judiciary.
By Caroline Gammell, PA News (UK) Royal butler Harold Brown was appearing in court today accused of stealing items which vanished from the estate of Diana, Princess of Wales. Brown, 48, has been charged on four counts of theft contrary to section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968, concerning belongings which went missing between 1 January 1997 and 15 November 2000. Police said he was charged with stealing a jewel daffodil motif, a ring, a model dhow and base, a bangle, a pair of earrings and 1,200 – all belonging to Diana’s estate. The former butler to Diana is now an employee of Princess Margaret and works as a butler at Kensington Palace. The model of an Arab dhow was a gift from the Emir of Bahrain when the Prince and Princess of Wales married in 1981. Brown, who is on bail, was due to appear at Bow Street Magistrates Court. —————– LONDON (AP) — A long-serving butler to Princess Diana pilfered glittering trinkets from her estate after her death, police said Tuesday — including a gem-studded model of an Arab sailing ship sent to Diana and Prince Charles as a wedding gift. London’s Metropolitan Police on Tuesday charged Harold Brown, 48, with four counts of theft involving items from the estate of the princess, who died in August 1997.
The stolen goods include a jewel daffodil motif, several pieces of jewelry and $1,700, as well as a model of a dhow, an Arab sailing vessel, that Diana and Prince Charles received as a wedding gift from the Emir of Bahrain in 1981.
LONDON (Reuters) – A former butler to the late Princess Diana was charged Tuesday with stealing jewelry, gifts and cash which disappeared from her estate between 1997 and 2000, British police said. Harold Brown, who worked for Diana and later Queen Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret, was arrested in November in connection with the thefts and has been released on bail. “Harold Brown, aged 48, a butler of Kensington Palace, was today charged with four counts of theft,” a Scotland Yard spokesman said. “He has been bailed to appear at Bow Street Magistrate’s Court on April 25.” The charges related to the theft of items from Lady Diana’s estate between 1997 and November last year. They included a model ship, believed to be the million pound ($1.44 million) diamond-encrusted miniature given to the late princess and Prince Charles for their wedding in 1981 by the Emir of Bahrain. Other items listed were a ring, a bracelet, a pair of earrings and cash. Three other people have been arrested in connection with the thefts. Paul Burrell, another of the princess’s former butlers whom she called “my rock” for his devotion and loyalty, was arrested earlier this year after police officers raided his home in Chester, northern England.
The model ship was reported by British media to have vanished from Diana’s Kensington Palace residence days after she was killed in a high-speed car crash in Paris in August 1997.
Bahrain: Journalists banned from criticising the recent cabinet changes The government imposed a ban on all columnists who may comment on the recent cabinet changes. Articles and columns for Ali Saleh, Hafedh Al-Sheikh and Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi were banned because they attempted to comment on the unacceptable cabinet changes announced last week. Pessimism in the country has returned as the old guards showed their resistance to change. In a seminar organised by Alumni Club on 22 April, three speakers, Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain, Dr. Yaquob Janahi and Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi debated the recent events in Bahrain. Speakers from the audience also contributed by calling for the resignation of the interior minister who had been responsible for operating an oppressive apparatus for the past 25 years. The audience were in agreement that promoting certain individuals to the positions of minister has dealt a blow to the reforms announced by the Amir. In fact the old guards are resurfacing in many forms. A pregnant lady, Fatima Akbar Jawad, was detained for one night at Bahrain International Airport after returning home from Syria on 22 April. She and her husband (still to return from Syria) have been in exile for more than 20 years. Many Bahrainis have submitted their papers to the Bahraini embassies in London and other parts of the world but have received no response from the authorities. These hurdles are now increasing with hard-liners fighting back against reforms. The president of Islah Society, Sheikh Isa bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, said that the programme of the society for participation in the next political phase is now ready. He said that the programme is based on key principles including: the preservation of social identity, citizen-centred development, consolidation of national unity and activation of the constitution and charter. The recent moves for uniting Shia and Sunni efforts will be systemised and a co-ordination committee between the leaders of the two sides is being formed. The leading Bahraini economist and political activist, Dr. Alaa Al-Yousuf, will visit Bahrain after 20 years in exile. He will return next Saturday 28 April and is expected to participate in a seminar on 2 May in the Oroba Club together with other leading personalities in Bahrain society. The Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, will be visiting the USA and will meet with President George W. Bush on 7 May. The US Administration wants Bahrain to sign a new expanded military contract, replacing the one that expires in April 2001. Bahrain has expanded the military co-operation agreement with the UK last year, for a 10-year period. Bahrain Freedom Movement 24 April 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
By Isa Mubarak MANAMA, April 23 (Reuters) – The European Union and Gulf Arab states said on Monday they saw potential progress in long-lasting talks toward a free-trade agreement. A joint panel of the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also said in a communique after talks in Bahrain that the two blocs backed a Saudi-proposed forum to encourage dialogue between oil producers and consumer nations. “The joint council noted that in the last two years conditions for progress in negotiations were coming into place,” said a final statement, adding that more than a decade of talks had achieved little progress earlier. One key dispute is over a six-percent duty imposed by the EU on primary aluminium exports from the Gulf. Two aluminium smelters in Bahrain and the UAE produce more than one million tonnes per year. The two blocs welcomed Saudi Arabia’s proposal, first expressed last year, to host the secretariat of the global energy forum in Riyadh. “The EU side would examine the details of this proposal, including through further discussion with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the communique said. Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak al-Khalifa said at the opening of GCC-EU talks that the kingdom, the world’s biggest oil exporter, could help strengthen the global economy through its economic weight and huge investment capacity. The GCC — which groups Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — in 1999 agreed to unify their tariffs between 5.5 percent and 7.5 percent and to set up a customs union by 2005. The joint panel noted that despite the increase in the value of trade and decrease in the EU surplus, the trade balance remained substantially in favour of the EU. It said the total value of trade reached 51.5 billion euros ($46.2 billion) in 2000 compared to 37 billion euros in 1999. Sheikh Mohammed said the trade balance between the two blocs in 1999 showed a surplus in favour of the EU of around $11 billion. He said a cumulative surplus of nearly $100 billion since the start of trade negotiations confirmed that EU states “enjoy privileges in the markets of the GCC countries.” He said the oil-rich Gulf Arab states may reconsider the free trade pact with the EU, the region’s biggest trade partner, if progress was not made in talks over the long-stalled deal. ($1-1.114 euro)
