Bahrain: Citizens are ill-treated while the State administration is being “Khalfanised”
On 30 December, the intelligence department arrested Seyyed Alawi Abo-Ghayeb, a senior figure of Matam Al-Qassab of Manama. Security officers arrested him at 7.30 pm and at 10.00 pm they attacked his place of residence and ransacked its contents. Mr. Abo-Ghayeb is now being ill-treated in Al-Qalaa Fort. Al-Sadiq Grand Mosque of Manama is still under control of the interior ministry. The citizens are banned from performing group-prayers in the mosques. Religious scholars who attempt to lead prayers were summoned and threatened by the interior ministry. Similarly, Al-Zahra Mosque in Hamad Town is under restriction. The interior ministry threatened citizens that they would be arrested if they congregate for group-prayers without prior permission from the intelligence department. These acts of intolerance falsify the claims of the Amir that religious freedom in Bahrain is guaranteed. Halima Sdeif, the 20-year girl who was detained on 16 December continues to be in detention at Isa Town Detention Centre. Her family requested to see her but the torturers allowed them only a 5-minute interview. She had been physically tortured and is in a very bad condition. The government of Bahrain treats Bahraini citizens as enemies and prisoners are subjected to hate-based ill-treatment. While citizens are being tortured and ill-treated, the Al-Khalifa family continues its programme for “Khalfanisation of the State Administration”. This is a process that has recently been initiated with the aim of appointing all male and female members of the Al-Khalifa family as officials of the State. Hence, another decision was taken to appoint Hend Al-Khalifa as a deputy to labour minister. Hend is a house-wife and had never been in a position of this capacity. She is the aunt of the wife of the heir apparent and a businesswoman with special agencies and major trading houses such as Mothercare, Smart Shoe, Asrar Sarah (women cloths) and others. Her mother is Lulwa Al-Khalifa, the head of the Mother and Children Society.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 31 December 1999
Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain Tribune, 31 Dec 99
Decree issued on oil firm
His Highness the Amir, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, issued yesterday a decree by law No. 42 for 1999 on the formation of the Bahrain Oil Company. Article One of the decree said that the oil company is fully owned by the State. Article Two stated that both the Bahrain National Oil Company (Banoco) and the Bahrain Petroleum Company are merged into a single company, resulting in the liquidation of both companies in accordance with the articles of association of each company.
Article Three stated that the 1976 decree on the establishment of Banoco shall be considered void.
Bahrain: Failing to honour Amir’s statements and commitments
Despite the speeches of the Bahraini Amir, alleging the authorities would respect human rights, people continue to suffer more after each speech, announcement or decree. The interior ministry banned a seminar that was organised by Oroba Club on human rights. The club invited a member of the powerless Shura Club, Samir Rajab, to speak about the subject of human rights. A club member said on 29 December that the interior ministry intervened and banned the function. Instances of abuse and torture in detention continue to come to light. In one instance, it was reported that the young person, Mohammed Salman, is being kept in a solitary detention since his arrest last month. He is said to be suffering from health problems as a result of the torture he is subjected to on a daily basis in the Dry-Dock Prison’s torture chambers. In a second instance, credible news of the continuous torture of the 20 year-old girl, Halima Sdeif, described her status as ” inhuman”. Halima was arrested from her house on 16 December, few hours after the Amir’s speech. Religious intolerance continues, contrasting the bluff statements issued by the Bahraini Amir with regard to public freedoms in which he said “openness and religious, intellectual, and cultural tolerance are facts of life in Bahrain”. In what is described as an example of the “open-less and rigorous facts of life in Bahrain”, many citizens have been threatened of punishment if they were to organise any lectures in mosques or assembly halls without the prior permission from the interior ministry. Two persons were arrested on Wednesday night 29 December, from Sitra: Mohammed Nasir Al Tooq (Management member of Sitra’s Assembly Hall “Matam”) and Yousif Al Roomi. Both are being held in Manama Police Station, which is headed by the torturer Abdul Salam Al Ansari. The security forces are reported to be searching for a shoe owner in what is described as a “Cinderella’s Shoe” hunt. Karzakan area’s residents were terrorised by the security forces along with their police dogs. Citizens were forced to queue and then sniffed by a dog to determine the owner of the shoe. In one instance, a dog attacked a person after sniffing him, injured and tore off his clothes. It appeared later that he was not the shoe owner as the shoe was not his size. On 23 December, the International Secretariat of OMCT issued an urgent action regarding the arrest of seven persons in November 1999. The seven persons are: Shaker Ibrahim Yousif, 21(arrested November 13), Ibrahim Yousif Ibrahim, 20(arrested November 13), Ahmed Ali Ahmed, 24(arrested November 13), Ahmed Hamid, 19(arrested November 13), Abdul Amir Ahmed Al Hamadi, 22(arrested November 13), Redha Abdulla Khamis, 22(arrested November 13), Mulah Mohammed Al Sharrakh, 20(arrested November 13). OMCT called on the Bahraini authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of these persons and to order their immediate release. It also called for an impartial investigation into the alleged arbitrary detentions and to guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with the national and international standards.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 30 December 1999
Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Improving ties with Qatar; Committee formed for planning municipality elections
The Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani visited Bahrain on 28 December heralding a new phase in the relations between the two neighbours. He was quoted saying “we will, God willing, seek to build strong relations in various areas for the interest of our peoples and our common interest in the wake of political and economic changes in the world,”. The territorial dispute was not discussed at the meeting. Instead the Amir of Qatar said “we are leaving aside the existing border dispute between the two countries for the International Court of Justice to decide,”. The International Court of Justice is expected to start oral hearings in the case in May. Both Qatar and Bahrain would form a joint committee under the chairmanship of the two heir apparent of Bahrain and Qatar. The committee would meet in the first quarter of 2000 to encourage greater cooperation in all areas. “The joint committee will also discuss the possibility of settling the existing border dispute between the two countries by brotherly means, while it continues before the international court of justice,”. The committee will be studying a project for linking the two countries via a causeway. It will also study travelling between the two countries using identity cards. Moreover, the two countries will exchange ambassadors for the first time since independence in 1971. Relations with Iraq have also been improved when the first passenger ferry from Bahrain reached Iraq’s port of Um Qasr on 27 December. The improvement of relations with Iraq and Qatar are welcome steps and the opposition hopes that these better relations will be for the benefit of the peoples of the region.
Plans for Municipality Elections:
On 27 December the prime minister formed a committee for studying the criteria for implementing municipality elections. The committee is to be presided by justice minister with membership of interior minister, housing & municipalities’ minister, information minister, Majed Jawad Al-Jeshi (minister of state), Rashid Al-Zayyani & Samir Rajab of the Shura Council, and Khalid bin Mohammed Kanoo, the president of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The committee is lop-sided in its composition and does not properly represent the nation. It was charged with proposing a decree for municipalities. The Amir had stated on 16 December that he intends to allow for municipality elections to take place. The opposition welcomed this step. The first municipality was established in the capital in 1919 with an all appointed 8-member council. The then British Political Agent responsible for controlling Bahrain, Major Dickson, initiated the process and the eight members were selected on both ethnic and religious bases. Both foreigners and Bahrainis took part in the municipality formation. The first all-appointed municipality council comprised a Sunni of an Iranian origin, a Shia of an Iranian origin, a Hindu, an Indian Muslim, two Sunni of Arab origin and two Shia of Arab origin. The system was reformed in 1926 with the establishment of a 20-member council, half-appointed by the ruler and half-elected by the residents of Manama. The elections was carried out in public because most could not read or write. Also, the British Political Agent allowed owners of houses (regardless of being men or women) to elect the ten people. The Amir said on 16 December that he would allow both men and women to vote but women will not be allowed to nominate themselves for election. Election for municipalities lasted between 1926 and 1956. In 1956 a state of emergency was declared and all types of elections were cancelled. The state of emergency was codified by the 1965 Public Security Law and then made more stringent in 1974 via the State Security Law that extinguished the parliament in 1975. The Manama Municipality (founded in 1919 and half-elected in 1926) was followed by Muharraq Municipality in 1927, Rifaa Municipality in 1952, Hidd in 1956, Sitra in 1957 and Jedhafs in 1968. All municipalities established before 1956 (except that of Rifaa) experienced elections. Towards the end of the fifties the government created the “Rural Affairs Directorate” to assume the powers of municipalities in 56 villages. Individuals (called mukhtars) were appointed in 1957 to serve as a replacement for elected councilors in villages. The Rural Affairs Directorate was dissolved in 1971 following independence and three municipalities (all appointed) were created in the villages. The mukhtars lingered on by default. In 1971, the government formed the “Provisional Central Municipality Committee” and attached this authority to a ministry. The term “provisional” was aimed at bypassing the laws of Bahrain that required this authority to be based on some form of an election. In 1995, the prime minister dropped the term “Provisional” and renamed the authority as the “Central Municipality Committee”, as part of his plan to change the constitutional laws of Bahrain. There are now twelve municipalities in Bahrain: Manama, Muharraq, Hidd, Jed Hafs, Northern, Western, Central, Isa Town, Sitra, Rifaa, Southern and Hamad Town. These are charged with such tasks as: monitoring the conditions of central markets, conducting research on plans for architecture, construction and civil amenities, issuing permits for building purposes, surveying, monitoring advertisements and looking after parks, leisure places etc.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 29 December 1999
Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Contrack wins a $21 million contract for construction of security barracks and transient bachelor quarters of the U.S. Naval Support Activity in Bahrain
Thursday, 30 December 1999
Contrack International Inc., Arlington, Virginia, is being awarded a $20,906,797 firm-fixed-price contract for construction of security barracks and transient bachelor quarters for the U.S. Naval Support Activity in Manama,
Work will be performed in Bahrain (90%), and in Arlington, Virginia (10%), and is expected to be completed by 30 March 2003, said a Defense Department statement today. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Winchester, Virginia, is the contracting activity.
