Main English

May 2001

Bahrain: Fulfilment of trade unionists’ aspirations The opposition welcomed the latest step taken by the Amir in relation to allowing workers to form trade unions. This demand was raised by Bahrainis since 1938 but has never been fully realised. The Amir gave the green light for upgrading the General Committee of Bahrain Workers (GCBW) to a national trade union. The Amir confirmed this most appreciated step after a meeting with the GCBW members on 28 May. The International Labour Union did not recognise the GCBW because it lacked the powers and structure of a trade union. The labour movement has been demanding that the GCBW be allowed to form a true union and that such a union should have the scope of protecting all workers and employees in the private and public sectors.  The Amir had already allowed the formation of a committee representing the unemployed to act as a watch-dog over the performance of the labour ministry in relation to finding jobs for more than 20,000 citizens. About 10,000 jobless were registered for receiving temporary benefits of 70 and 100 Bahraini dinars. The labour minister met with the charity funds (non-governmental social funds for helping the poor) to join the government in supporting the unemployed. This is something the charity funds are already doing, but the size of the problem requires a State-supported comprehensive programme. Another step to be appreciated by the people is the closure of a night-club that was run by a member of the intelligence service despite the fact that it violated all the law of the land. The nigh-club “J J Murphys Irish Corner” was officially closed down earlier in the year, but the local press said on 29 May that this place has now closed for good. The Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Watan, published on 28 May a short interview with Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri, who intends to visit Bahrain on 7 June for 2 weeks. Dr. Al-Jamri, who has not been able to visit Bahrain since 1987, said he intends to meet with and listen to people rather than indulge in the politics of the past. The reforms initiated by the Amir and his responsiveness to the aspirations of the Bahraini people deserve to be supported so that a better future for Bahrain can be established on the basis of democracy and human rights. Bahrain Freedom Movement 29 May 2001 

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Bahrain: Policy of forcible exile re-started Thursday 24 May marks the first day when the policy of forcible deportation was re-started by the government of Bahrain. The first case of forcible exile in the era of the National Charter came as a blow to the hopes of most Bahrainis that they had started a new era of reconciliation and reforms. Mr. Yasser Ahmed Ali was forcibly put on a plane bound to Iran and expelled from his homeland on 24 May. Mr. Ali (Bahraini Passport NO 268690) had earlier been forcibly exiled together with his family in 1984. He returned to his country on 23 May but instead of being received as a citizen, the authorities detained him for one night and then forcibly deported him the next day. This case heralds a return to the past and indicates that what Bahrain was experiencing the past 3 months may only be a temporary one.  The government needed the support of the people of Bahrain in the past months. Bahrain was facing many challenges and the government felt it needed to come nearer to the people. Hence all the forces of opposition and the general public supported the drive of the Amir for reforms. However, there are several signs that the situation may not continue to be a rosy one. On 24 May, Al-Ayyam newspaper published an editorial that is reminiscent of the ones it used to publish at the peak of the crisis in 1996. It used the same language of insults and low-level terms which are exactly what it used to do in the past years. While the people are determined to support all initiatives for reforming the medieval political system, they would also question the seriousness of reforms that allow forcible exile to be restarted and that allow low-level language and insults to be used in the official media.  The Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Avebury, will be visiting Bahrain in the period between 9 to 15 June. During this period he will be meeting with NGOs and officials to assess the recent changes in the field of human rights.  The Bahraini popular delegation comprising of Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain, Mr. Hassan Mushaimaa, Sheikh Ali Salman and Sheikh Abdul Nabi Ali Al-Durazi, is concluding a visit to Kuwait. Both Sheikh Salman and Sheikh Al-Durazi were initially detained and one of them had been deported back to Bahrain. However, the Kuwaiti authorities realised the grave mistake it made and then allowed the delegation to back in Kuwait.  A petition signed by about 10,000 Bahraini citizens is calling on the US Government to end its bias against the Palestinians. The petition is expected to be handed to the US Ambassador in the Bahraini capital, Manama.  Bahrain Freedom Movement 25 May 2001  Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089

By CHRIS ROBERTS Associated Press Writer (25 May 2001) EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Bahraini princess who sought U.S. asylum after escaping her own country to marry a U.S. Marine was made a lawful permanent resident Thursday. The Immigration and Naturalization Service granted immigrant status to Meriam Al-Khalifa Johnson because she is married to a U.S. citizen. Her husband, Jason Johnson, filed the petition Nov. 3. Al-Khalifa Johnson had asked for asylum on the grounds she would be persecuted at home for marrying a non-Muslim. She was given a green card at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez and entered the United States through El Paso on Thursday afternoon, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the INS in San Diego. Johnson was a Marine private assigned to a security unit in Manama, the Bahraini capital, when he met Al-Khalifa at a mall in the Bahraini capital of Manama. Johnson has since been discharged from the Marines on his own request. Al-Khalifa Johnson is one of four daughters of Sheik Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, a distant relative of Bahrain’s ruler Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. Johnson forged U.S. military documents to allow her to fly to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on a commercial airplane. Immigration officials in Chicago discovered the ruse. On Nov. 5, 1999, the INS started removal proceedings against Al-Khalifa Johnson. A U.S. immigration judge ruled in July 2000 that she must face charges of illegally entering the United States in a case that could cause her to be deported. On March 30, 2000, after the couple moved to San Diego County, the case was transferred to the San Diego INS district where her immigration removal proceedings are still pending. Meanwhile, the immigrant visa request filed by Johnson in November was approved by the San Diego INS district office. The U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez approved Al-Khalifa Johnson’s application for a permanent resident visa. Four media organizations had sought to gain access to the INS hearings in San Diego. A federal judge in San Diego ruled in November that the INS could close the proceedings but released some documents in the case. The move to close the hearings was welcomed by her lawyer, Jan Bejar, who said at the time: “There are serious issues of security. My client has a reason to be fearful.”


SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – The Bahraini princess who fled her country with a U.S. Marine was granted permanent residency in the United States Thursday after arguing she would be persecuted if she returned, her lawyer said. Meriam Al-Khalifa arrived in the United States about a year and a half ago with Jason Johnson, then a Marine stationed in Bahrain, where she is related to the royal family. The couple’s love affair and flight from the Gulf country was the subject of a TV movie. They have since married. The princess sought asylum in the U.S., claiming that she feared for her safety because she had violated strict royal tradition by dating a non-Muslim. Bejar said he and U.S. immigration officials negotiated the arrangement, which was granted Thursday morning. “She continues to be an alien but can live permanently in the United States,” said her lawyer, Jan Bejar. “She was extremely happy. I think she has found peace finally.” Bejar added that the princess has no desire to return to Bahrain. Johnson has received an early discharge from the Marines and the couple is living somewhere on the West Coast.

Bahrain: A citizen languishes in a detention cell, while others are given free passports One of the citizens who had been forcibly deported in 1984 returned to Bahrain on 23 May only to be detained in the Airport. Yasser Ahmed Ali (Bahraini Passport No. 268690) was forcibly exiled to Iran together with his family in 1984. After hearing the statements of the Amir that the government will not discriminate amongst Bahrainis on ethnic or religious basis, he many citizens returned home. However, Mr. Ali is now in the detention cell of the Airport without any reason.  This and other cases are proving that the government of Bahrain has not yet ceased its discriminatory policy. While Bahrainis suffer, the government is continuing its programme for changing the demography of Bahrain by distributing free Bahraini passports on Saudis, Yemenis, Syrians and many other people of different nationalities. These people are given the Bahraini citizenship as a second one and many of them are using it for selfish purposes.  It is not clear whether these violations and dictatorial measures are implemented with or without the knowledge of the Amir. The Amir met with members of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights on 22 May and declared his support for their activities. This is a positive step that can not be squared with the continuing malpractice.  Nine thousand unemployed citizens will start receiving benefits (poverty wages) as from next Saturday. Hover, some nine to ten thousands other citizens have complained that they had been denied this entitlement. A committee representing the extra thousands, whom the labour ministry says that they were not registered prior to last April, will be meeting with the ministry to demand their inclusion in this temporary benefits scheme. Thousands of students are to benefit from another positive Amiri decree lowering the fees for university. This step was welcomed by the people, since most Bahrainis were suffering exclusion from university education as a result of the high level of fees. The people aspire for a treatment similar to other Gulf citizens who have better opportunities to enter universities.  Coinciding with the Birthday of Prophet Mohammed (SAW), a week-long programme of cultural seminars, the first of its kind, will start in Bahrain on 5 June. The programme is jointly organised by Sheikh Al-Jamri and Sheikh Isa bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the president of Islah Society. The first seminar will be organised in Bani Jamra and speakers will focus on the social cohesion and the factors that bring Bahrain society together. A new NGO will be formed under the name of “National Democratic Action Society” and is expected to incorporate the nationalist-liberal tendency which had proposed a political programme for the forthcoming parliamentary life in Bahrain.  Bahrain Freedom Movement 24 May 2001  Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089

23 May

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Bahrain, an official report said Wednesday. The two countries issued a joint communique Wednesday on forming relations at an ambassadorial level, said the North’s foreign news outlet, KCNA, which was monitored in Seoul. North Korea opened relations with 10 other countries this year: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain. Experts say the reclusive, hard-line communist North hopes to use new ties to obtain food and other aid. Since 1995, North Korea has depended on outside aid to feed its 22 million people, thousands of whom have starved to death. Last week, the European Commission said it will establish diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Seoul officials say that reclusive North Korea’s ultimate diplomatic goal is to open ties with the United States in an effort to win much needed foreign investment. But U.S. President George W. Bush suspended talks with the North pending a policy review.

KUWAIT CITY, May 22, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Military chiefs of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states met in the Saudi capital of Riyadh Tuesday to discuss ways to boost military cooperation, the Kuwait News Agency reported. During the two-day meeting, chiefs of staff of the Gulf Arab states will discuss how to further enhance military cooperation among armed forces in the GCC member states, said Saudi chief of staff Saleh Al-Muhia. The gathering will also follow up the implementation of a GCC security and communication network and discuss matters concerning the expansion of their joint forces, he added. Leaders of the GCC states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — signed a joint defense pact last December on boosting a Saudi-based GCC rapid deployment force, and establishing an early warning system as well as a sophisticated communication network.

Under the agreement, the GCC joint defense forces, called “the Peninsula Shield” force, were created in 1986 and will be enlarged from 5,000 to 22,000 in a bid to deter potential attacks.

MANAMA, May 21 (Reuters) – A Bangladeshi man was killed and at least 22 people injured when a blast ripped through an empty cafe in Bahrain on Monday, police and witnesses said. A government official said the blast which jolted Jidhaff village was probably caused by a gas leak. He said the injured were 14 Bahrainis, five Indians and three Bangladeshis. Thousands of foreigners are employed in the Gulf Arab state. Jidhaff  … is about seven km (4 miles) west of the capital Manama. Residents said the casualties were walking in the street when the explosion occurred. They were rushed to hospital and some were in serious condition, a policeman said. The cafe had been closed for the day.


MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A Bangladeshi man was killed and 22 others, including a Bahraini girl, were injured in an explosion Monday at a restaurant south of the capital, an Information Ministry official said. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a gas leak probably caused the blast at 8:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) in the Jidhafs market place, about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) south of Manama. The explosion at the Bu Jassim restaurant sent glass and furniture flying in the front of the shattered building. The restaurant had closed an hour before the explosion, and the victims were all passers-by and people in nearby shops. The official said a Bangladeshi man had died of wounds, and 14 Bahrains, five Indians and three other Bangladeshi were treated at a hospital. Some suffered severe injuries, he said. Police had cordoned off the area and investigators were on the scene taking pictures and filming the destroyed restaurant. Witnesses, who did not want to be identified, said the explosion was “deafening” and that many people were injured because of flying debris from the blast. “We had closed early for the day, because we were expecting Shiite Muslim mourning processions,” said restaurant manager Abdulmajid Ebrahim, 36, of Kerala, India.

“I couldn’t believe when I heard the bad news,” Ebrahim said, estimating the losses from the incident would come up to about 6,000 dinars (dlrs 15,915). On Monday, Bahrain’s Shiite Muslims marked the death of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. am-hhr 

Bahrain: Opposition personalities intimidated by the Kuwaiti authorities The Kuwaiti authorities celebrated the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Gulf Co-operation Council by arresting and deporting prominent Bahraini opposition figures. A delegation comprising Sheikh Ali Salman, Sheikh Abdul Nabi Ali, Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain and Mr. Hassan Mushaimaa travelled to Kuwait today (20 May) to meet with Kuwaiti parliamentarians and to interact with the Kuwaiti intellectuals. The visit was organised following several visits by Kuwaiti dignitaries who invited the Bahraini personalities to visit Kuwait.  Upon the arrival of the delegation, the Kuwaiti authorities arrested Sheikh Abdul Nabi Ali and deported him back to Bahrain. The other members protested and decided to meet with Kuwaiti parliamentarians to inform them and then leave Kuwait. However, a group of Kuwaiti security men encircled the remaining Bahraini personalities and arrested Sheikh Ali Salman in the most gross manner. He was handcuffed and taken away before the eyes of his friends.  The Kuwaiti authorities have been waging one of the most repressive campaigns against Bahrainis in the past years. Bahrainis were badly treated by the Kuwaiti authorities who have forgotten the hospitality of the Bahraini people during their ordeal in 1990-91. Instead of repaying the Bahraini hospitality, members of the Bahraini community were ill-treated, imprisoned and tortured in the past years. The arrest of two leading figures of the Bahraini opposition delegation who had been involved in reconciling the situation in Bahrain is yet another indication of the extent of disregard to all values recognised by humankind. The Kuwaitis are continuing to arrest and deport Bahrainis on the basis of the black-lists passed to them in the past years by the Bahraini authorities under the GCC security arrangements. . Sheikh Ali Salman was released after two hours of detention. However, the Bahraini delegation protested against this gross behaviour and demanded that the Kuwaiti authorities apologise, return back Sheikh Abdul Nabi Ali (who had already been deported back to Bahrain) or that they would leave Kuwait to inform the world of the improper and backward practices of the Kuwaiti government. Bahrain Freedom Movement 20 May 2001  Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089

Statement by Lord Avebury Re: Visit to Bahrain, 9th June 2001 I have noted carefully the statement by the Minister for Amiri Court Affairs, reported in the Bahrain Tribune of May 18, 2001, on the principles that must be observed in discussing national issues. I am visiting Bahrain from June 9-15, and I have been invited to participate in several public meetings during my stay. However, I entirely agree that it is for the people of Bahrain to decide how they should be governed, and that any suggestion of dictation by foreigners is unacceptable. In the national debate, it may be useful, however, to look at the steps which are being taken towards better governance elsewhere in the world.

Having visited some 50 countries in every part of the world in the course of my work as a member of both Houses of Parliament over the last 40 years, I recognise the need for sensitivity when speaking as a guest, as well as the restrictions on freedom of expression which are allowed by international law.

During my visit to Bahrain, I have no intention of departing from the laws of the land, or to dwell on sensitive issues. I have been looking forward to this visit for several years and I am delighted to be coming at a time when HH the Amir has introduced major initiatives for political and constitutional reform. I look forward to learning more about these plans, and without seeking to interfere, to explore ways of promoting exchanges of information between out two countries on democracy and human rights, both official and non-governmental. Lord Avebury Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group United Kingdom Tel: 020 7274 4617

May 18, 2001


Bahrain Tribune, 18 May 2001 ‘National issues not to be debated by foreigners’

His Highness the Amir, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, is keen to ensure that democracy is practised appropriately in the country and the freedom of speech enjoyed by all citizens is preserved within the principles of the Constitution and the values of the National Charter, said the Minister of State for Amiri Court Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, yesterday. Democracy and the freedom of speech are considered the main achievements that have helped establish Bahrain’s reputation among various countries, he said, speaking on the directives of HH the Amir. HH the Amir set out the principles that have to be adhered to by public forums when discussing national issues in order to preserve the process of nation-building and “to  work collectively to formulate and achieve our goals in the interest of everyone.”

The guidelines were issued after HH the Amir noticed certain instances where the principles and spirit of the National Charter had been transgressed at some forums. The minister said that HH the Amir, in his quest to maintain the national process, had directed that the following principles be followed:

* The dialogue must be within the context of the National Charter and should not depart from its principles. Our national task should be jointly implemented to avoid any diversion and to preserve the spirit of national consensus. Everyone should benefit    from the lessons of the past and should avoid those elements that obstruct our new approach aimed at furthering the future of the nation and the next generation within the framework of development and stability as well as responsible and constructive democracy. Everyone should be accountable in preserving this approach while serving the nation.