By ADNAN MALIK Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Gulf states must reform politically as well as economically if they want a free trade agreement with the European Union, EU officials told the Gulf Cooperation Council Monday. The Gulf countries, looking at a large trade gap with the EU, called for investments that would bring them Western technology and said Europe must take into account the fact their economies are still dependent on oil exports. During the closed-door talks, EU officials explained the proposed new negotiating directives for future economic talks between the two blocks, according to a joint communique and EU officials speaking at the end of the talks. The new directives deal with trading in goods and services — banking, insurance and telecommunications — as well as environment and human rights as a criteria for signing any future deals. The document, which hasn’t been completed, will precede the 1991 bilateral agreement between the EU and the Gulf states. Both sides agreed to “intensify and conclude” negotiations in the shortest time possible, the officials and the communique said. Matthijs Van Bonzel, a permanent representative of the Netherlands to the EU, said that Gulf countries had to have an “open dialogue with the EU, not only on the economic front, but also the political front” on issues including human rights. “There are developments in the right direction in this area, which is part of the complete package,” he said, without elaborating. Pascal Lamy, the EU trade commissioner, said the agreement would become a reality only after all the six members of the Gulf alliance have jointly met the new negotiating directives. “Our economies have changed… GCC economies have modernized… and the way you open trade is not what it was 10 years ago,” said Lamy, adding that the EU dealt with other countries in a similar fashion. The GCC, a loose political and economic alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, has been seeking a free trade agreement with the EU since the two sides established ties in 1988. At the end of talks, Bonzel and other EU officials hinted that the agreement could be implemented only after the GCC members unify their custom tariffs, as they have pledged to do by 2005. “You can only have that kind of agreement between two regions which have removed the internal barriers,” said Brian Wilson, British minister of state for foreign affairs. The EU is the largest trade partner of the six GCC states, with annual bilateral trade of some dlrs 35 billion. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, who is heading the GCC in the talks with the nearly 70-member EU delegation, said in opening remarks Monday that the Gulf states had made “every effort” to overcome all the obstacles to the signing of a free trade agreement. However, Sheik Mohammed said, the EU continued to levy duties on the main GCC exports, such as refined oil products, petrochemicals and aluminum, and persisted in efforts to find renewable energy sources to replace oil. He also complained of a slow progress in the negotiations.
The trade deficit between the two parties in 1999 showed a surplus of about dlrs 11 billion in favor of the EU, Sheik Mohammed said.
By Abbas Salman MANAMA, April 19 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is acting with unexpected vigour by launching political reforms that have won him rare praise from the Gulf Arab state’s restless Shi’ite Muslim community. Politicians, diplomats and human rights groups agree that Sheikh Hamad, who took over in March 1999 on the death of his father who ruled for 38 years, has gone further and faster than many would have expected, surprising allies and critics alike. He has pardoned around 900 detainees and exiles, abolished two controversial emergency laws — the State Security Law and the State Security Court — and proposed a new national charter that calls for an elected parliament. “The moves were very positive and surprised all. We have been expecting a change but not that fast,” said Hassan Mushaime, a Shi’ite activist freed by the emir in February after spending more than five years in jail. “Some people even described them as a dream come true,” Mushaime told Reuters. “We hope these reforms will continue and that all those who had lost their jobs will be re-employed.” Analysts said the emir has met key opposition demands and reunited the tiny island state shaken by four years of anti-government unrest. “We are seeing a new mode of openness in the country and this has been followed by concrete steps like the freeing of hundreds of detainees, allowing the return of exiles and the launching of the national charter,” a Western diplomat said.
“Sheikh Hamad has changed the face of Bahrain in just two years and created a new atmosphere. That is visible in Bahraini villages where his pictures are posted alongside those of Shi’ite Muslim clerics,” one analyst said.
AMNESTY WELCOMES MOVES, WANTS MORE The human rights organisation Amnesty International last month welcomed the reforms, but urged Bahrain to amend urgently some legislation to reflect international human rights treaties. “We have made a number of recommendations and indeed we have been in a dialogue with the government of Bahrain for a number of years,” said Chicago University law professor Bartram Brown, who headed a three-member team from the London-based rights group. “We have come to an entirely different atmosphere. A very positive atmosphere, with great enthusiasm,” Brown said. Said Boumedouha, an Amnesty International researcher, said Bahrain had implemented most of the organisation’s recommendations but there was a need to implement others. Bahrainis voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in February to support the charter which calls for setting up an elected parliament alongside the appointed Shura (consultative) council, a constitutional monarchy and an independent judiciary. A rarity in the conservative Gulf Arab states, women took part in the referendum for the first time since Bahrain’s independence from Britain in 1971.
Bahrain dissolved its first elected parliament in 1975 after only two years. It now has a 40-member Shura council, which has no legislative powers, to assist the government on draft laws before they are sent to emir for final approval.
POLITICAL STABILITY Bankers and businessmen say the current political stability in Bahrain would enhance the country’s position as one of the world’s most free economies given its lack of direct taxation and red-tape. An end to a long-standing border dispute with Qatar has also created good opportunities for businessmen in Bahrain, the Gulf’s financial and banking hub, analysts and bankers say. “The end of the border dispute between the two countries has opened a big market for Qatari and Bahraini investors,” one banker said. The Hague-based International Court of Justice in March awarded the Hawar islands to Bahrain and gave Qatar three small islands previously controlled by Bahrain. A 26-member Qatari trade team held talks in Bahrain earlier this month to examine trade and investment opportunities, and at least three Bahraini investment firms said they were setting up joint ventures in Qatar.