Gulf Arabs hail new era of Qatar and Bahrain ties
11:42 a.m. Dec 29, 1999 Eastern
DUBAI, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Gulf Arab states on Wednesday hailed a decision by fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members Bahrain and Qatar to start a new era in their relations, strained for decades by a territorial dispute.
Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who met in Manama on Tuesday, said in a joint statement that they had agreed to exchange ambassadors, allow citizens to travel freely between both countries and to set up a committee to tackle their territorial dispute.
The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted a government official as saying that the kingdom regarded the Qatari and Bahraini move as an “example to follow in resolving disputes between brotherly states.”
Sheikh Hamdan bin Zaid al-Nahayan, minister of state for foreign affairs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said the agreements reached in Manama “reflected the depth of historic relations between the two countries,” the official UAE news agency WAM said.
Oman called the meeting between the two emirs “an important step to strengthen the GCC and to achieve more stability in the Gulf.”
The GCC is an economic, political and military alliance grouping the oil rich Gulf Arab states of Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
Qatar and Bahrain have had a long-running dispute over a small but potentially oil and gas-rich area in the Gulf, including the Hawar islands, which has been controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s.
Qatar in 1991 unilaterally took the case to the Hague-based International Court of Justice, a move opposed by Bahrain which wanted the dispute resolved by regional mediation. The court is expected to start hearings in May.
Relations between the two countries were strained further in 1996 when Qatar accused Bahrain of participating in a failed coup attempt. One month later, Bahrain jailed a Qatari man and a woman accused of spying for Doha.
Qatari, Bahraini media laud new era in relations
05:12 a.m. Dec 29, 1999 Eastern
MANAMA, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Bahraini and Qatari media on Wednesday hailed what they called a new era in ties between the two Gulf Arab nations, strained for years by territorial disputes.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who was in Bahrain for a few hours on Tuesday, and Bahrain’s head of state, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa pledged late on Tuesday not to let a long-running border dispute which is before an international court undermine their relations.
A joint statement said Qatar and Bahrain would form a joint committee that would meet in the first quarter of 2000 to encourage greater cooperation in all areas. It added that should the two sides succeed in reaching an acceptable solution bilaterally, the territorial dispute would be withdrawn from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“A dramatic breakthrough in relations between Bahrain and Qatar was announced early this morning,” wrote Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News.
“A bold dream comes true,” said Bahrain Tribune. “Today, we are starting a new era filled with high hopes, great intentions and strong determination,” it added in an editorial comment.
Qatar’s Gulf Times said the leaders’ talks “closed the door on temporary disagreements that have at times clouded the atmosphere.”
Qatar and Bahrain both lay claim to a small but potentially oil and gas-rich area in the Gulf, including the Hawar islands, which have been controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s.
Qatar unilaterally took the case to the Hague-based ICJ in 1991, a move opposed by Bahrain which said it wanted the dispute resolved by regional mediation. The court is expected to start oral hearings in May.
The two nations also agreed to exchange ambassadors for the first time and to study the building of a causeway to link their countries as well as allowing their citizens to travel between them using just their national identity cards.
The Bahrain Tribune said the two leaders sincerely and honestly tackled the issue of the border dispute, which had been an insurmountable obstacle in the development of closer ties.
“Tuesday’s joint statement…is considered a historical declaration,” the Manama daily Akhbar al-Khaleej said. “The proposed steps would open a new and important era in developing relations between the two countries.”
Their relations strained further in 1996 when Qatar accused Bahrain of participating in a failed coup attempt. One month later, Bahrain jailed a Qatari man and a woman accused of spying for Doha before they were pardoned. Bahrain also agreed to allow Qatar Airways, which is partly owned by the Qatari government, to start direct flights between Doha and Manama. Bahrain is the headquarters for the regional carrier Gulf Air GULF.CN which is owned equally by the governments of Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi emirate in the United Arab Emirates. ————————————————- Qatar, Bahrain say border spat must not stop ties 01:04 a.m. Dec 29, 1999 Eastern
MANAMA, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Qatar and Bahrain have pledged not to let a long-running border dispute which is before an international court undermine their relations, the Gulf Arab states’ official news agencies reported late on Tuesday.
“In reviewing bilateral ties, the two countries emphasised the importance of developing and encouraging cooperation and not letting the border dispute which is before the International Court of Justice prevent coordination and cooperation in other areas,” a joint statement said.
The statement was issued after Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who was in Bahrain for a few hours, held talks with Bahrain’s head of state, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
Qatar and Bahrain both lay claim to a small but potentially oil and gas-rich area in the Gulf, including the Hawar islands, which have been controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s.
Qatar unilaterally took the case to the Hague-based International Court of Justice in 1991, a move opposed by Bahrain which said it wanted the dispute resolved by regional mediation. The court is expected to start oral hearings in May.
The statement said Qatar and Bahrain would form a joint committee that would meet in the first quarter of 2000 to encourage greater cooperation in all areas.
“The joint committee will also discuss the possibility of settling the existing border dispute between the two countries by brotherly means, while it continues before the international court of justice,” it said.
It added that should the two sides succeed in reaching “an acceptable solution” bilaterally, the issue would be withdrawn from the court.
The statement said Tuesday’s discussions were held “in the spirit of openness and mutual trust,” covering bilateral and other issues such as a row between the United Arab Emirates and Iran, the Middle East peace process and fighting in Chechnya. It also said Bahrain had agreed to allow Qatar Airways, which is partly owned by the Qatari government, to start direct flights between Doha and Manama. ————————————— Bahraini emir sets up single state oil firm 06:59 a.m. Dec 29, 1999 Eastern MANAMA, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Wednesday set up a single oil firm which will emerge from the merger between the state’s refining company and oil production firm. The move calls for the setting up of Bahrain Petroleum Company, the Gulf Arab state’s official Gulf News Agency said. Bahrain earlier this year agreed to merge Bahrain Petroleum Co (BAPCO), which runs a 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery, and Bahrain National Oil Co (BANOCO), which is responsible for domestic oil production and distribution. BAPCO became 100 percent owned by the Bahraini government after it acquired a 40 percent stake held by Caltex, the joint venture of Texaco Inc and Chevron Corp in April 1997. An oil official said this week that the merger was expected to be completed in January, 2000. Bahrain, a small oil exporter, produces around 40,000 bpd from its own oil fields and gets the entire output of 140,000 bpd from an offshore field it shares with Saudi Arabia. The island also receives around 200,000 bpd of Saudi crude
Bahrain: The pro-democracy opposition presents its case in Manama
The “Bahraini Graduate Club” organised a seminar in the capital Manama on Sunday evening, 25 December 1999, entitled “The Future of Shura in Bahrain”. The seminar was addressed by Mr. Jamal Fakhro (first deputy of the all-appointed Shura Council), and Mr. Samir Rajab (second deputy of the Shura Council). The seminar managed to attract a large audience and many pro-democracy figures participated in the discussion. Mr. Jamal Fakhro said that the “present Shura experiment was suitable for its period and we hope it will be developed further to meet the aspirations of our people.” He emphasised that any development is subject to the satisfaction of those who have the capacity to instruct (meaning the Amir & government). He admitted that the Shura Council (which he represents) lacks legislative and monitoring powers and all its activities are confined to the agenda set-out by the Cabinet. Mr. Samir Rajab confirmed what Mr. Fakhro had said and added that “the present experiment is heading in the right direction and all the experiments of the Arab World had failed because their details were not studied properly”. At the end of the two interventions, the participants started the debate. Dr. Abdul Aziz Ubol questioned the ability of the present Shura Council to develop as it is limited and confined by its framework. The Shura Council is an attachment to the executive power while the constitution specifies the separation of powers. He also questioned the two speakers regarding the possibility of establishing a Constitutional Court to judge whether such development would be in the right way. Both speakers refrained from answering and stated that “all depends on the top leadership of the country and it is up to them to do what they see fit”. Then, the pro-democracy figure, Mr. Mohammed Jaber Sabah intervened and stated: – The Shura Council was never and would never be accepted by the people and it will never be a replacement for the National Assembly. – That the members of the Shura Council represent themselves and not the people. – That the Shura Council is an unconstitutional body – That granting women the possibility to enter the Shura Council is a downgrading step for women since the Constitution offers her more than such a thing. – That there will be no alternative but to resort to the ballot box. The two speakers could not speak a word while the audience was in full support for Mr. Sabah. Then, Mr. Farod Ghazi spoke out to denounce the statement uttered by Mr, Rajab that all experiments in the Arab World had failed because it “over-jumped”. He called on the speaker not to justify the failure of the Bahraini experiment by such unwarranted statements. One of the attendants presented the Petition that was subminttd to the Amir in 1992 and said that “your Shura Council was created as a negative response to this pro-democracy petition.” Another participate questioned that speakers: “How did the government arrive at the conclusion that the Bahrain people are not mature enough to have an elected parliament?” … Both speakers failed to answer. The pro-democracy figure, Mr. Abdulla Hashim intervened said any development to the Shura Council will not be fruitful because the people are not involved in the process. Another participant asked: “Both of you confirmed that you are members of a powerless and non-legislative council, so why do you go outside Bahrain to represent us in parliamentary meetings?” The entire hall shook as a result of clapping and support for this question.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 26 December 1999
Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
First passenger ferry from Bahrain reaches Iraq 08:41 a.m. Dec 27, 1999 Eastern BAGHDAD, Dec 27 (Reuters) – The first Bahrain-Iraq passenger ferry in almost a decade arrived in the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr on Monday carrying pilgrims and officials, the Iraqi News Agency INA reported. It said Jabal Ali, a commercial ship operated by a Dubai- based firm, arrived in the port at 12:30 p.m. (0930 GMT), opening the first sea link between the two countries since the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq in 1990. Most of the 66 passengers were Shi’ite Moslem pilgrims planning to visit shrines in Iraq, but the list also included two members of Bahrain’s Shura or consultative council. INA said Iraq had provided buses to take the passengers to Baghdad and to the country’s religious sites. Iraq is home to some of the holiest shrines for Shi’ite Moslems, who are in the majority in Bahrain. Since the U.N. imposed trade and travel sanctions on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the only outlet for Iraq’s foreign trade has been the 1,000 km (600 mile) desert road between Baghdad and Amman. Civilian flights are banned. Last year, with permission from the U.N. sanctions committee, Iraq opened a sea link with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to carry passengers and goods between the two countries. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait soured relations with most Arab Gulf states, and Bahrain and other Gulf allies provided troops or facilities for the U.S.-led force that evicted Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991. Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE have slightly improved their relations with Iraq since then, but other states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reject any direct dealings with Baghdad.