*  Every citizen has the freedom to express his or her views, as has been appreciated by the world. However, the issue of inviting foreign personalities to debate our national affairs is an interference which we do not accept and represents a matter that we do not agree with. Our nation is not a ward of any country and we will not accept that system during our era of independence and liberty.

*  All forums of dialogue should be based on practical issues that serve the nation and the citizen and should be aimed at progressing and not looking backward.

“With God’s blessings, and with our will and determination, we have overcome all the adversaries of the past that do not serve the interests of the nation, while today we work to achieve the plans of comprehensive development with emphasis on the democratic process that has come to meet the needs of the citizens and to raise their living standards while also achieving higher levels of progress,” HH the Amir said.

“This calls for intensifying our efforts and joining hands, away from animosity, and based on the fact that we all under one umbrella. In our capacity as the chief captain of this nation, we shall work to preserve its status and its role without any discrimination. I have the conviction that national awareness is the guarantee to formulate all these considerations in our quest to maintain our national process which is targeted by all of us.”

Bahrain: Dictatorial policies and practices resurface  The government-controlled media machine was back in action falsifying matters. On 10 May, the French news-agency quoted the pro-democracy figure, Mr. Ali Rabea, saying that the recruitment policy of both the interior and defence ministries contravene the Constitution of Bahrain because they discriminate against a section of Bahrain society. Then on 12 May, the Gulf New Agency published a denial of the statement on behalf of Ali Rabea. The latter protested against the publication of denial on his behalf saying that he stood by what he said to AFP and that all his quotes are video-taped and could not be falsified by the government-media. It is worth noting that the Gulf News Agency is under the direct control and influence of the new information minister, Mr. Nabil Al-Hamar.  Another pro-democracy personality, Dr. Abdulhadi Khalaf, was interviewed by Al-Ayyam newspaper. However, the government did not like what he said in the interview and banned its publication.  On the hand, it is reported that the intelligence department has intensified its activities aimed at intimidating political and human rights activists. The Public Relations Officer of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BSHR), Mr. Nabeel Rajab, is being pursued by three cars belonging to the intelligence department. The cars’ registration numbers are 132046, 169327 and 55014. These cars follow Mr. Rajab wherever he goes. The practice of chasing activists was one of the common features of Bahrain and people thought that after voting for the national charter last February that such inhumane activities would stop. More than 40 clubs are to be closed down and merged with each other as part of a top-down policy. The social and sports clubs come under the control of the son of the interior minister. For many years, the government wanted to force-merge the clubs without proper consultation and for no obvious strategy. It seems that the government now feels it can change all the infrastructure of Bahrain without referring to the people concerned. A directive was issued and implemented immediately as part of a muscle show. The members of the clubs were told that a new managerial structure would be installed over their affairs.  Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group is expected to visit Bahrain between 9 and 15 June. Lord Avebury was invited by the newly formed Bahrain Society for Human Rights as well as leading pro-democracy figures to visit Bahrain. Lord Avebury had been scheduled to visit Bahrain in November 1994 and January 1995. Both of those visits were cancelled by the government.  Bahrain Freedom Movement 15 May 2001 

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CAIRO, May 15 (Reuters) – Gulf Air said on Tuesday it had agreed with its insurers to pay $125,000 in compensation for each adult and $75,000 for each child killed in last year’s Gulf Air crash in which all 143 people on board died. But Gulf Air Managing Director Ibrahim Abdullah al-Hammar told reporters at Cairo airport that the payments had been halted at the request of the Egyptian government, which he said was demanding equal compensation for adults and minors. Hammar, who is also undersecretary for civil aviation at Bahrain’s Communication Ministry, said Gulf Air was complying with European conventions in differentiating between adults and minors. He said he would meet Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Obeid on Wednesday to discuss the issue. Gulf Air paid $25,000 dollars per adult and $15,000 per child in initial compensation after the crash, Hammar said.

The Gulf Air Airbus A320 plunged into shallow waters off Bahrain airport in August after making several attempts to land.

15 May MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A Bahrain appeals court on Tuesday once again adjourned the hearing of a Briton sentenced to 15 years in jail for murdering a 31-year-old American. Richard Mechan, 35, of Gloucester, was found guilty and sentenced last July for stabbing and killing Marshall Earl Emmons, 31, from Tucson, Ariz. The High Criminal Court rejected defense pleas that the crime was committed in self-defense. The High Court of Appeals adjourned the case until June 5 after Mechan’s new Bahraini lawyer, Taimur Karimi, failed to turn up. This was the third time Mechan’s lawyer did not show up in court. During the last hearing May 5, Mechan agreed to a court offer to replace his previous lawyer, Mohammed Ahmed, with Karimi. Ahmed had failed to appear on two hearings. “I think the newly appointed defense lawyer needs some time to study the whole file before representing him (Mechan) in court,” said the British Embassy’s Vice Consul Gary Fisher. In lawyer’s absence, Mechan himself submitted papers related to his claim that he acted in self-defense, Fisher said without elaborating. A copy of the defense claims was handed to the public prosecutor, Hamid Habib. He said he would study them to see if the prosecution needs to respond. But Habib said he doubted the new documents could turn the case in favor of the defense. “We have a very strong case… We doubt that he (Mechan) will go free,” Habib said. Manslaughter convictions normally carry a seven-year prison sentence. Mechan received a stiffer penalty because he was under the influence of alcohol, his former lawyer said earlier. Emmons, who worked and lived in Saudi Arabia, reportedly died on Jan 6 after being stabbed in the back and head during a fight. He was found near a pool at a housing compound in Bar-Bar, a village just southwest of the capital, Manama.