Bankers and diplomats say Bahrain still faces the challenge of creating job opportunities — the main reason for the 1994-1998 protests — and cut unemployment estimated at 10 of the total workforce of 307,000 at the end of last year.
19 April 2001
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The son of a top Bahraini tourism official has been killed in a car accident in the United States, the second tragedy to hit his family in less than a year, relatives said Thursday. Ibrahim Rajab, the son of Tourism Affairs Undersecretary Kadhem Rajab, was killed instantly in a collision on a highway near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Tuesday, relatives said. Rajab, 22, was an information technology student at the University of Alabama. “The family is in a real state of shock,” said Redha Rajab, a cousin of Kadhem Rajab. Last August, Kadhem’s brother, sister-in-law, a nephew and a niece were killed when a Gulf Air plane crashed into the sea on its approach to Manama airport. All 143 people on board the plane died. Kadhem Rajab has a wife and two daughters. His son’s body was being flown back to Bahrain on Thursday for burial. am-jbm
DOHA, April 18 (Reuters) – Qatar and Bahrain have agreed to ease travel regulations for their citizens and study proposals for a causeway joining the two Gulf Arab states, newspapers said on Wednesday. A joint committee, holding its first meeting after the World Court resolved a territorial dispute last month, also asked energy officials to explore the possibility of supplying Qatari gas to Bahrain, the newspapers said. Bahrain and Qatar agreed to allow their citizens to travel between their countries using just identity cards. A communique said the states had decided to complete within 10 months a feasibility study into a causeway linking the two states across Gulf waters. The Hague-based International Court of Justice ended the long-standing territorial dispute, endorsing Bahrain’s sovereignty over the Hawar islands and awarding two minor islands and a disputed town to Qatar. The two countries, which have moved to improve relations, hailed the court’s decision.
Bahrain: Cabinet changes are a setback for reforms The third cabinet reshuffle since 1971 was nothing but a setback for the reform process in Bahrain. The minor changes announced on 17 April promoted several persons who were instrumental in repressing the Bahraini people in the past years. Instead of dismissing these individuals, they were either kept in their places or promoted to higher positions. The military person responsible for the worst racist polices in Bahrain University, Dr. Mohammed Jasim Al-Ghatam, was made a minister of education. Mr. Nabil Al-Hamer was made a minister of information despite the fact that his era as editor-in-chief of Al-Ayyam was not impressive. Dr. Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar Abdulla who was responsible for spreading lies against the pro-democracy opposition in Washington DC was promoted to a minister of state for foreign affairs. The promotion of the old guards created a bad environment in the country, signified by a rapid return of general cynicism and pessimism. On the positive side, the efforts of citizens to realise their rights through the formation of unions are beginning show some good results. Labour unions, which have been prevented since 1956, may soon be allowed to operate legally in Bahrain. The unconstitutional law banning the formation of trade unions may have to be bypassed. The pro-democracy personality and president of Bahrain Pharmacists Society, Mr. Rasool Al-Jishi said that Bahrain had taken huge steps forward that may put it ahead of many other Arab countries. The press has also been allowed to speak about the banned National Union of Bahraini Students, and it is expected that next year the university students may be allowed to elect their representatives to the Students Council. Elections to the council has been banned for the past 18 years. A general union for women is also being talked about with active participation by the wife of the Amir in this process. The opposition hopes that the non-governmental organisations will remain faithful to those they represent, whenever they are allowed to function. There is also a common debate inside both Bahrain and Kuwait. In both countries, pro-democracy figures are calling for allowing citizens to form peaceful political parties rather than the half-hearted approach currently in place. The various political trends are organising themselves informally, a state of affairs that neither helps the people nor the government. Bahrain Freedom Movement 18 April 2001
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MANAMA, April 18 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s new cabinet was sworn in on Wednesday after a re-shuffle seen as a further step towards promised political reforms. The official Gulf News Agency said cabinet members appointed in Tuesday’s limited re-shuffle took the oath in front of the Gulf Arab state’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Among the new faces in the cabinet is Nabeel Yacoub al-Hamer, chairman and editor-in-chief of Bahrain’s largest newspaper, al-Ayam, who was named information minister. “This is the next step in the blueprint for reform in Bahrain,” a Western diplomat told Reuters. “The Emir and Crown Prince had said earlier that there was a need for new blood and it came,” he added. Another diplomat said the second phase of the reshuffle was expected later in the year. Prominent opposition figure Abdel-Wahab Hussain, a Shi’ite Muslim cleric, told Reuters that more time was needed to study the new appointments, but said that Bahrainis were expecting a broader re-shuffle in key ministries. Hussain was freed after spending five years in jail following an amnesty issued in February by Sheikh Hamad, part of reforms which led to the return of dozens of exiles. Sheikh Khalifa bin Sulman al-Khalifa, a member of the ruling family who has been prime minister since independence from Britain in 1971, retained his posting after the reshuffle. Sheikh Isa bin Ali al-Khalifa retained the key post of oil minister. The industry ministry, earlier part of the oil minister’s portfolio, was merged with the commerce ministry portfolio. Mohammed Jassim al-Ghatam, who had headed the University of Bahrain since 1995, was named minister of education. Bahrainis voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in February to support Sheikh Hamad’s reform charter. It calls for an elected parliament alongside an appointed Shura (consultative) 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 unrest by members of the majority Shi’ite community demanding political and economic reforms from the Sunni-led government.