In March Iraq’s Vice-President Taha Mohieddin Ma’rouf travelled to Manama to present Baghdad’s condolences on the death of Bahrain’s Emir, Sheikh Isa bin Sulman al-Khalifa.
Qatar’s emir to visit Bahrain on Tuesday for talks 02:22 p.m Dec 27, 1999 Eastern MANAMA, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani will visit Bahrain on Tuesday for talks with Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the official Gulf News Agency (GNA) said on Monday. It said talks would focus on bilateral relations and other regional issues. It gave no further details. The two Gulf Arab states are locked in a territorial dispute over small but potentially oil- and gas-rich islands in the Gulf, including the Hawar islands, controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s but also claimed by Qatar. Qatar in 1991 unilaterally took the case to the International Court of Justice, which is expected to start hearings in May for the long-running dispute.
Bahrain appoints first woman ambassador 02:46 a.m. Dec 26, 1999 Eastern MANAMA, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Bahrain has appointed its first woman ambassador, naming Sheikha Hayya bin Rashid al-Khalifa as ambassador to France, a government official said on Sunday. Sheikha Hayya, a lawyer and a member of the ruling al-Khalifa family, will replace Ali Fakhrou, a former education minister, as the envoy to France. The official did not say when she would assume her post. Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, who took power after his father’s death in March, has pledged to give women a bigger role in the conservative Moslem country’s affairs. Oman, another Gulf Arab state, in September appointed its first woman ambassador, who was posted in the Netherlands.
Bahrain: Women and children abused by the security forces; Government spends less than 2% on human development
The ordeal of the 20-year-old girl, Halima Hassan Sdeif, who was snatched from her on 16 December, continues. Reports confirmed that Halima is now detained at Isa Town Detention Centre in a condition described as ” miserable”. She has been subjected to vicious physical and mental abuse. Moreover, two other girls were known to have been detained and tortured on 20 December. They were grotesquely insulted and abused before their release. The two were Fatima Salman Maki Salman and Asia Abdul Aziz Ismael, both aged 20. Arrests fever and torture in Bahrain have soared as the 20th century comes to an end, with children continuing to be an important target for the mercenary forces imported by the ruling family for the sole purpose of repressing the nation. Three children aged 14 and 15 are known to have been arrested, along with a number of other innocent ordinary people. On 20 December, a child named Seyed Murtada Seyed Jaffar Seyed Salman, 14, from Shakhora, was snatched from his parent’s house late at night and tortured for one day and a half. He had earlier been arrested for 6 months without charges or trial. On 15 December, the child Hussein Isa Atiyah, 14, from Abu Sayb’a, was arrested as he stood outside his parent’s house early evening that day. He was viciously beaten before his release the following day. Also, on the same day, Mohammed Khalil Ebrahim Mohammed, 17, from Sanad, was arrested and his parent’s house contents were vandalised by the security forces. His mother was arrested along with him when she attempted to inquire about the reasons for which her son was being arrested. Moreover, the following are known to have been arrested that day: Ahmed Abdul Hadi Al Qasab, 23, Seyed Hashim Seyed Hamid, 22, Malik Ahmed Darweesh, 24, and Seyed Raed Seyed Hamid, all are from Iska Jidhafs. Reports from Jaw prisons unveiled the identity of the Jordanian torturer (Riyad Al-Faza’a) who is in charge of torture chambers and solitary detention cells in that prison. He is reported to have even prevented detainees from praying or conducting any other worship activities. The London-based newspaper, Al-Quds, published on 23 December, an important article for the pro-democracy Bahraini figure, Mohammed Jabir Sabah, member of the dissolved parliament and the Committee for Popular Petition. The article was titled “trumpet-blowers attempt to vilify opposition’s image and to prevent the Amir’s reform”. In the article, the writer welcomed the formation of the Human Rights Committee and said that the Amir had taken the constitution into consideration in this matter. He added that this puts the responsibility on the government to fulfil its obligations towards the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. He went on to say that the formation of the Shura Council was an unwise step, hence it will remain unconstitutional what ever form it takes. Mr. Sabah called on the Amir to re-institute the constitution and parliament. Al-Quds of 24 December published another article for another pro-democracy figure, Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi, who stressed that the shortest avenue for stability in Bahrain is to implement the rule of constitutional law. The International Secretariat of OMCT issued an urgent action regarding the arrest of four children during November and December. The four children are: Hussain Abu Maden, 17(arrested November 13) Abas Mohammed Abas Al Zaki, 16, From Abu Sayb’a (arrested December 12), Seyed Nasir Seyed Maki, 16, Abu Sayb’a (arrested December 12), and Ali Abdula Saeed, 16 (arrested November 25). OMCT called on the Bahraini authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of these children to order their immediate release. It also called for an impartial investigation into the alleged arbitrary detentions and to guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with the national and international standards. A UN official said on 22 December that “Arab nations in the Middle East are among the world’s biggest spenders on arms but their investment in basic services such as education and health care is minimal,”. Hazem Beblawi, secretary-general of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), told a news conference that Arab nations spent 8.8 percent of their gross domestic product on the military in 1998, while on average more than a quarter of their adults were illiterate. A spokesperson for the BFM stated that this proves that the government of Bahrain failed to whitewash its records. The government of Bahrain spends 35% of annual recurrent expenditure on defence and security, while it spend less than 2% on human development.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 24 December 1999
Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Fictitious “reform” policies exposed
Systematic rounding up of citizens continues for the purpose of intimidation and suppression of pro-reform voices. A score of people were arrested in the past few days from Iskan Jidhafs and Hamala. Their names and whereabouts are still unknown. Duraz was raided by the mercenaries and amongst those known to have been detained for routine torturing is Mohammed Ali Abdul Aziz, 17. A motion in support of the Bahraini people’s struggle for democracy was signed by 20 Danish personalities including politicians, intellectuals, journalists, and artists. The motion said “we the undersigned, residents of Denmark, affirm our adherence to article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”, and we declare our support for the people of Bahrain in their calls for the reinstitution of the Constitution and the elected National Assembly which was dissolved on 26 August 1975. We also call for the respect of free expression and association in Bahrain. And we appeal for the return of all exiled citizens to their country according to International Law”. MENA 2000: In its annual regional surveys of the world, the forty-sixth edition of the Middle East and North Africa 2000 (ISBN 1857430611), MENA discussed a comprehensive historical and current accounts of the struggle for democracy and human rights in Bahrain. Commenting on the current situation in Bahrain, it said ” On March 6 1999 Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, hitherto Crown Prince of Bahrain, was appointed Amir following the death of his father. His appointment encouraged expectations of political change among the opposition, which welcomed the change of leadership as an opportunity to renew negotiations with the government and urged temporary cessation of popular protest in respect for the deceased Amir. It went on to say ” Mansoor Al Jamri, urged the pursuit of a political, rather than military, solution to civil unrest. Although diplomatic sources in Bahrain predicted that the new Amir would adopt a more conciliatory position with regard to security issues, Sheikh Hamad first official address to the nation in mid-March was emphatic in its high regard for the armed forces and the guardians of both internal security and regional stability. At the end of May Sheikh Hamad effected a cabinet reorganisation in whichSheikh Khalifa Bin Salman remained Prime Minister, despite a long-standing power struggle with the new Amir”. MENA also mentioned the failed attempts by the Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak, to pressure the British government to expel the Bahraini opposition from the United Kingdom. As a proof of what the opposition said about the fictitious nature of the new Amir policies, the authorities ordered the appointed sub-Committee of the Shura Council (Human Rights Committee) to call off an exhibition to mark the 51st Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The five-member Committee was told not to celebrate the occasion. Similar orders were given to the press to avoid any reference to the Anniversary including the UN General Secretary’s speech on this occasion.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 23 December 1999
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Bahrain: Peaceful citizens harassed by mercenaries
The security forces intensified their atrocities against the citizens. As part of the drive to confiscate all basic rights of the people, the torturer Abdul Aziz Atteyat-Allah Al-Khalifa summoned the persons in charge of the Charity Funds around the capital, Manama. The government has failed to support the needs of society for social security, and for the past ten years more than fifty non-governmental charity-funds were founded by the people for supporting the needy. The Al-Khalifa torturer together with his like-minded dictators have threatened to crackdown on these charity funds because they consider any non-governmental activity as a threat to the “State”. On the other hand, the siege imposed against Sheikh Al-Jamri has intensified. Sheikh Al-Jamri managed in the past to go out to visit a friend or a relative. In each of these visits, he would be followed by several cars full of mercenaries. However, when Sheikh Al-Jamri attempted to go out of his house to visit a relative on 15 December, he was stopped by the mercenaries and told that he was not anymore allowed to move out. Then, the torturer Adel Flaifel contacted the family of Sheikh Al-Jamri and made personal threats against them. At one occasion, Sheikh Al-Jamri was allowed to go out because the mercenaries wanted to say to a foreign delegation: “look, he is free”. The torturer Flaifel said to Al-Jamri family “the solitary cell has been prepared again for housing” Sheikh Al-Jamri. The fate of the 20-year-old girl Halima Hassan Sdeif (from Kharjeyah-Sitra) is still unknown. Halima was brutally snatched out of her house on 16 December, by the mercenary security forces. Her whereabouts and condition are still unknown, and it is feared that she might be subjected to torture. The opposition calls upon the international human rights organisations to intervene in this case to protect he dignity and safety of a defenceless citizen. The Bahraini opposition held two seminars in New Zealand to mark the 5th Anniversary of the popular uprising in Bahrain. The seminars were held at St. Paul Church, Christchurch City, on 16 and 19 December. Amongst those who attended the seminars was the Regional Co-ordinator of Amnesty International in New Zealand, Alex Watson. Both seminars started with a speech from a member of the opposition. The British Channel 4’s film on Bahrain was also shown at each function. Attendants expressed their disgust at the atrocities committed by the Bahraini government against the peaceful people of Bahrain. In an expression of solidarity, the attendants put on T-Shirts with pro-democracy slogans and signed a petition calling for the end of State’s oppression in Bahrain.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 21 December 1999
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Bahrain: The Amir glorifies his family and allows his men to arrest a 20-old girl