Mechan came to Bahrain on a brief visit from Saudi Arabia. am-hhr 

Nairobi, May 15, 2001 (UN Integrated Regional Information Network/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX)– A Bahrain court has accepted a plea of insanity from an Ethiopian woman charged with murdering her mistress, the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said. ENA quoted the Ethiopian foreign ministry as saying that the court had agreed to allow the health of defendant Yeshiwork Desta to be assessed by a psychiatrist. The court had previously rejected the plea of insanity after two doctors said her health status was “stable”, but Yeshiwork’s defence lawyer argued that the doctors had failed to take her psychiatric wellbeing adequately into account. The Ethiopian embassy in Kuwait has requested to be allowed to take part in the selection of the psychiatrists, and to attend her examination. The court was adjourned until 22 May, ENA said. The Ethipian government and the Ethiopian diaspora has been active in campaigning for the woman, who was reportedly abused by her employee.

MANAMA, May 14 (Reuters) – Gulf Arab leaders gathered in Bahrain on Monday to coordinate policies amid calls by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for them to open their economies and lure more foreign investment. Officials said there was no agenda for the “consultative” summit of leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). But they expected the one-day meeting to be dominated by the bloody seven-month Palestinian uprising against Israel and steps needed to unify the six members’ economies. “There will be no agenda or official opening of the summit. There will also be no statement issued after the meeting,” one official told Reuters. GCC Secretary-General Jameel al-Hujailan said the leaders were free to exchange views on any regional or international issue. It is the third consultative meeting for the GCC leaders since they agreed to hold a bi-annual summit in 1999. The GCC was set up in 1981 by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to protect the states from the 1980-1988 Gulf War between their powerful neighbours Iraq and Iran. The six sit on more than half of the world’s oil reserves. IMF URGES MORE REFORMS The IMF has urged the GCC states to eliminate subsidies and open their economies to foreign investments to meet the growing challenge of creating new jobs for their nationals. The call came during a rare meeting between IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler and Gulf Arab finance ministers and central bank governors in Bahrain on Saturday. “I do think that the region has to attract even more foreign direct investment, and (it) can do this… (by) first demonstrating that (it) is politically stable,” Koehler said after the meeting. Leaders of Gulf Arab states approved at a summit in Manama in December 2000 steps to issue a unified currency. They also agreed the U.S. dollar would be the common denominator for the planned single currency. Currencies of all GCC states, with the exception of Kuwait, are pegged to the U.S. dollar, in which their crude oil exports, their main source of revenue, is traded. Kuwait’s dinar is currently linked to a basket of currencies. In 1999, GCC leaders agreed to unify their customs tariffs at between 5.5 percent and 7.5 percent by March 2005.

The move to create common tariffs is part of a wider plan by the GCC for a regional currency and a unified trade zone, and is designed to speed up free trade talks with the region’s biggest trading partner, the European Union.