From local Bahraini press:
MANAMA: Bahrain swears in a new Cabinet today, following a key reshuffle by HH the Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Five new faces join the Cabinet, in new appointments announced yesterday. Holders of the major portfolios oil, defence, interior, foreign and finance remain the same. But the Amir separated industry from the Oil Ministry and merged it with the Commerce Ministry. Information and Cabinet Affairs are split to make two separate ministries. Housing and Agriculture are merged and Municipalities and Environment are split from housing. Works also splits from Agriculture. Only one person left the Cabinet, Ali Al Mahroos, who was replaced as Minister of Works by Fahmi Al Jowder, one of the new faces. The four other new members of the Cabinet are Information Minister Nabil Al Hamer, Education Minister Dr Mohammed Al Ghatam, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar and Minister of State Mohammed Hassan Kamaluddin. It is the fifth Cabinet change in Bahrains history and the second since the Amir took over in 1999, said official sources. The main emphasis under the new era is to stress public participation in partnership with the Government in decision-making. The complete list of Cabinet changes is as follows: l Jawad Al Arrayed Minister of State for Municipalities and Environmen Affairs. l Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa Housing and Agriculture Minister. l Mohammed Al Mutawa Cabinet Affairs Minister. l Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa Oil Minister. l Ali Saleh Al Saleh Commerce and Industry Minister. l Abdulaziz Al Fadhel Minister of State for Shura Council Affairs. l Dr Mohammed Al Ghatam Education Minister. l Nabil Al Hamer Information Minister. Fahmi Ali Al Jowder Works Minister. Dr Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Mohammed Hassan Kamaluddin Minister of State. Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa will carry out this decree effective from its date of issue. The Amir also issued a decree, appointing Majid Al Jishi, as advisor to the Premiers Court, at the rank of a minister. A third decree stated that Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalifa Al Khalifa becomes Civil Service Bureau president, with the rank of minister. A fourth decree stated that Shaikh Ahmad bin Mohammed Al Khalifa becomes Bahrain Monetary Agency governor. A fifth decree stated that Major General Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Interior Ministry Under-Secretary, is promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General.
MANAMA, April 17 (Reuters) – Bahrain announced a limited cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, bringing in new ministers to portfolios including information and education. The official Gulf News Agency said Nabeel Yacoub al-Hamer was named minister of information, and Mohammed Abdul-Ghaffar Abdulla was appointed minister of state for foreign affairs. A decree issued by the Gulf Arab state’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa kept Sheikh Isa bin Ali al-Khalifa in the key post of oil minister. The Industry Ministry, previously part of the oil minister’s portfolio, was merged with the Commerce Ministry. Mohammed Jassim al-Ghatam was named minister of education.
The last cabinet reshuffle in 1999 also left key positions unchanged.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The emir of Bahrain carried out a minor reshuffle of the Cabinet on Tuesday, splitting two ministries and bringing in five new faces, the official Gulf News Agency reported. The holders of the major portfolios — oil, defense, interior, foreign and finance — remained the same. But the emir, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, hived off the industry department from the Oil Ministry and merged it with the Ministry of Commerce. He also split the Ministry of Housing, Agriculture, Environment and Municipal Affairs, making one ministry for housing and agriculture and another for environment and municipal affairs. Only one person was dropped from the Cabinet, Ali al-Mahroos, who was replaced as Minister of Works by Fahmi al-Jouder, one of the new faces. The four other new members of the Cabinet are Minister of Information Nabeel al-Hamer, Minister of Education Mohammed Jassim al-Ghatam, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mohammed Abdul-Ghafar Abdulla and Minister of State Mohammed Hassan Kamal-Eddin. A Bahraini official who spoke on condition of anonymity described the reshuffle as “a gradual change” on the way to a major reorganization of the Cabinet that is expected by the end of the year. Government changes had been expected after the electorate endorsed a new national charter in a referendum in February. The charter provides for Bahrain’s first elected parliament in 25 years. The emir has made a series of reforms since taking office after the death of his father in March 1999. He has pardoned more than 1,000 political prisoners and detainees and demonstrated more openness toward the Shiite community, which forms a slight majority of Bahrain’s 400,000 citizens.
Shiite militants began a campaign for political reform in 1994 that led to the death of more than 40 people. The unrest faded after four years under the weight of a government crackdown. am-jbm
KUWAIT CITY, Apr 17, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Bahraini Crown Prince Salman Ibn Hamad Tuesday arrived in Qatari capital Doha on Tuesday to resume the work of a joint Bahraini-Qatari Higher Committee, Kuwait News Agency reported. The crown prince will hold talks with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Jassem Bin Hamad al-Thani on such issues as building a bridge linking the two Gulf states, allowing citizens of both nations to enter either side with only personal identification cards, as well as some joint projects. The issues have been shelved after Qatar and Bahrain suspended the activities of the joint committee last May when they resorted a dispute over several small but potentially oil-and-gas-rich Gulf isles to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Last month, Doha and Manama agreed to resume the work of the committee, co-chaired by the two crown princes, after the international court ruled on the dispute. In its final verdict, the court granted Bahrain sovereignty over the Hawar islands and the Qitat Jarada island, and gave the Zubarah strip, Janan island and Feshi Al-Daibal rocks to Qatar, ending a 10-year judicial battle between the two Gulf neighbors.
Both Qatar and Bahrain accepted the verdict and voiced willingness to “leave the row behind backs.”
MANAMA, April 16 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s new Economic Development Board said on Monday it has eased regulations for foreign investors to lure more capital to the Gulf Arab state. “The ‘One-Stop-Shop’ was approved at the last board meeting for foreign investors to deal with only one authority,” Jamal al-Hazeem, the board’s chief executive officer, told reporters. “We should now have a two-week maximum period to accept or refuse any projects (to invest in the country),” he added. Hazeem said Bahrain, the Gulf’s financial and monetary hub, was seeking to attract between $600 million to $800 million in investments each year. “The size of investment in Bahrain now is not encouraging, mainly because we have not been marketing our country,” Hazeem said. “The private sector is playing a marginal role now.” Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa issued a decree earlier this year allowing foreign-owned companies involved in trade, industry, tourism, banking and finance to own the land and buildings needed for their projects. In 1999, Bahrain allowed nationals of its Gulf Arab neighbours to own property, including real estate, in the island state.