On 16 December, just as the Amir was reading his first national day statement, glorifying his family and granting them super-human attributes, a team of torturers were conducting one of the their vicious hate-driven attacks against Sitra. The torturers attacked the house of Haji Hassan Sdeif (Kharjeyah-Sitra) and then dragged out the 20-year old daughter, Halima. Halima was pulled from her hair in front of her family and beaten by the brutal mercenaries imported by the ruling Al-Khalifa family for the sole purpose of repressing the nation. No information is yet known about Halima and there is mounting concern about her condition under the hand of these torturers. The mercenaries also assaulted several families in Sitra- Markoban and abducted the following citizens: Ibrahim Abdul Nabi Habib, Habib Ali Habib, Mohammed Mansoor Abd Ali Al-Khadhran Abd Naser Ali Al-Anserah. Friday 17 December marked the 5th anniversary of the popular uprising that swept Bahrain in an unprecedented open civil resistance movement against state repression. The 17th December was designated by the people as ” The Martyrs’ Day” revering the memory of the gunning down of pro-democracy youths at the outset of the uprising in 1994. On the 16 December, the Amir of Bahrain announced in his first coronation speech since he ascended to the thrown last March, the revival of the Municipal Councils and Municipal elections, a right that had been confiscated from Bahrainis. Earlier this century, in 1926, the British-controlled administration allowed Bahrainis (men and women who owned property) to elect their municipality. It was hoped that a more serious approach towards resolving the political situation would have been offered by the Amir. The Amir glorified his family and placed them above humans before stating that he has decided to return to what was happening in the beginning of the century. This is bad as it sets a backward and reactionary precedence. It means, God forbids, that Bahrainis in the year 2099 would be told that they would only get what was offered in 1999. The message of the Amir was accompanied with attacks on the citizens. A campaign of arrests took place in the last few days in an attempt to prevent the people from reviving the memory of the “Martyrs’ Day”. The arrested include: Habib Hasan Mahdi,23, Mohammed Hassan Mahdi, 20, Hussain Ali Hassan, 22, Ahmed Salman, 29, Ali Abdul Karim Eid, 26, Hani Mohammed Al Fardan, 23, Jassim Mohammed Al Fardan, 31, Ahmed Issa Mohammed, 25, Abdul Jalil Issa Mohammed, 26, Jaffar Ali Kata’b, 30, Ali Jawad, 21, Abdul Wahid Saeed, 25, Hasan Abdula Ashur, 27, Ahmed Saleh Al Sheikh, 27, Hussain Saleh Al Sheikh, 23, Hassan Ahmed Ashur, 32, Abas Hassan, 21. Burning tyres were seen along Buday’a Highway near Abu Sayb’a and Karanah areas in last few days. Also, the writing of pro-reforms slogans have intensified in these areas like: “Parliament and Freedom”, “We call for political and economic reforms” and ” we want a real solution not just a Municipal Council”. It is reported that Abdul Wahab Hussain, member of the Committee for Popular Petition, is still in solitary detention. Mr. Hussain is being punished for his refusal to sign prepared confessions by the intelligence services led by the notorious British Thomas Bryan. He is unlawfully detained for almost four years without charge or trial. It was also known that Sheikh Ali Ashur, Sheikh Mohammed Majid Al Rayash and Omran Hussain Omran are detained in Jaw prison. The Executive Board of the (British) Bar Human Rights Committee viewed a film made by the British Channel 4 which exposed the extent of oppression on Bahrainis. The Board expressed its support to the rightful demand of the Bahraini people and vowed to continue working for human rights in Bahrain. It is worth mentioning that The Bar Committee published a researched account of the State Security Court last year. Bahrain Freedom Movement 19 December 1999
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Lord Avebury on Bahrain:
Bahrain Seminar. Moses Room House of Lords, December 15, 1999 Welcome to this seminar to mark the Fifth Anniversary of the Popular Uprising in Bahrain. This last year has been one of both hope and disappointment: hope, that following the accession of Sheikh Hamad to the throne in March, there would be substantive changes in the governance of the state in the direction of popular participation in government, and disappointment, that the steps taken by the new Amir appear to be designed with a view to buying off outside criticism, rather than to engage in a dialogue with the true representatives of the Bahraini people on the reforms which are needed to bring Bahrain into the 19th, let alone the 20th or 21st century. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office assesses the process of change in Bahrain on the basis of its potential future impact on human rights, and leaves the question of democracy on one side. This became apparent when I asked the FCO Minister in the Lords, Patricia Scotland, whether human rights and democracy had been raised with the Amir on his recent visit to the UK, and she answered purely about human rights. She was not even able to tell me whether the question of democracy had been on the agenda at all. Yet the two subjects are closely connected with one another, as the FCO Mission Statement recognises when it promises that we will “spread the values of human rights, civil liberties and democracy which we demand for ourselves”. Democracy is the only political system which can ensure that people get their human rights, and conversely, if they are deprived of the rights of free expression and association, they cannot move towards democracy. But lets see what are the ‘positive steps the Amir has taken towards improving Bahrain’s human rights situation”, as Minister Peter Hain puts it. The release of some prisoners and the return of a few exiles were welcome, but minimal, gestures. It was not possible to check the claim that 320 prisoners had been released because no names were given, but many of the people released had either reached the end of their sentences, or they had never even been charges and were being held in administrative detention. We believe that the true figure was more like 100, and many of those released were re-arrested shortly afterwards. Many further arrests have also taken place since the alleged pardons, and people are still being arrested every week. Only three days ago, five people were arrested from Abu Saibe, two of them children under 18. Although Bahrain has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it did so with the reservation that 16 to 18 year-olds are treated as adults, and the authorities regularly detain young people without notifying their parents. In fact, children younger than 16 are detained and beaten up. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, during 1998 they visited 1,327 people detained for security reasons in 13 places of detention, and it should be noted that since the ICRC visits began, the practice has been adopted of detaining and ill-treating people for shorter periods, so that they never appear on the ICRC statistics. The situation would have become clearer if the promised visit of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which was to have taken place in October 1999, had not been postponed for a year. One particularly dire consequence of this delay is that five of the senior figures, arrested at the same time as Sheikh al-Jamri in January 1996, will have to spend another year behind bars. Yet the Bahrain Government is being given credit for inviting the Working Group to visit the State! The earnest of good behaviour at some indefinite time in the future is being treated as the performance of the obligation not to detain without proper judicial authority today. Similarly, much is being made of the return of exiles in June. Human Rights Watch says that 12 were allowed back in, but 32 people who tried to re-enter their own country in July were denied readmission. Hundreds of others remain in exile, and the Bahrain Government has not renounced the use of the power to kick people out of their own country if they don’t keep to the rules. It is a weapon that hangs over the heads of those who could otherwise speak in favour of reform, and in particular, Sheikh al-Jamri, who was given a pardon after the Government tried to humiliate him by going through the motions of a trial and sentence before the State Security Court. The opposition is supposed to be grateful for the treatment of Sheikh al-Jamri, who is not allowed to speak in public or engage in any other political activity; whose house is constantly guarded by armed men and under surveillance by plainclothes men in unmarked cars, and whose communications with the outside world are bugged. We shall be looking at the Channel Four programme on Bahrain in a few minutes, highlighting another serious concern which has not been addressed: the prevalence of torture, and, to our shame, the participation of British citizens in those crimes. What the Channel Four programme showed was that Ian Henderson was not only the head of the security apparatus, but that he took part physically in the torture of prisoners, and although Mr Henderson is said to have retired, he is still playing an important role behind the scenes. Now there is a new security man from Britain, one Colonel Thomas Bryan. Was he appointed at the instigation of the British, like Mr Henderson was, as revealed by the papers from the time, now brought to light in the Public Records Office, and shall we have to wait 30 years to find out how Colonel Bryan got the job? How many other British citizens are involved in torturing Bahraini citizens, or in whitewashing these activities in the Ministry of the Interior? One particularly clear-cut case of torture has been taken up by the British Embassy with the Ministry of the Interior: that of 22-year old Nooh Khalil Abdulla Al-Nooh, who was arrested on July 19, 1998 and whose tortured body was handed to the family two days later. The Ministry promised our Embassy that there would be an inquiry into this atrocity, but there has been no further word about the findings. Mr Nooh is not the only person to have been murdered in custody over the last five years, but in his case, there are photographs of the body showing the horrific injuries he sustained. Those responsible for his death, and the senior persons who command and lead the security apparatus, should be brought to trial for all those crimes, and if any of them should set foot outside Bahrain, they would be liable to arrest under the Torture Convention, in the same way as former General Pinochet has been. The Minister who deals with human rights at the FCO, and who is also responsible for or relations with Gulf countries, Mr Peter Hain, says that we want to see continuing progress on human rights in Bahrain, and I hope we shall ask the Bahraini authorities to consider extending an invitation to the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Sir Nigel Rodley, to visit the State. If he were to go at the same time as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, they could coordinate their activities. It would be more difficult to fob off such as high-powered delegation than it was when Amnesty International visited the country. The Bahrain authorities are being given credit for the Amnesty visit, but Amnesty have complained that they were not allowed to meet or speak to any member of the opposition. Some of the visitors to Bahrain from Britain of course have no intention of finding out the true political situation there. Unfortunately, the tradition has continued, of Parliamentary delegations to a country that has no Parliament, and the MPs who go there on freebies organised by Mr Omar al-Hassan swallow everything the authorities feed them. Its sad that Labour Members are turning out to be just as gullible as the Tories were, and that Ken Purchase, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, is amongst the leading apologists for the régime after a few lavish trips. He sees nothing inconsistent in being the Foreign Secretary’s PPS, and
at the same time acting as an advocate for an hereditary dictatorship, and apparently the rules of the House have nothing to say on the matter. Perhaps this is a loophole that Lord Neil’s Committee on Standards in Public Life should investigate: not the activities of Ken Purchase, but the more general question of whether more precise rules are necessary, to stop PPS’s from entering into advocacy on matters affecting the policies of their Departments. Is there going to be any genuine transition to democracy in Bahrain, as opposed to minor cosmetic improvements in human rights? I understand that the Amir is likely to announce the creation of elected municipal authorities tomorrow, on the occasion of the National Day, restoring the privileges that the people enjoyed from the twenties to the fifties. It isn’t clear how these new councils will dovetail with the appointed Mukhtars who now hold power over certain local decisions, but even supposing that the councils replace the Mukhtars, they could be given only a qualified welcome. Like the other steps which have been trumpeted as signs of a new approach, this is at the pleasure of the Amir, and not something done within the constitutional framework that operates in almost every country in the world. There is still no sign of the dialogue between the ruling family and the opposition, represented by the Committee for Popular Petition, which must be the prelude to government by the people themselves. Concessions by the ruler, granted at his whim, remind us of the fates of other absolute monarchies which have tried to buy off real democracy by favours at the last minute.