Bahrain: Unaccountable and non-transparent governance condemned The people of Bahrain are becoming increasingly concerned as a result of the wrong-headed and secret governmental programme for granting free Bahrain citizenship to tens of thousands of people. The programme runs counter to the pledges made by the Amir that Bahrain will be run through a transparent and accountable process. The government wants to change the demography of the country by granting Bahraini passports to Saudis, Yemenis and other people belonging to 24 countries. Many Saudis are utilising the opportunity of acquiring a second citizenship.  Many scandals are surfacing every day. It was reported that some Saudis are using the Bahraini passports to travel to Bangkok while their Saudi passports are to be used for their normal lives. Yemenis are flocking in thousands to Bahrain International Airport and to the causeway linking Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. The BFM received enquiries from Yemenis requesting the “form” to be filled for gaining the Bahraini passport. One person sent an email (seemingly thinking the BFM is a government department) saying “I understand that Bahrain is granting Yemenis passports without difficulties. Can you please send me the form to fill in”!  While the people are not against granting non-Bahrainis the Bahraini citizenship within a transparent and legal due process, they are alarmed at the way the secret programme is being processed. Some quarters within the regime still feel insecure and do not feel part of the society. For this reason, they are pushing their luck by granting free and double-citizenship to certain types of people.  At the same time, the government is refusing to restore the citizenship of those people who were forcibly deported to Iran in 1980. Several thousands are denied their natural rights while many thousands are being given free passports over and above their original citizenship. This policy has been condemned by all sections of Bahrain society, and no official has been brave enough to answer the questions raised by the citizens. The government is also racing against time by rearranging many aspects of the law. The Public Prosecutor office will be moved from the interior ministry to the justice ministry . This is a positive step. However, the legal profession has been demanding that the office must be linked to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). The SJC was formed last year after 27 years ago absence. But its powers are under the authority of the justice minister. This is in contravention of the Constitution. The SJC has also issued a Civil Code and will start implementing it without proper review by the elected National Assembly due to resume in 2004. All these measures are contrary to the pledges of transparency and accountability. Bahrain Freedom Movement  12 May 2001  Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Ministers are yet to acknowledge the true scale of unemployment Jobless Bahrainis increased their pressure on the government as part of their attempt to secure employment. Up until a week ago the labour ministry had been focussing its efforts on public relations. But the picketing of hundreds of Bahrainis inside the ministry and the intervention of the Amir forced the ministry to start addressing the problem seriously. The government recognized the right of the picketers and started a dialogue with a committee representing them. The committee has been meeting with the ministry’s officials and is organizing several public functions whereby the minister of labour faces the public to answer questions. Both the committee and leading opposition figures have called on the people to appreciate the Amir’s recognition of the jobless issue and for recognizing a committee to represent the jobless. On 6 May, some 80 female citizens picketed in front of the education ministry demanding to meet the “military” minister, Mohammed Jasim Al-Ghatam. Instead, a ministry official met with the citizens and the latter submitted a petition signed by 87 female citizens who were trained to become teachers but had not been able to secure employment. The citizens stated to the officials that they received intimidation remarks whenever they applied for jobs. Another group of citizens was also picketing in front of the health ministry demanding to be employed as they posses all the needed qualifications. One of the problems of the government is that it refuses to acknowledge the true scale of the problem. The labour minister still insists that unemployment rate is 3% or less, while economists say that it is between 10-20%. At the same time, the ministry of labour continues to allow importation of foreign jobless people. These are called “free visa” whereby influential business people import jobless persons from the Indian Sub-continent and then dump them in the local market in return for receiving commissions when the foreign workers find jobs. This new form of slavery continues to be practiced in Bahrain. Foreign labour represents more than 60% of the total work force in Bahrain A new non-governmental organization was formed in Bahrain under the chairmanship of the leading personality, Mr. Jasim Fakhro. The new NGO aims to resist naturalization with the Israelis and to combine its efforts with similar organizations in the Gulf and the Arab world. At the same time, the Amir ended his visit to France and traveled to the US to meet President George W. Bush. Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet. On 28 October 1991, Bahrain signed a ten-year defense cooperation agreement with the United States, allowing the US access to Bahraini bases and the prepositioning of munitions. In June 1995, the US established a new Fifth Fleet to command the US forces in the Gulf. The fleet comprises about 15 worships, including two nuclear-powered submarines and an aircraft carrier with about 70 war-planes and 10,000 sailors and marines aboard. The US transferred excess defense equipment to Bahrain including a Hawk air defense battery and an FFG-7 Perry-class frigate. The visit of the Amir to the US will conclude discussions regarding the renewal of the 10-year defense agreement. Many of the Bahraini oppositionists criticize the US administration for its lack of diplomatic strategy in the Gulf. In fact the only strategy is a military one that is run by the Department of Defense, which takes decisions for its own agenda. Bahrain Freedom Movement 8 May 2001

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WASHINGTON, May 7 (Reuters) – The Emir of Bahrain asked U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday to do more to restart Middle East peace talks, his foreign minister said. Sheikh Mohammad bin Mubarak al-Khalifa told reporters the negotiations should resume on the basis on U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, which call for Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace with its neighbors. The Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, met on Monday with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. “His Highness called on President Bush to exert extra effort in assisting the parties in the peace process to resume it based on the Madrid principles, which are U.N. resolutions 242 and 338 and land for peace,” the minister said. Bahrain thinks the Israelis and Palestinians should return to negotiations “within the framework of the agreements reached by the parties,” he said. In the case of Syria, the minister said talks with Israel should resume where they left off last year and the aim should be Israeli withdrawal to the border as it stood on the eve of 1967 war. Israel rejects both those proposals. Powell and Sheikh Hamad had “candid and constructive” talks on Iraq and U.N. sanctions, he added. He reiterated the position of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional grouping to which Bahrain belongs — that Iraq should implement U.N. resolutions and that the United Nations should lift the sanctions. Sheikh Mohammad said President Bush “expressed his praise” for the Emir’s domestic political reforms. In February Bahrainis voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to support Sheikh Hamad’s proposals to set up an elected parliament alongside an appointed Shura council, a constitutional monarchy and an independent judiciary. The Emir has pardoned more than 900 exiles and political prisoners since he came to power in 1999 on the death of his father. He has also abolished controversial emergency laws.


WASHINGTON, May 07, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) — Bahrainian Emir Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said Monday in a visit with President Bush that he was confident that the United States would help advance the Middle East peace process. “I am sure America will do a great thing and move forward in all fields for the stability and security, mainly of my region, the Gulf region.,” said Al Khalifa. “We have an old relationship, lasting for more than a hundred-and-something years, and I think we will keep that one.” The two leaders paused briefly in the White House Rose Garden to chat with reporters after a short meeting in the Oval Office. Bush and Al Khalifa discussed trade, security and development, among other issues, they said. The Islamic state of Bahrain has about 666,6000 people and a gross domestic product of approximately $8.6 billion a year. It also houses the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. “He has made a big difference in his own country,” Bush said, referring to Al Khalifa. “He’s been on the leading edge of reform, believes in human rights and he believes in the full participation of the people of his land. And I’m really grateful for your leadership. It’s such an honor to welcome you here.” Bush’s comment on human rights came days after the United States was voted off the 53-member United Nations Human Rights Commission for its policies on environment and missile defense.

By KATHY GAMBRELL, UPI Washington Reporter


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush met Monday with the emir of Bahrain, who said he was confident the United States would help the Mideast peace process. “I’m sure that America will do a great thing and move forward in all fields for the stability and security mainly of my region, the Gulf region. We have a long relationship that has lasted more than a 100 and something years and I think we’ll keep that one,” Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa told reporters after he and Bush emerged from their Oval Office meeting. The emir said he and Bush discussed security, trade and development issues. Bush himself said nothing about their meeting, but used the leaders’ brief joint appearance in the Rose Garden to salute Bahrain, which houses the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, as a strong ally and its leader as a reformer.