16/4/2001, Gulf Daily News CROWN PRINCE TO HOLD QATAR TALKS MANAMA: Crown Prince and BDF Commander-in-Chief Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa will visit Doha on Tuesday for talks with Qatari Crown Prince Shaikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, it was announced last night. The Crown Prince will also head the Bahraini side at the second meeting of the Joint Supreme Committee, said a Cabinet Affairs and Information Ministry statement. The committee is to resume its meetings following the ICJ verdict which ended the territorial dispute between Bahrain and Qatar, making possible the start of a new chapter in relations between the two countries. The talks are expected to focus on enhancing bilateral co-operation in the economic and investment fields with greater involvement from the two countries private sectors.
Bahrain: Opposition calls for a more serious approach for implementation of reforms The interior ministry was back in action on 12 April. Several citizens who were recruited to assist in the latest census were summoned and told that they had been sacked. The citizens had previously been detained for political reasons and were released as part of the reconciliation process. The interior ministry reactivated its repressive machinery and dismissed these citizens without any justification. On the other hand, the authorities have closed down Momin mosque after it had been re-constructed and re-opened. The authorities want to impose one of its employees to lead the prayers in the mosque while the people refuse to be intimidated through the imposition of state-employees on religious congregations. It is rumoured that cabinet changes will soon be announced affecting several ministries. The people of Bahrain have no trust in people who prolonged their agony and practised the worst forms of dictatorship for the past 25 years. The opposition hopes that fresh faces with true convictions and belief in democracy would be appointed. However, the recent appointments to two committees, one for proposing changes to the constitution and the other for activating the national charter, have created ill feelings amongst the public. The majority of appointees to the committee for the activation of the charter are either weak or have dishonourable past records. Mr. Ghassan Al-Atteyah wrote in Al-Hayat of 11 April saying that “by positively responding to the recent reforms announced by the Amir, the Bahraini opposition has proved its credibility and entitlement to effectively participate in the reform process.” It remains to be seen whether the Amir and his aides would adopt an inclusive and serious approach for implementation of reforms. Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri participated in a special conference held on 11 April in the USA (Washington DC) to assess political reforms in five Middle Eastern countries (Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Iran and Bahrain). The meeting was organised by the International Forum for Democratic Studies and the Middle East Project. Dr. Al-Jamri explained the underlying factors driving the reform process in Bahrain and highlighted the challenges as well the constraints of the present and forthcoming periods. Bahrain Freedom Movement 14 April 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Some of Flaifel’s corruption exposed The torturer Adel Flaifel has re-organised his corrupt and illegal businesses in the past few days. Following the raids by the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) on his two centres of prostitution (BJs and JJ Murpheys), it is rumoured that he has sold the two prostitution centres together with the two hotels (Al Bustan and Al Safeer) to the Lebanese-Bahraini businessman Akram Maknas. The latter is a close associate of the prime minister. BJs was back in business while JJ Murpheys is expected to be back in business again. The torturer had refused to abide by all the laws that govern hotels and in the past no one was able to question him. Nowadays all people know that he established those corrupt centres from the money he illegally extracted from the families of the political detainees and prisoners. According to the existing law (be it unconstitutional), discos, bars and prostitution centres must be inside hotels, their entrances must be inside the hotels and they must not have direct access from the outside. Only three bars or discos in Bahrain had direct entrances from streets. One is owned by Dadaby (a member of the Shura Council and friend of the prime minister), called ‘Wobler’ (in Bisan Hotel – Exhibitions Road Area) and two are owned by the torturer Flaifel (Murphey’s and BJ’s). Both men could violate the law because of their connections. Dadaby had recently complied with a request to close the main access to the street, but Flaifel resisted. Flaifel’s hotels and centres of prostitution are located behind the old palace in Qudhaibia and in front of Gulf Hotel. It is a residential area and many people, including the parents of the Minister of Foreign Affairs who live in the same neighbourhood, have complained that Flaifel had converted the neighbourhood into a prostitution’s quarter and people can not continue to live in. Many residents, who were renting apartments, left the area. The torturer Flaifel has also started to spread his corruption-based empire elsewhere. He recently opened new restaurants, but registered them under his friends’ and wife’s names. One of his old restaurants called ‘Senior Pacos’ (Mexican Restaurant and Bar in Mahooz area) is still functioning under his name. His latest unfinished restaurant project (Little Castle – in Jufair area) is stopped for a while because he violated Municipality rules. It is confirmed now that Flaifel has started to use his wife’s cheque book for paying his expenses and this has taken place after he transferred much of his assets to his wife’s account in case of any investigation. His assets stand at 20 million dinars ($53 m) and all were illegally generated. While he lives with his wife and children in Sarr, he also has a private house in Nabih Saleh island and frequents it with two of his British girl-friends who work in Gulf Air. The opposition calls for an immediate investigation into the practices of one of the most hated figures in Bahrain’s history. His continued presence in the intelligence department means that the reforms can be thwarted whenever he and other individuals like him are back in action. Bahrain Freedom Movement 12 April 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Recent appointments for activation of charter are a setback Despite the setback caused by the recent appointments (for the activation of the National Charter) announced by the Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the people are hoping that the reform programme will continue so that the rule of institutional law can be established. Many people view most of the recent appointees as either weak or have dishonourable past records. There are also fears that the government is planning to change the constitution through another committee that was formed last month for amending the constitution. The opposition hopes that the pledges of the Amir last February would not be forgotten. He had said that the Constitution is above the Charter and any amendments must be processed through the elected National Assembly. For this reason, the opposition calls for going to the polls sooner than 2004 so that these critical changes can properly be debated. The people of Bahrain are expressing their satisfaction with the closing down of two centres of prostitution that are owned and run by the torturer Adel Flaifel. The two prostitution centres are called “BJs” and “JJ Murphys” and both were constructed by the torturer using the money he extracted out of the families of political detainees and prisoners. He accumulated hundreds of thousands of dinars through blackmailing of citizens. The victims of torture hope to see this person brought before justice so that the reform programme can be founded on a more solid ground. More opposition figures are expected to return home this week. These include Dr. Abdul Hadi Khalaf and Sheikh Mohammed Ali Al-Mahfoodh. The opposition welcomes the return of all forcible exiles so that a new phase of openness and inclusiveness could be fostered. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) delivered an intervention on Bahrain last week before the 57th UN Commission on Human Rights. OMCT said “During numerous sessions of the Commission, OMCT noted grave violations of human rights in Bahrain. Today we would like to express our satisfaction at the measures taken in recent months. The national referendum, the abolition of the national security law and of the Security Court, the freeing of political prisoners and an amnesty for all prisoners in detention for crimes affecting national security are measures which go beyond mere formal reforms. The return of numerous exiles is proof of the genuine change that has taken place. OMCT hopes that this process will continue and that those guilty of crimes committed during the preceding period will be judged. Furthermore, OMCT would like to encourage the Bahraini authorities to intensify their co-operation with the various international mechanisms and in particular, with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.” The Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BSHR) participated in the UN session heralding a new and healthy practice whereby a Bahrain-based NGO could deliver a non-official view. However, the government’s delegation was headed by people who were associated with hands-on torturing of citizens in the past years. These faces cause pessimism rather than optimism. The opposition hopes that the Amir will replace these faces with fresh ones. Bahrain Freedom Movement 10 April 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
WASHINGTON, Apr 9, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — U.S. President George W. Bush will meet the Emir of Bahrain in Washington next month, the White House announced Monday. “The president will welcome Emir Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to Washington for a working visit on May 7,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
It will be the Emir’s first visit to the United States since Bush took office in January.