UK Parliament debate on Bahrain
Reports from Bahrain have confirmed that the notorious Adel Flaifil threatened Mrs. Al Qatan of sexual assault if her husband, Ali Abbas Ali Abdula Al Qatan, did not sign some fabricated confessions prepared by the intelligence services led now by the British Thomas Bryn. Flaifil physically and psychologically tortured Mrs. Al Qatan. The husband was forced under threats of raping his wife to sign the intelligence-prepared confessions in order to protect his wife. Amongst the accusations against Mr. Al Qatan was his participation in the on going peaceful campaign for the restoration of the constitution and parliament in Bahrain. Arrest of citizens continued unabated over the past days.
On 12 December, the following were arrested from Abu Sab’a area: Ali Mohammed Abbas Al Zaki, 20, and his brother Abbas, 16, Seyed Nazar Seyed Maki, 16, Abdul Hadi Jaffar, 19, Ali Yousif Al Sayyigh, 18. And on 6 December, from Daih: Mohammed Salman Haidar, 26 ” detained in Dry-Dock prison”. Also on 25 November, from different areas: Mohammed Ahmed Al Ikri, 25, Seyed Sadiq Seyed Majid, 25, Ali Abndula Said, 16.
The government is spreading rumours that it might allow for local election. Bahrain (under British control) had local elections as far back as 1926. Bahrainis are denied all political rights because the ruling family believes in an alien tribal culture that reserves no space for human dignity. Freedom of religion continues to be under attack with the security forces banning people from congregating in many mosques around the country. This policy is the first of its kind in Bahrain since Bahrainis embraced Islam more than 1400 years ago.
On 13 December, A debate on human rights and democracy in Bahrain took place at the British House of Lords. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) replied to questions raised by Lord Avebury and other members of the House of Lords. In his first question Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty’s Government, Whether they raised human rights and democracy with the Amir of Bahrain during his visit to Britain”. Baroness Scotland of Asthal replied:
“My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised human rights in accordance with our ongoing policy of constructive engagement on such issues. He welcomed the positive steps that the Amir has taken towards national unity and to improve Bahrain’s human rights situation since his accession, and offered our assistance and advice on human rights issues.
Lord Avebury commented ” My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but she did not mention “democracy” which was the other part of my Question. Is not one of the most fundamental rights of every adult to participate in the control of public affairs? Therefore, will the Government encourage the Amir to enter into a dialogue with the leaders of the Committee for Popular Partition about the restoration of the 1973 constitution and parliament?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal replied ” My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government have spoken with the Amir. We found that our policy of constructive engagement on sensitive issues, such as human rights, was more successful than any approach taken hitherto. Of course, this is an opportunity for us to engage, and engage well, with the Amir to forward the general democratisation process. We are very hopeful that that government will be sensitive to the matters raised by us”.
Lord Avebury reiterated his question to Her Majesty’s Government and said “My Lords, from the Minister’s reply to my supplementary question I was not quite clear whether the matter of democracy was raised. Without seeking to lecture–we get enough of those from the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, when he is present–I ask her once again whether the Amir was specifically asked whether he would enter into discussions with the leaders of the de facto opposition; that is, the Committee for Popular Partition, on the restoration of the 1973 constitution and the 1974 parliament. That is a simple question”.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal replied “My Lords, I do not have a specific answer to the noble Lord’s question. I know that issues of sensitivity were raised. For the purposes of the Question, I have assumed that they were, but I certainly undertake to write to the noble Lord with a specific answer”.
The Bahraini opposition in London organised a picket in front of the Dorchester Hotel, evening on Monday 13 December, in conjunction with a reception organised by the Bahraini embassy to mark the coronation of the Bahraini Amir. The opposition distributed various circulars and pamphlets enumerating in detail the extent of human rights violations in Bahrain. The embassy’s staff standing at the Hotel’s entrance started to confiscate the pamphlets from the guests an incident which recurs every year on this occasion.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 15 December 1999
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Update on 15 December * The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed in its annual report that it visited Bahrain jails and found the number of political detainees and prisoners to be 1326. This number came down from a year earlier when it was 2111. The number doesnot include the many citizens who are detained for few days, releaased and re-dedetained for further toturing. The ruling establishment treats the people of Bahrain as traditional enemies and that is why mercenaries are continuously imported into Bahrain for the sole purpose of repressing the nation. * The government is spreading rumours that it might allow for local election. Bahrain (under British control) had local elections as far back as 1926. Bahrainis are denied all political rights because the ruling family believes in an alien tribal culture that reserves no space for human diginty. * Freedom of religion continues to be under attack with the security forces banning people from congregating in many mosques around the country. This policy is the first of its kind in Bahrain since Bahrainis embraced Islam more than 1400 years ago.
Gulf Air says Britain now satisfied on Y2K issue
08:38 a.m. Dec 14, 1999 Eastern
MANAMA, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Bahrain-based Gulf Air on Tuesday confirmed it was Y2K compliant and said Britain, which had earlier voiced concerns, was satisfied with the airline’s efforts.
“All year 2000 checks on the airline’s aircraft, IT systems and applications have been completed,” a company statement said.
“The airline has received confirmation from the airline’s IT providers, aircraft maintenance company and the aircraft manufacturers of Gulf Air’s 32 aircraft fleet that Gulf Air is fully compliant with Y2K requirements,” it added.
The firm said its IT providers, Sabre Group, had completed all 2000 remediation of the IT infrastructure and application software and had stated that Gulf Air was ready for the rollover to 2000.
Britain said on Thursday it would ban two foreign airlines — Gulf Air and Zambia’s Southern Aviation — from flying in its airspace at the end of the year unless they introduced urgent measures to address safety risks connected to Y2K.
The statement said the British Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions had said it was “satisfied with the information given by Gulf Air confirming that the airline is Y2K compliant.”
The regional carrier is equally owned by the governments of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi emirate in the United Arab Emirates.
Hague hearings set for Qatar-Bahrain islands row
12:38 p.m. Dec 13, 1999 Eastern
DOHA, Dec 13 (Reuters) – The International Court of Justice will start hearings in May for a long-running dispute between Qatar and Bahrain over a group of islands in the Gulf, a Qatari official said on Monday.
“The International Court of Justice at The Hague has sent us notices to inform us that it will hear oral pleadings from the parties to the case from May 29,” Abdullah al-Musa lmani, Qatar’s representative at the international court, told Reuters.
“I hope the matter will be decided within a few weeks after that,” he said.
The two Arab states are locked in a territorial dispute over small but potentially oil- and gas-rich islands in the Gulf, including the Hawar islands, controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s but also claimed by Qatar.
Qatar unilaterally took the case to the Hague-based International Court of Justice in 1991. Bahrain opposed the move and said it wanted the dispute resolved by regional mediation.