“He has made a big difference in his own country,” Bush said. “He believes in human rights and he believes in the full participation of the people of his land.”

By Abbas Salman MANAMA, May 7 (Reuters) – Fresh pressure by a growing number of jobless Bahrainis has pushed unemployment to the top of the government’s priorities, but immediate remedies are not expected, officials and diplomats said on Monday. They said the government of the Gulf Arab state was now actively trying to find solutions to rising unemployment, the main reason for the 1994-1998 unrest by the majority Shi’ite Moslem community seeking political and economic reforms. “The unemployment issue is a big challenge to Bahrain. The government has made that clear,” a Western diplomat said. “I think the government is giving unemployment a very high priority, but it cannot create jobs out of thin air.” Unemployed Bahraini women and men have over the last two weeks gathered outside several ministries asking for jobs. Some of them had been jailed for years for their role in the unrest — which erupted after similar gatherings by jobless Bahrainis. Officials had said that some of those jailed and others allowed to return from exile under a general amnesty — part of political and economic reforms — have been re-employed. GOVERNMENT COMBATS UNEMPLOYMENT “We are now more than confronting unemployment. We are now fighting the problem to find solutions through different areas and channels,” Labour Minister Abdel-Nabi al-Shula told Reuters. “All government ministries and institutions as well as the private sector are opening their doors for the unemployed,” Shula said, adding that he met Bahraini businessmen on Saturday who promised to employ more Bahrainis. Official figures showed the number of people seeking jobs increased to 9,670 by April 25, or 3.1 percent of the total workforce compared with 2.5 percent at the end of 1999. Diplomats put the jobless figure at around 10 percent of the workforce — estimated at 307,000 out of a population of around 666,000, one-third of them foreigners. The government, aware of the social and economic repercussions of unemployment, is also trying to cut reliance on foreign workers, making way for more jobs for its nationals. Shula said he met a group of 150 Bahraini job-seekers on Saturday at the Labour Ministry. A group of about 50 women university graduates went to the Education Ministry on the same day and other unemployed people went to the Health Ministry to seek jobs, witnesses said. “It is the right of all nationals to knock on all doors for jobs anywhere,” the minister said. BAHRAIN TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL HELP Bahrain said last week it would provide financial help to unemployed Bahrainis. Under the programme, married job-seekers will get 100 dinars ($265) a month while single people will receive 70 dinars a month from May 1 for a period of six months. Since then hundreds of jobless people have registered at Labour Ministry centres. Bahrain, a regional financial and banking centre, has also said it would set aside 25 million dinars for a programme to create new jobs and provide training for nationals. “I think people need to be patient with the government. The (jobless) programme is less than one week old and people have to wait and see how its works,” another diplomat said. Shula said several new projects being established in Bahrain would create thousands of jobs. “We are working on two fronts — creating new jobs and replacing expatriates,” Shula said. He said his ministry would undertake other undisclosed steps to reinforce the government’s employment plans.

($1-0.377 dinars)

PARIS (AP) 4 May — President Jacques Chirac on Friday met the emir of Bahrain for talks dominated by violence in the Middle East, and the French leader voiced his backing for a peace initiative put forward by Egypt and Jordan to end the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. “We want to join our efforts … to find a fair and equitable solution,” Chirac said after the meeting with Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Chirac described the plan drawn up by Jordan and Egypt as a “good introduction.” The Egypt-Jordan cease-fire proposal calls on Israel to freeze settlement construction before a truce, then resume negotiations for a peace deal from where they left off under the previous Israeli government. The Israeli government has rejected both those conditions and wants a test period of two or three months for any truce before starting any negotiations. The Palestinians have accepted the plan. “We hope that the implementation of this plan will help reopen normal discussions, in order to guarantee the security of both sides and to rediscover the means to reach a fair and equitable peace deal,” Chirac said. In a statement, the emir said the two leaders agreed on the need to restart negotiations “to achieve a just, comprehensive and permanent peace.”


By The Associated Press Here is a list of members of the U.N. Human Rights Commission by region. Members elected Thursday are in parenthesis. The United States was not re-elected. Africa: Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal, (Sierra Leone), South Africa, (Sudan), Swaziland, (Togo), (Uganda), Zambia. Asia: (Bahrain), China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, (Pakistan), (South Korea), Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Vietnam. Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, (Chile), Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, (Mexico), Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela. Western Europe and others: (Austria), Belgium, Canada, (France), Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, (Sweden), United Kingdom. Eastern Europe:

(Armenia), (Croatia), Czech Republic, Poland, Russia.


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) 4 May – Fourteen members were elected or re-elected to the 53-seat U.N. Commission on Human Rights Thursday by its parent body, the U.N. Economic and Social Council. The United States, in an unexpected defeat, lost its seat on the U.N.’s top rights body for the first time since the commission, based in Geneva, Switzerland, was created in 1947. Chosen for the commission Thursday were: Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Chile, Croatia, France, Mexico, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Sudan, Sweden, Togo and Uganda. The other 39 members are: Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Syria, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zambia.

Regional groups at the United Nations nominate candidates for the commission, and the “Western Europe and Others” group proposed four candidates for three seats, with the United States coming in fourth, behind France, Austria and Sweden.


ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 04, 2001 (United Press International via COMTEX) — Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Friday the failure of the United States to win re-election to a three-year post on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights was a “serious blow” that must not spur anti-U.N. actions on the part of the Bush administration and Congress. “The Human Rights Commission has been very important as a place where people who care about specific human rights misdeeds have a capability of mustering votes to have something happen,” Albright said Friday. “I think it is a serious blow, but it is as much a blow to the United Nations. “This is a short-term (development), some kind of anger at something, which has long-term effects. By doing this, the U.N. — in which I believe firmly — has sidelined itself on human rights issues. It’s a huge error. ” The United States, a founding member of the U.N. commission, was voted off the international panel Thursday. It was the first time Washington has failed to be represented on the now-53-member panel since 1947, when the commission was established to prepare an international bill of rights. Members of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, voted in a secret ballot in New York to replace Norway and the United States with Austria and Sweden. France was elected with 52 votes; Washington garnered only 29. Other nations elected to three-year rotating memberships Thursday were Bahrain, South Korea and Pakistan in the Asia group, and Croatia and Armenia in the Eastern European group. Chosen without a vote were Chile and Mexico for the Latin America group and Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo and Uganda for the Africa group.

“I hope, however, this will not give strength to those within Congress who are anti-U.N. by virtue of their instincts, or to those in the administration who feel the same way, because I have believed that the U.N. is very useful to our national interest.” Albright said Friday.

Bahrain: Pro-democracy speakers define the priorities of the present political phase Eighteen leading personalities contributed to an important session organised by Oroba Club on 2 May to define the priorities of the present political phase. Among the speakers were Sheikh Isa bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Mr. Rasool Al-Jeshi, Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuiami, Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain, Ms. Jalila Al-Sayyed, Ms. Mariam Al-Rowei, Dr. Abdul Aziz Obol, Dr. Abdul Hadi Khalaf, Mr. Ali Rabea, Mr. Hassan Radhi, Mr. Salman Kamal-u-Din, Dr. Monira Fakhro, Dr. Alaa Al-Yousuf and others.  Dr. Al-Yousuf said that what he sees as priorities can be targeted and achieved within one or two months. He said that both committees for proposing amendments to the constitution and for activating the national charter should present definite timetables for their defined deliverables. The government should publish a new and true budget showing all incomes and all expenditures. The government should come forward and announce the date for the municipal elections rather than keeping matters confidential. The prime minister should meet with journalists on a weekly basis to present the programmes of the government and subject them to questions & answers sessions. “I call for solving unemployment by liasing and co-operating with other GCC countries. I request that all ministers declare their private interests to remove conflicts with their public duties. That the government should foster the creation of institutions whereby needy citizens can resort to without losing faces”, he said.  Dr. Al-Yousuf called on all political trends to rise above trivialities and ensure that the interests of the nation are considered rather than private or selfish ones. He called on the political circles to open-up dialogue and aim to reach common consensus so that democracy can be established on more solid grounds. The meeting was unique because most political trends in Bahrain were represented and the attendees were able to question speakers with regard to their views and policies. Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi criticised the government because it failed to resolve unemployment while at the same time it continues to practice the “free visa” policy, whereby surplus foreign workers are imported from the outside and dumped in the local market (without jobs) to compete with citizens in all types of work.  On the other hand the 16-strong committee that was formed in the past few days met with the labour minister on 3 May to discuss the programmes to be put in place for ensuring that all registered jobless citizens are provided with the opportunities to work or train within the next six months. The committee is meeting with the ministry to ensure that the pledge (made by the Amir) to employ or register them on salaried vocational programmes is fully realised.  Bahrain Freedom Movement  4 May 2001  Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Jobless citizens receive a positive response from the Amir More than 200 jobless citizens picketed inside the labour ministry on 30 April, while a 16-strong delegation representing them was holding talks with the minister of labour. This meeting was promised after an earlier picket. The attitude of the minister was different from the years before. In the middle of the discussions, the Amir telephoned the minister and ordered him to start paying monthly “poverty wages” for a period of six months. The married jobless citizens will receive BD 100 (USD 265) a month while single citizens will receive BD 70 (USD 186).  One of the problems is that the labour ministry refuses to accept the true number of jobless people. It is hoped that the ministry will stop its games and will recognise the real figure of a minimum of 15% unemployment.  The attitude of the Amir is different from the past governmental approach. When in June 1994 a group of jobless citizens staged a similar activity, they were encountered by the security forces which clamped down and arrested many of them. The BFM extended its appreciation of the Amir’s move and called on the jobless citizens to give the labour ministry the six months ordered by the Amir. More than 60% of the workforce in Bahrain (around 300,000) are foreigners. Many of the foreign workforce come from the Indian Subcontinent and are themselves denied all rights. They are being abused by influential people, and the old guards that control the government use them as a means of repressing the nation.  On the other hand, the government complied with an earlier order issued by the Amir to curb the low-grade tourism by publishing new regulations whereby single women travelling to Bahrain alone and coming from places known for export of prostitution would be denied entry visas upon arrival to Bahrain. This measure will be welcomed by the people who have witnessed the degradation of Bahrain’s reputation due to these low-grade “tourist” activities.  The 1st of May will be celebrated by the labour movement in Bahrain. The new political environment has provided an opportunity for Bahrain’s workforce to express their views. Despite the fact that the Bahraini constitution allows the formation of labour unions, up until now, Bahrainis have not been allowed to form trade unions.  Mr. Hani Al-Rayyis, the representative of the Denmark-based Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Bahrain, will return to Bahrain on Thursday 3 May after about 20 years in exile. Dr. Alaa Al-Yousuf, who returned in the past few days, will participate in a panel discussion organised by Al-Oroba Club in the capital, Manama, on 2 May at 7.30 pm. The panel discussion is aimed at defining the priorities of the present political phase. Bahrain Freedom Movement  1 May 2001 

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