WASHINGTON, April 9 (Reuters) – Bahraini Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa will meet with President George W. Bush on May 7, a White House official said on Monday. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the Emir of Bahrain will see Bush during a working visit to Washington. Bush has been meeting leaders from the Middle East, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak over the past few weeks. Jordan’s King Abdullah meets Bush on Tuesday.
“The president looks forward to discussing bilateral and regional issues with Emir Hamad, including Gulf security and efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East,” Fleischer said in a statement.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President George W. Bush will meet next month with the emir of Bahrain, the White House announced Monday. Bush will hold a working visit with Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on May 7, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
Bush spoke with the emir by telephone on March 15. About a week later Bush called the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and congratulated him on the settlement of a longstanding quarrel with Bahrain over the ownership of several Gulf islands.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain on Saturday began conducting a nationwide census aimed at creating a blueprint for development of the tiny Gulf island, a Bahraini official said. More than 1,500 workers and volunteers are involved in the month-long exercise that will help government improve public services, raise the standard of living and help reduce unemployment, the census’ executive director, Sheik Ahmed bin Attiyattulla Al Khalifa said. “This will be the most intense and detailed census of its kind and we hope that the people will help us conduct it as planned,” Sheik Ahmed told The Associated Press. Bahrain conducted its first census in 1941. Since 1971, Bahrain has conducted census every 10 years. Previous censuses concentrated heavily on population growth and did not include questions covering various aspects of life, from the needs for schools and health centers to how many hours people spend watching TV or browsing the Internet. Those questions, including the ones related to smoking habits, will be part of the new census, Sheik Ahmed said. The April 7-May 6 house-to-house census will include both Bahrainis and expatriates. A two-day grace period will be given to those who failed to participate in the census, Sheik Ahmed said. The census will register how many people live in each dwelling, including their education and employment, age and their financial and social conditions, he said. Volunteers and workers gathering the data include government ministries and organizations, university students and job seekers. Bahrain’s 1991 census showed a population of 508,000, including 323,000 citizens and 184,000 expatriates. The population projection for 2001 is estimated at 716,150 people, the English-language Bahrain Tribune reported Saturday. am-hhr
Bahrain: BSHR meets NGOs and delegations in Geneva; Ashora-2001 welcomed by the people The delegation of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BSHR) met with the NGOs that supported the people of Bahrain during the past years of struggle. The NGOs were so happy to receive an independent delegation from Bahrain. The representative of Interfaith International, one of the organisations which supported the Bahraini people, said that he hope the promises of the Amir would soon be institutionalised so that the future of democracy can be assured. He noted that the Bahraini government’s insistence on some old practices and the sending to Geneva some members of the “old guard” are not conducive with the recent declarations and positive steps of the Amir. BSHR was also invited to join other organisations, world-wide, for commemorating the 26th June, the day chosen by the UN as the “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture”. In Bahrain, there are thousands of torture victims and the joining of BSHR in this campaign will be in line with promoting the concepts of human rights and the defence of victims of torture. The BSHR was invited to join this UN-led campaign by holding seminars, awareness workshops and displays, so that the Bahraini citizens can be part of the international network for supporting the victims of torture. In its special oral intervention at the 57th Commission on Human rights, Item 11, “Nord-Sud 21” said “Bahrain has been witnessing dramatic changes since HH The Amir in started his reform project in Oct.2000. This included the release of all political prisoners and detainees, the return of the political exiles, and granting them their civil rights. Women were granted equal political rights with men. Marginal freedom of assembly and expression was observed, where the civil society organisations are being revived and new organisations are licensed, the first of which The Bahraini human rights society . International human rights organisations are being invited to visit the country freely, the first of which Amnesty International (see AI report March 2001). HH The Amir repealed The State Security Law , which has been the main tool of the arbitrary detention for thousands of political opposition , and abolished The State Security Court, which has been used to incriminate political defendants for quarter of century. The country is in processes of political reform, which was started by the popular referendum on The National Action Charter, designed to restore the constitutional rule. We appreciate these positive steps and congratulate HH The Amir and the people of Bahrain. We hope that The State of Bahrain should proceed with the reform project in order to establish the constitutional monarchy on solid bases. This requires the following: 1-Implementing the Charter , such that the Constitution is reinstated. 2-To ratify the major covenants and conventions on human rights , such that the national legislation and law enforcement institutions are brought in line with that. 3- To ensure the right of political ,unionist, and NGO s, of association and free work. 4-To ensure the freedom of expression to reflect the diversity of the society. 5- To abolish all forms of discrimination . 6-To ensure free elections for the National Assembly , as soon as possible.” Inside Bahrain, the Ashora-2001 was commemorated in a new style and with fresh spirit. Both Sunni and Shia religious scholars led a campaign for donating blood to the hospitals. This new practice replaced the wrong and un-Islamic practices that penetrated sections of Muslims communities resulting in self-inflicted injuries. The civilised commemorations and the joining of the Sunni ulema are major steps in the modernisation programme of the Bahraini society. On the other hand, the opposition welcomed the instructions issued by the Amir to end the low-grade “tourist attractions”. The low-grade practice have turned Bahrain into a centre for imported prostitution. A tourist official said that the tourist industry will be directed to attracting families and will concentrate on high-grade tourism. In parallel with this announcement, an unconfirmed report stated that one of the discos owned and run by the torturer Adel Flaifel, called “BJs” was raided by a special unit belonging to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID). The torturer Flaifel established this prostitution centre four years ago by fraud and raised the capital by blackmailing families of prisoners who had to pay large sums of money to get their children released. Bahrain Freedom Movement 