Bahrain: Intimidation of citizens continues amid international calls for respect of human rights
On 10 December, the security forces mounted a terror campaign against the residents of Karzakkan. A score of people who had recently been released were summoned by the notorious intelligence department for torture sessions. Two of those summoned were Hani Mohammed al-Fardan and his brother Jassim. It is worth noting that the intelligence department contacted the family of Yaser Abdulla Salman and asked them to surrender their son. This “intelligent” department was told that Yaser had died several weeks ago and they could go the cemetery and dig him out of his grave! The summoned people were also told to inform the youths of Karzakkan that many would be dragged for summary sessions of torture. These new methods of intimidation are devised so that the intelligence department continues torturing the citizens without registering their names as detainees. This helps the torturers to hide their crimes in case the Red Cross happens to be in the country. The International Secretariat of the International Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) issued two urgent actions on Bahrain on 9 December. OMCT said it was concerned about the “the continuing intimidation and harassment of Bahraini citizens, including two children, Seyed Shubair Seyed Maki and Younis Hassan Al Sheik who have been repeatedly summoned and have suffered ill-treatment from the Bahraini police.” A second appeal said OMCT was concerned about the ransacking of “the houses of Haj Isa Mohammed, Haj Baqir Mohammed and Seyed Juma Seyed Majid. At midnight the security forces, accompanied by police dogs, which were let loose, entered the houses with the families of these men inside”. OMCT urged the Bahraini government to respect international law and to “take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned persons; to carry out a full and impartial investigation into these repeated summons and the ill-treatment endured during questioning, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law; to put an immediate end to police harassment of all Bahraini citizens; to abrogate 1974 State Security Law and all national laws which are not in compliance with international human rights standards; and to guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international standards, in particular those established in the Convention against Torture, ratified by Bahrain.” A Seminar in the British Parliament on the “Political Crisis in Bahrain” will be held on Wednesday, 15 December 1999, at 1.00 pm. Distinguished speakers include: Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Ahmed, Member of the UK Parliament, Mr. Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director of Article 19. Venue: Moses Room, Palace of Westminster.ber o
Bahrain Freedom Movement 13 December 1999
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Bahrain: Mosques under siege; HRW sheds more light on violations Attacking freedom of religion in Bahrain is on the increase. Just as the people celebrated the commencement of Ramadan, the mercenary security forces were unleashed against the citizens. Zain al-Abedin Grand Mosque in Bani Jamra is now one of the besieged places of worship. The mosque is situated in front of Sheikh Al-Jamri’s house who himself is suffering from 24-hour siege and surveillance by the security forces. On 10 December, the mercenary forces attacked the mosque and arrested a number of children aged 7-12 who had managed to penetrate the besieged mosque. The children were ill-treated and threatened to be smashed by police-jeep is they ever attempt to enter the mosque again. It is worth noting that the tribal autocracy has continued to ban prayers in Al-Sadiq Grand Mosque in Manama as well as several other mosques are the country. These attacks on freedom of religion are the first of their kinds in the history of Bahrain. The Al-Khalifa ruling family has by far exceeded the atrocities committed by the Portuguese occupation in the sixteenth century. The US-based “Human Rights Watch” (HRW) released its annual publication “World Report 2000”. In its section on Bahrain, HRW said “On March 6 Sheikh Hamad Bin `Issa Al Khalifa succeeded his late father Sheikh `Issa Bin Salman Al Khalifa as Amir. The change of government brought a mild respite from the political unrest that began in December 1994, as all involved waited for a government-imposed three-month mourning period to end. While there was no repetition of the widespread street clashes of 1994 to 1997, restrictions on freedom of association and expression continued to be severe, and Human Rights Watch continued to receive reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces, arbitrary arrests and detention, and unfair trial”. In its comment on justice system and its credibility HRW said “The government maintained its policy of providing no information to the public concerning the numbers or identities of persons arrested, tried, convicted, acquitted or released under the State Security Law or brought before the State Security Court, where procedures did not meet basic fair trial standards and verdicts were not subject to appeal. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported in June that in 1998 it had visited 1,327 persons detained for security reasons in thirteen places of detention”. It continued ” No human rights organizations were permitted to operate in Bahrain. Defense lawyers in state security court cases faced harassment for fulfilling their legal duties” In regard to Sheikh Al Jamri’s situation HRW said “As of this writing he remained restricted in his movement and in his contacts with those outside his immediate family”. And on the topic of restriction of freedom HRW commented ” Individuals, associations, and trade and professional organizations continued to face severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly”. Finally it maintained that “The practice of forced exile of perceived dissidents continued, despite the June pardon of twelve exiles”. The participants in the Arab Human Rights Activists Conference which took place in Morocco last week, sent a letter to the Amir of Bahrain demanding the release of all detainees, the return of the exiled, the lifting of the restriction on public freedoms and the reinstitution the Parliament. The letter was signed by 33 personalities of different human rights organisations in the Arab World. Reuters reported on Thursday 9 December, that Britain would ban the regional carrier “Gulf Air” from flying over its airspace at the year-end unless it introduced urgent measures to address safety risks connected to the millennium bug (Y2K). The Airline was given until 16 December to reassure Britain’s air traffic controllers. A Seminar in the British Parliament on the “Political Crisis in Bahrain” will be held on Wednesday, 15 December 1999, at 1.00 pm. Distinguished Speakers include: Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Ahmed, Member of the UK Parliament, Mr. Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director of Article 19. Venue: Moses Room, Palace of Westminster. Bahrain Freedom Movement 11 December 1999 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Rights groups appeal to Bahrain to free prisoners
05:51 a.m. Dec 11, 1999 Eastern
DUBAI, Dec 11 (Reuters) – Human rights organisations from across the Arab world have appealed to the emir of Bahrain to free all political prisoners and allow political freedoms in the Gulf Arab state on its national day later this month.
In a letter faxed to Reuters on Saturday, representatives of more than 30 human rights groups which met in Morocco earlier this week also appealed to Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to let exiled Bahrainis return home and to hold free parliamentary elections.
“We appeal to you on the occasion of the Bahrain national day…to declare a general amnesty for all detainees and political prisoners and to ensure the right of return to all those residing abroad,” the letter said.
“We also appeal to you to expedite allowing public liberties and to amend the laws relating to that and to call for free and fair elections for a legislative assembly,” it added.
Bahrain, the Gulf’s main financial and banking hub, was the scene of sporadic unrest from 1994-1998 as Shi’ite Moslems demanded political and economic reforms. More than 30 people were killed before the disturbances abated in 1998.
Sheikh Hamad, who came to power after his father died earlier this year, has prompted optimism of a change in policy. The emir has ordered the release of prominent opposition figure Sheikh Abdul-Amir al-Jamri after a Bahraini court sentenced him to 10 years in jail and fined him $15 million.
Gulf Air says its planes, systems Y2K compliant
01:07 a.m. Dec 11, 1999 Eastern
DUBAI, Dec 11 (Reuters) – Regional carrier Gulf Air has rejected Britain’s warning of safety risks over the millennium bug and said that its aircraft and systems were Y2K compliant.
“Gulf Air would like to confirm that its aircraft and systems were completely Y2K compliant,” the airline said in a statement received on Saturday.
Britain said on Thursday it would ban two foreign airlines — Gulf Air and Zambia’s Southern Aviation — from flying over its airspace at the year-end unless they introduced urgent measures to address safety risks connected to the millennium bug.
A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions said that the airlines had until December 16 to reassure Britain’s air traffic control.
“Gulf Air has been seeking the expertise of a highly specialist international company, Sabre Group, to assist the airline in ensuring that all its systems are fully compatible with the millennium century date change — Y2K,” the company statement added.
The Bahrain-based airline, which is equally owned by the governments of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, said it has a fleet of 32 aircraft which was among the youngest and most advanced in the world.
Gulf Air operates nearly 30 weekly flights between the Gulf and London.
Bahrain: Child abuse continues; illegal arms for repression The Bahraini regime’s uninterrupted indifference to human rights is evident in its daily pursuance of systematic intimidation of the citizens and its cruelty towards children. Last week’s incident serves as a hallmark to this violation. It was at midnight on 28 November, when the security forces ransacked three houses in Kharzakan area, accompanied by police dogs which were let loose in the houses. The three houses belong to Haj Isa Mohammed, Haj Baqir Mohammed and Seyed Juma Seyed Majid. An eyewitness described the scene as ” a terrifying episode seeing the dogs let loose to search the house while you hear the cries of women and children inside”. Two days later, on Saturday 1st December, the three persons above were summoned to a police station to be further intimidated. And on the following day Sunday 2nd December, the same three persons received an order to summon on next day Monday 3rd December, along with their family male-members including children. They were again threatened, harassed and beaten up. A child called Seyed Shubair Seyed Maki suffered most. Later on the same day, the family received a summon to go on the following day Tuesday 6 December, with two children Seyed Shubair Seyed Maki and Younis Hassan Al Sheikh. These two children had been arrested once before and it is feared that they would be harmed at the hands of the heartless security forces. On 24 November, Dr Jenny Tonge MP for Richmond Park asked the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the use of 6 ML1 SIELS and 1 ML1 OIEL exported to Bahrain this year. In reply to Dr. Tonge query, Mr. Peter Hain, the Foreign Minister for Middle Eastern Affairs said that “all export licence applications for Bahrain for ML1 equipment this year have been for private/recreational use by the ruling family or for national defence by the Bahrain Defence Force who are not involved in internal security. All export licences for Bahrain are considered against the established criteria, including whether there is a clearly identifiable risk of the equipment being used for external aggression or internal repression, in which case it will be refused”. However, the opposition believes that the Bahraini Government imports many types of equipment for repression, although the officially declared objective might be the “protection of vital installation”. It is known that the recently established mercenary force, the so-called “National Guard”, is building its capabilities under the disguise of protecting installations. This force is made up of people imported from outside Bahrain for the sole purpose of repressing the nation. Bahrain Freedom Movement 9 December 1999
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Update on 8 December: – The UK Government responded to a parliamentary question regarding sales of weapons to Bahrain. The UK Government re-affirmed that one of the conditions for selling weapons to Bahrain is that they must not be used for internal repression. However, the opposition believes that the Bahraini Government imports many types of equipment for repression, although the officially declared objective might be the “protection of vital installation.” It is known that the recently established mercenary force, the so-called “National Guard”, is building its capabilities under the disguise of protecting installations. This force is made up of people imported from outside Bahrain for the sole purpose of repressing the nation. – The Bahraini Government has embarked on a new policy of announcing the names of mysterious figures in the media. For example, the Egyptian person who is running all activities of the information ministry, Seyed Abdul Adhim Al-Baboli, was traditionally kept behind closed doors. Not any more. The Bahraini media is mentioning his name in all important decision making functions relating to media in Bahrain.
– The number of detainees in Bahraini jails is being increased on daily basis. Some of these “stocks” of citizens will then be released on 16 December. The Amir, unaware of the many practices of the interior ministry, would then believe that he has released some of the citizens being tortured. However, the citizens are well aware of these tactics and are bracing themselves for the worst treatment ahead of 16 December. This is the day that many people in Bahrain term as “Martyrs Day”, for it was on this day in 1994 the mercenary security forces started shooting and killing Bahraini citizens.
Bahrain: Foreign media people are asked to ignore people’s demands
Five years ago, on 5 December 1994, the people of Bahrain went out on the streets demanding their basic rights from a government which hitherto failed to understand or to positively respond to the requirements of the modern age. Some forty citizens have been gunned down, tortured to death or beaten to death by the mercenary security forces. Thousands of people have been detained and tortured. Scores continue to be forcibly exiled and the country has been turned into a militarised zone under the command of people who have no affiliation to the country or the nation. The people of Bahrain, on the other hand, have gained the respect of the international community and proved their high and civilised standard. Bahrainis deserve a better life-style and a better government that match the advanced culture and heritage of the people. On this historic day, the government-controlled newspapers quoted the information minister, Mohammed Al-Motawwa, as saying that his government has “not declared a state of emergency despite all what happened”. He was attempting to ignore the fact that Bahrain is governed by the notorious State Security Law that is worse than a declared state of emergency. Mr. Al-Motawwa is not considered a mature person and many inside the government, including the British officer Ian Henderson, refer to his as “The Stupid”. The latter has met with a group of Arab journalists in a bid to convince them that torturing Bahrainis and sentencing them arbitrarily are not matters of human concern. The heads of Radio Monte Carlo and Radio Paris International are in Bahrain and have both met all senior members of the ruling Al-Khalifa family as well as Al-Motawwa. The Bahraini government is attempting to counter the influence of the BBC Arabic Service by inviting French media organisations and offering them facilities on the presumptions that they may turn a blind eye regarding the atrocities of the mercenary security forces in Bahrain. On Wednesday 1 December, at around 11pm the security forces ransacked a house in Hamad Town, terrorised its residents and arrested one member of the family. The arrested person, Mr. Hussain Karim, was detained for two days then released. The reason given for his arrest was “questioning”. It is not uncommon in Bahrain to be held in detention for long period of times for no excuse other than “questioning”. Many Bahrainis are being held for the same reason for years under the expanding umbrella of the draconian State Security Law, which allows for the detention of citizens for up to three years without charges or trial. Two persons from Kharanah area were released last week after spending more that two years in jail without charge. Mahmmood Hassan Al Ajami, 19, and Abd Ali Al Amar, 25, were detained in the notorious Dry-Dock prison where hundreds of Bahrainis are being subjected to most cruel and degrading treatment. Calls for democracy and the reinstitution of parliament have intensified. Slogans like “we demand political reforms and democracy” and “we will not forget the pro-democracy leader Al-Jamri” are seen on walls in most areas of Bahrain. The security forces were heavily deployed in Daih and Budayyia highways at around 7pm on 1 December. Witnesses reported that tyres were set on fire at the entrances of Daih area. Armed security forces, intelligence officers and fire fighters were seen putting the fire out.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 5 December 1999
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Bahrain: Whitewashing repression is deplorable
The lies of the government have been uncovered by Channel 4 under -cover filming which showed the extent of torture and repression committed against the nation. Yet, a letter sent by a British person with an “official capacity” to a human rights organisaition attempted to cover-up the atrocities of the Bahraini autocratic regime. The letter stated that Al-Sadiq Mosque in Manama is not closed down, and claimed that “lack of preachers” was the reason behind the lack of the normal functions. The British official -speaking on behalf of the brutal regime- said that Sheikh Al-Jamri is not under house arrest. To start with, Bahrain has never been short of preachers, and the Imam of the mosque is being continuously summoned and intimidated by the intelligence department that is run by Ian Henderson. Sheikh Al-Jamri continues to be under house arrest. Moreover Adel Flaifel and six other torturers raided the house of Sheikh Al-Jamri several weeks ago and threatened him that he would be re-arrested and that they have “new confessions” extracted from two persons implicating Sheikh Al-Jamri. On 29 November, the “New Statesman” published an article by Rob Corbidge titled ”Bahrain’s Klaus Barbie’ still walks free”. The article said “There is an embarrassing relic of Scotland’s participation the “great game” to whom the tide of history not been kind. He is a living, breathing relic and his name is Ian Henderson. His very existence poses a question: does justice still belong to the victor, and if so, who won the British Empire. The writer went on to say “Ian Henderson is in his early seventies. Born in Scotland, he is a British passport-holder and would undoubtedly correct anyone who described him as English. MPs from Scotland, notably our very own keeper of global consci George Galloway, and the outspoken Dennis Canavan, have been the most dogged in his pursuit. In parliament, Galloway called him ”Britain’s Klaus Barbie”. The reason? From 1971 until lastyear, Henderson was head of the State Security Investigation Directorate for the essentially feudal Gulf state of Bahrain. Unofficially, he still is. If human rights campaigners get their way, Henderson will face prosecution under section 134 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act when he returns to Britain. This clause enables individuals to be put on trial in a British court for acts of torture committed abroad. He continued “When the British finally relinquished the reins of power to Sheikh Isa bin Sulman al Khalifa in 1971, Henderson remained. And there hehyed, unable to speak Arabic and using a team composed largely of foreigners to put down dissent”.. ” The (Al-Khalifa) family dissolved parliament in August 1975 and abolished suffrage, giving Henderson orders to ensure their power was maintained al costs On 28 November, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), submitted a letter to the British Minister of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Mr. Peter Hain, expressing their concern over the continued large scale violations of human rights hrain. FIDH said that it has not noticed any improvement regarding arbitrary detention, systematic torture, forcible exiles and other gross violations. Moreover, it expressed its concern about the date of the visit of the United Nationas Working on Arbitrary Detention to Bahrain. It went on to say ” while the FIDH, in August 1998, welcomed the Bahraini decision to cooperate with the United Nations and to schedule the visit in October1999, we are now seriously doubting of the genuiness of cooperation as it was postponed for a year, on Bahrain’s insistence.” On 26 November, Private Eye said on Bahrain that ” Eye’s readers are well aquatinted with the Amir’s biggest fan in the House of Commons, Ken Purchase, Labour MP for Wolverhamptom Noth East. Last month Purchase – “the MP who can’t be bought”, as we dubbed him last year- led yet another group of MPs on a sumptuous all-expense-paid freebie to Manama, Bahraini’s capital”. The Eye went on to say “one member of the House of Lords, Lord Avebury, Secretary of Parliamentary Human Rights Group, singled out for special criticism by Purchase.”
Bahrain Freedom Movement 4 December 1999
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Bahrain: Amir fails to respond to calls for reconcilliation
The opposition regreted the Amir’s failure to respond to its letter addressed to him to initiate a process of reconcilliation for the good of Bahrain. In the letter the opposition welcomed the Amir’s latest initiative of releasing some detainees and allowing some exiles to return to Bahrain. It regarded the move as a step forward to secure stability in the country. The letter went on to say that an actual stability would prevail when the Amir takes a historical decision for restoring the suspended articles of the Constitution, reinstitution of the Parliament, releasing all political prisoners and allowing the unconditional return of all exiles. On 23 November, The Bar Human Rights Committee submitted a letter to the Amir during his visit to the United Kingdom. The letter said “Many people implicated in any kind of expression of political opposition are subject to arbitrary detention, torture, summary and arbitrary executions, and sometimes, forcible exile from their country. The cases are subject to the State Security Law under which prisoners can be detained for up to three years without charge or trial. In practice alleged offenders are frequently re-detained for a further period on the expiry of three years. Detaineesareeventually tried for their alleged crimes in the State Security Court, a court the practices of which are universally condemned for falling farshort of international standards of justice and requirements for a fair trial.”
It went on to say “If the Amir is to rekindle the original optimsim and gain the confidence of the international human rights community the most effective way he can do so is by openning the channels of dialogue with the opposition. This will enable a programme of reform to be implemented the starting of which has to be the restoration of the Constitution and reinstitution of Parliament, and the abolition of the State SecurityCourt.”