6 April 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Opposition figures vow to support the reform programme The Heir Apparent, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, announced on 2 April twelve names for a committee formed for implementing the principles of the National Charter. The names included two women lawyers as well as two ministers and the Amir’s economic advisor, Dr. Hassan Fakho. The committee appointments are valid for one year and its members will be responsible for making recommendations and suggesting policies to activate the charter. The opposition hopes that its views will be listened to so that the next phase can be established on sound basis. The annual processions of Ashura, commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed (SAW), marched through the country in massive numbers without recurrence of the problems of previous years. The people of Bahrain are witnessing a true change in the attitude of the government and this has been positively responded to by all sections of Bahrain society. A delegation representing the newly formed Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BSHR) will travel to Geneva this week. This will be the first visit of its kind when an independent NGO makes a trip from Bahrain to an international gathering representing non-governmental views. The delegation will participate in the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission. BSHR members hope that they will be allowed to raise the concerns of citizens from within the constitutional framework. Discussions amongst the various political tendencies inside the country continue with all sides striving to crystallise political programmes for the next phase. The members of the Committee for Popular Petition (CPP) deliberated the future of their joint effort and the majority agreed that the CPP should continue until the parliamentary elections. Thenceforward, a new formation should emerge to co-ordinate the activities of the alliance. In his Friday prayer speech on 31 March, Sheikh Al-Jamri stressed the importance of national unity and harmonisation of political views. He said that the successes of the nation are attributed to the co-ordination and approximation of views on most critical issues. He thanked Islah Society and it president, Sheikh Isa bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, for agreeing to form a Shia-Sunni committee to co-ordinate between the two main religious sects in Bahrain. He also called on all thinkers and activists to work together to develop plans for the next phase. Two more opposition figures are expected to return to Bahrain in the coming days. Dr. Abdul Hadi Khalaf will be returning on 10 April, while Dr. Yaquob Janahi is expected to return on 11 April. Several leading oppositionists returned home in the past weeks, including Dr. Saeed Shehabi and Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi. The opposition figures have vowed to support the programme of the Amir so that the reforms can be institutionalised. The opposition believes that institutionalising the reforms would guard against the return of dictatorship. Bahrain Freedom Movement 3 April 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
MANAMA, April 2 (Reuters) – A preliminary report appeared to remove technical failure as the cause of a Gulf Air crash last year, which killed all 143 people aboard, but the regional carrier said a final report would be issued in the summer. A factual report issued by the Bahrain Civil Aviation Affairs also said there was no evidence of communications problems between the crew and air traffic control before the Airbus A320 plunged into shallow waters off Bahrain airport after apparently approaching the runway at excessive speed. “In terms of the cause and circumstances surrounding the accident, Gulf Air will reserve further comment until the final report is made in the summer,” said a statement on the regional carrier’s website www.gulfairco.com. Investigators from Bahrain, Oman, France, the United States and planemaker Airbus Industrie are probing the crash last August of flight GF 072 from Cairo to Manama. “No evidence of pre-crash failure and no evidence of fire damage were observed on any of the recovered parts,” said the civil aviation report (www.bahrainairport.com/gf072factualinformation.htm). The report said everyone on board died on impact and recovered remains included a foetus that appeared to have been delivered during the crash. It said there was no evidence that the pilot or the co-pilot were under the influence of drugs and that voice transcripts indicated that communications with traffic control were clear and normal with no indication of any emergency. The report said the flight had been cleared to approach the runway when suddenly the crew requested a left hand orbit which was approved. It said the crew initiated a missed approach and then the aircraft crossed the runway with a shallow climb. “The master warning (for flaps-overspeed) sounded. GF-072 entered into a descent. Within a few seconds a ground proximity warning system’s warning sounded, that lasted (for about nine second) until impact,” it added. Gulf Air said in September it would pay $25,000 for each adult victim and $15,000 for each child under the age of 18. A Bahraini government committee has said it would make a cash grant of 10,000 Bahraini dinars ($26,500) for each adult Bahraini victim and 7,000 dirhams for each son or daughter. Gulf Air, which operates a fleet of around 32 aircraft, is equally owned by the governments of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Abu Dhabi emirate in the United Arab Emirates.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s crown prince will head a 12-member committee assigned to put into action a charter that would give this tiny Gulf state its first elected parliament in more than 25 years, the official Gulf News Agency said. The crown prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, has chosen Transportation Minister Sheik Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa; the emir’s economic advisor, Hassan Fakhro; and two women lawyers among other committee members representing various sectors, the agency said. The committee will be responsible for making recommendations and suggesting policies necessary to activate the articles of charter this month, a Bahraini official said earlier on customary condition of anonymity. Committee members are appointed for a year. The committee was formed under an edict Monday by the island’s Prime Minister Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the agency added. Its establishment had first been reported Sunday. An overwhelming 98.4 percent of voters approved a national charter in the Feb. 14-15 referendum, which, in addition to providing for a new parliament, calls for allowing women to vote and run for office — a novelty among the Gulf Arab states — and promises an independent judiciary and a body to investigate complaints from the public. Since December 1994, Bahrain has experienced a wave of political dissent led by the Shiite Muslims community campaigning for political and social reforms. More than 40 people died in a violent Shiite campaign for reform. Unrest has subsided since Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa came to power, succeeding his late father in 1999. Sheik Hamad has chosen the path of reform, commissioning the drafting of the charter and pardoning more than 1,000 political prisoners and detainees. The Sunni ruler has also showed leniency toward the Shiite community which forms a slight majority of the islands 400,000 citizens.
The committee overseeing the charter is split equally between Sunnis and Shiites. Among the prominent Shiites is a junior Cabinet minister, Jawad al-Arayyed.
Editorial – April 2001 Bahrain: Light at the end of the tunnel The ruling passed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last month (16 March) on the border dispute between Bahrain and Qatar received a world-wide welcome. It has ended a 62-year old feud that had wrecked the relations between two neighbouring countries, which have a lot in common. It has also paved the way for a new phase of co-operation between Doha and Manama, especially if the current warm feelings continue. Much is now being said about the possibility of building the “fraternity” linking Bahrain with the Qatar peninsula. If this project materialises it will signify a strong step forward not only to the two countries but to the whole Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). The ICJ took more than seven months to issue its verdict in the most lengthy and complicated case ever brought to its jurisdiction. The legal teams of the two countries spent two weeks last summer to present their arguments in front of the panel of judges consisting of 17, two of whom were selected by the two countries to represent them. There were thousands of documents and maps that were presented to the Court. The two sides took the issue in a serious manner especially after the most dangerous incident in 1986 when the Qatari troops landed at the Facht Al Dibel coral reef and arrested 29 workers. They were engaged in building a marine post for the Bahraini government. If it were not for the immediate Saudi intervention, the consequences of that incident would have been incalculable. The case passed through phases of ups and downs until the GCC summit in Doha in 1990. Qatar then insisted that the summit debated the issue or it would take it to the international arbitration. Bahrain reluctantly agreed to the proposal. The proposal gave three years for mediation after which the case would go to The Hague if no solution were reached. As expected, the Saudis failed to achieve a breakthrough although they succeeded in containing the crisis. No details of the various proposals put to the two parties were issued, and it was in 1994 when Qatar insisted on taking the case to the ICJ. The Court ruled that it was within its jurisdiction to look into the case and requested that the two countries presented their legal documents within a specified time. When the ICJ held its proceedings last year, it was anticipated that the case would come to an end sooner or later, but no one expected an easy way out. As it happened the final solution was unanimously accepted by the two countries. It almost upheld the status quo by approving Bahrain’s sovereignty over the Hewar islands, the central contentious issue. Zabara, an ancient town within the Qatar peninsula once occupied by the Al Khalifa of Bahrain was given to Qatar in addition to the islands of Facht Al Dibel, Jenan and Had Jenan. Bahrain was given sovereignty over the island of Jarada. What is also significant was the demarcation of the territorial waters of the two countries. The Court had to make compromises on text book rules in order to reach an acceptable solution to the sea borders and the continental shelf. It did not agree with Bahrain’s demand to include the pearl banks to the North of Qatar within its territorial waters. Furthermore, it has transpired that the ICJ effectively endorsed the 1939 ruling by Britain that gave Hawar island to Bahrain. It said that since the ruling Qatar could not provide convincing evidence that it ever exercised sovereignty over the island. The end result was a compromise solution that satisfied both parties. The immediate reaction was an acceptance by Bahrain followed by a Qatari approval. It seems that, for the time being, this intractable problem has been solved. The ICJ verdict has created grounds for optimism. The two countries have softened their language and expressed hope that more co-operation would follow. How serious are those promises is not yet clear, but the general climate in both capitals is now of optimism. The Bahraini reform programme announced recently by the Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, on 5 February appears to be genuine, despite attempts by the old guards to derail it. Incidents of intimidation by the security forces are being reported, while patrols by these forces have continued in various parts of the country. This has not, however, affected the people enthusiasm for the reforms. They believe that supporting the Amir is tantamount to weakening the resolve of the anti-reform elements. People are now waiting for the upholding of the rule of law. So far, the country has been ruled by Amiri decrees, which, on their own, could not establish a modern state or a democratic society. The longer the Amir waits before putting his reforms in legal forms the stronger will his opponents become. Qatar, on the hand, has recently announced that it was considering electing a parliament within 18 months. That was a welcome development in a region that has remained reluctant to practice democracy. A further indication that forces of change are now sweeping through the Gulf is the announcement that a Gulf Commission for Human Rights was being considered by the GCC ministers of Justice who held a meeting in Riyadh for that purpose. If such a committee is established it will be one more positive step towards a more open governance in the Gulf. The most important point for the time being is the abrupt end of hostilities between Qatar and Bahrain. That could be consolidated through several means. Economic integration and co-operation can lead to a more stable environment. Bahrain’s Amir urgently needs to create job opportunities for the unemployed in Bahrain. The Qataris can provide job opportunities. Bahrain’s Amir must deliver on his promises if his political reforms are to continue. Qatar, on the hand, is keen to be seen moving in a democratic direction in line with its media openness. If theses wishes are fulfilled, the Gulf may has started the long march to democracy. Saudi Arabia, the largest of the GCC countries, is keen to be seen in approval of the positive changes in the region. It is unlikely that it will impede moves towards more openness. In fact, its media has recently started to open up for ideas, views, and figures that have hitherto been vetoed. The wind of change has convinced the ageing leaderships in the GCC states that democratic practices may not necessarily threaten their grip on power. On the contrary, such steps may lead to a more stable political environment. The internal threat is being seen as the more serious especially in recent years when both Iraq and Iran became less interested or capable in fomenting troubles in their neighbourhood. Democratic reforms and respect of human rights may now become nearer to reality. It is certainly a hopeful sign. Bahrain Freedom Movement April 2001
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