On the same day, Jeremy Corybn MP, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group submitted a letter to the British Secretary of State Rt Hon Robin Cook. Mr. Corybn requested Mr. Cook to raise the cases of two prominent Bahraini opposition figures (Sheikh Abdul AmirAl Jamri and Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain) and members the Committee for Popular Petition. He also urged Mr. Cook to “impress upon the Amir the importance of taking action to end the routine violation of human rights in Bahrain” and to advice him “that the only solution to ending Bahrain’s on-going political and human rights crisis is to open a dialogue with members of the Committee for Popular Petition and those calling for the restoration of Parliament and the Constitution.” Article 19, submitted a letter addressed to the Amir. It said that it was “deeply concerned by the recent crackdown on freedom of religion and worship by the Bahraini Interior Ministry. According to our information, on 22 and 29 November 1999, the authorities besieged the grand mosque of Al-Sadiq, Manama, and banned worshipers from performing their Friday prayers. We understand that thisaction was part of a wide spread ban on religious activities around the country…..Article 19 is all more concerned as the ban comes in the wake of the decision by the Bahraini authorities to press new charges against writers, religious scholars and pro-democracy campaigner, Sheikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri”. Article 19, urged the Amir to restore parliamentary rule, repeal the 1974 Decree Law on State Security Measures, stop all attacks on Mosques and religious leaders and cease the harrasment of Sheikh Al Jamri and the arbitrary detention of pro-democracy campaigners. Bahrain Freedom Movement 2 December 1999
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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WORLD REPORT 2000
Covering the Period October 1998- November 1999
BAHRAIN Human Rights Developments On March 6 Sheikh Hamad Bin `Issa Al Khalifa succeeded his late father Sheikh `Issa Bin Salman Al Khalifa as amir. The change of government brought a mild respite from the political unrest that began in December 1994, as all involved waited for a government-imposed three month mourning period to end. While there was no repetition of the widespread street clashes of 1994 to 1997, restrictions on freedom of association and expression continued to be severe, and Human Rights Watch continued to receive reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces, arbitrary arrests and detention, and unfair trial. The government maintained its policy of providing no information to the public concerning the numbers or identities of persons arrested, tried,convicted, acquitted or released under the State Security Law or brought before the State Security Court, where procedures did not meet basic fairtrial standards and verdicts were not subject to appeal. The InternationalCommittee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported in June that in 1998 it had visited 1,327 persons detained for security reasons in thirteen places of detention. On June 6 the amir announced the phased release of three hundred and twenty untried detainees and forty-one convicted prisoners, and the pardon of twelve individuals living in exile. Days later he also announced that those released would receive assistance finding jobs; previous security detainees had reported that Ministry of Interior policies made it nearly impossible to find employment in public or private sectors after their release. As of this writing the government had not responded to requests by Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organizations for the names of those released, or for information about their convictions, making it impossible to evaluate the true extent and terms of the pardon. Bahraini press accounts and reports by opposition groups suggested that many if not most of those amnestied were youths who had been held for months or years without trial, including Ahmed `Ali Ahmad Hussain, an intermediate school student held for one year and four months, and Jaffar `Ali Hassan, a seventeen-year-old who had been held for two years and nine months. The amir pardoned Sheikh `Abd al-Amir al-Jamri on July 8, one day after State Security Court had sentenced him to ten years in prison, a 5,000Bahraini Dinar fine, and an unprecedented 5,709,247 Bahrain Dinar (more than U.S.$15 million) in damages for property losses incurred during several years of political unrest in Bahrain. The sixty-two-year-old Shi’a religious leader had been detained since January 1996 (see Human Rights Watch World Report 1999), and was only brought to trial in February 1999after the expiration of the maximum administrative detention period allowed in Bahraini law. The four court sessions together lasted a little more than three hours and were closed to the public. As in other security court cases, Al-Jamri’s lawyers had only very limited access to their client. Al-Jamri’s pardon came after he had signed a statement apologizing for his actions and undertaking not to carry out acts against the state or incite others to do so. The government did not make public the text of the undertakings, but individuals who met al-Jamri immediately after his release said that it included a ban on all public speaking, including religious sermons. Family members alleged that the statement was coerced, as al-Jamri was in poor health and had been returned to solitary confinement for three weeks prior to his release. As of this writing he remained restricted in his movement and in his contacts with those outside his immediate family. Six of the seven opposition leaders arrested at the same time as al-Jamri remained in prison without charge or trial: Hassan Sultan, `Ali `Ashur, Hussayn al-Daihi, Hassan Mishma’a, Sayyid IbrahimAdnan al-Alawi, and `Abd al-Wahab Hussayn. `Ali Bin Ahmad al-Jedhafsi was released on July 26, 1999. According to the Bahrain Human RightsOrganization (BHRO), family members reported that al-Daihi and `Ashur weredenied medical treatment for injuries in June, and Hussayn was hospitalized in early September Individuals, associations, and trade and professional organizations continued to face severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Trade unions remained banned and in August security forces raided and reportedly confiscated documents and computer files from the offices of the General Committee of Bahraini Workers, a registered organization that had asked for the right to bargain collectively. Membership activities and cultural publications of the`Uruba cultural club continued to be heavily monitored, and a seminar on “Women and Political Participation” planned for June 9 was banned. In a December 21, 1998 letter, the president of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sport, the agency with oversight powers over cultural and sport associations, accused the club of violating the 1989 law governing associations by inviting other clubs to meet to discuss sanctions against Iraq. The letter threatened actions to “return [the club] to its proper place” and “force it to respect” the council. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs had used the 1989 associations law to remove the elected board of the Bar Society in 1998. After lengthy negotiations with the government, the Bar Society was finally allowed to hold elections on March 3 in exchange for agreeing to drop its court case challenging the board’s removal, and members voted out of office the government-appointed board. Shi`a religious charitable societies were also closely monitored, and had to report all expenditures, as well as the names of all volunteers, donors, and students enrolled in training programs. Some charities reported being warned not to provide monies to particular families or individuals. The practice of forced exile of perceived dissidents continued, despite the June pardon of twelve exiles. According to the BHRO, in July at least seven Bahraini citizens and their families, a total of thirty-two people in all, were refused entry when they attempted to return to Bahrain. In some cases they were interrogated prior to deportation, and some individual with expired passports were issued with one year extensions. Defending Human Rights No human rights organizations were permitted to operate in Bahrain. Defense lawyers in state security court cases faced harassment for fulfilling their legal duties, as in the case of attorney `Abullah Hashim, who was prevented from traveling abroad immediately following his filing a habeascorpus appeal on behalf of his client, Sheikh al-Jamri, in January.Several lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they had been warned by security personnel not to provide information about arrests and security court trials to the press or to international human rights monitors. Security personnel closely monitored the movements and telephone conversations of a Human Rights Watch delegate who visited Bahrain in April. From June 28 to July 2 Amnesty International (AI) delegates met judges and senior government officials during its first visit to Bahrain in twelve years. AI noted with regret that “its delegates were not permitted to meet privately with other sectors of society concerned with human rights promotion and protection” and said that it had “sought assurances that similar restrictions will not be imposed in future visits.”Outside of Bahrain the BHRO and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Bahrain (CDHRB) compiled information on detainees, deaths in custody, and other issues, and campaigned for resolutions critical of the government’s practices at meeting
s of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and in other fora. The Role of the International Community United Nations On August 4 Bahrain withdrew its reservation to article 20 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which allows the committee to conduct confidential investigations of allegations of torture (see Human Rights Watch WorldReport 1999 ). As of this writing it had not acted on its August 1998promise to allow a visit by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 1999, nor had it responded positively to requests by U.N. special rapporteurs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to visit Bahrain. The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination canceled the special review of Bahrain’s implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) scheduled for its March session after Bahrain submitted its initial report in late February. Bahrain had not submitted any of the five periodic reports due since it ratified the treaty in 1990,and the special review was to have responded to the absence of a report.The review of Bahrain’s report was scheduled for the committee’s March 2000 session. In an October 14, 1998 note verbale to the U.N.’s secretary-general Bahrain said that statements by Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues in their submissions to the fifty-forth session of the Commission on Human Rights were “groundless and blatantly political allegations,” but did not address the specific concerns raised .Iran Iran and Bahrain resumed diplomatic relations on January 26, 1999. Both countries had recalled their ambassadors in 1996 United States The headquarters for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Bahrain continued to enjoy strong U.S. support. In March Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, whowas in Bahrain for meetings with Amir `Isa the day of the amir’s death, described the amir as “a strong and loyal friend to the United States andparticularly to the U.S. Navy,” whose “care and concern for the people of Bahrain made him an effective and beloved leader.” Shortly after the visit the Department of Defense also announced the sale of a U.S.$110 million air-to-air missile system, and said that it would install a special telephone line to facilitate communication between the Pentagon and the Bahraini defense ministry. On September 29, 1999 the U.S. and Bahrain signed a bilateral investment treaty, the first such treaty between the U.S. and a gulf state
Five years after the eruption of the popular uprising;
Old habits die hard Five years ago this month the people of Bahrain erupted in anger as the situation deteriorated in terms of human rights and public freedoms. That event became a watershed in the history of the country. Since then, the Government of Bahrain has become to known the world as one of the most repressive regimes in the world, superseded only by countries like Iraq and others with black records of repression. Five years on and the situation has barely improved despite the ascendance to the throne of a relatively young ruler following the death of his father. In this hereditary dictatorship, hardly anything moves in the direction of reform and openness. With a prime minister who has exercised absolute power for decades, government has become so immobile that some of the ministers have remained in their post for more than twenty years. To the Al Khalifa ruling family, this is a source of pride and achievement and indication to the stability of the regime. But to the victims of torture, it is a sign of and absolutist approach to governance. The Al Khalifa have long ago resigned themselves to the fact that the people of Bahrain have no love left for them, and have sought therefore to secure themselves by depending on outside expertise to keep them in place. Today, the security forces are run by a British colonial officer and staffed with torture experts from different countries. Riot police consists almost totally of foreign troops from the Indian subcontinent, while the newly-formed National Guard is mainly staffed by Bedouins from the Syrian and Arabian deserts. Bahrainis are detested by the Al Khalifas and have received the brunt of their inhumane policies. Unemployment among the natives is high while foreigners imported into the country by the Al Khalifa enjoy the full benefits of the country. In return their main function is to provide a terror machine against Bahrainis. With this state of affairs, the situation is made even worse by the adoption of a totalitarian system that recognises no role for the people. Since the previous Amir decreed to suspend the parliament and abolish the Constitution in 1975, the country has been run by a ruthless regime that observed no bounds in its treatment of the native population. The popular uprising of 1994 has sought to make the world aware of the nature of the Al Khalifa brutal government, and force certain changes. So far, it has achieved enormous success. Today, the Al Khalifa are castigated in the most negative terms worldwide, and the case of Bahrain is often quoted as one where and educated people are fighting a backward regime in the most civilised manner. The government is forced to change its policies, from directly refusing to accept the ides of change and reform to conceding small territories while maintaining the absolutist dictatorship. Since the new Amir came to power earlier this year he promised to introduce some reforms, but so far he has failed to deliver on his promises. Apart from some cosmetic changes the system has remained as backward and repressive as ever. The country’s jails are overcrowded with hundreds of prisoners of conscience, while large numbers of Bahrainis have remained in exile. Arbitrary detention is on the increase with many reports of torture being administered by the same officers who smeared the reputation of Bahrain. When the Amir of Bahrain undertook his state visit to the United Kingdom, he found himself and his entourage embroiled in controversy similar to the one that surrounded the visit of the Chinese leader to London few months ago. Politicians, journalists, human rights and lawyers have expressed interest in the visit. A documentary depicting the fate of the victims of torture in Bahrain was broadcast by Channel 4 News programme. It was one of the most successful footage ever produced that incriminate a British officer accused of torturing people, sometimes to death. The echoes of this film reverberated in several Middle Eastern capitals as the extent of horror prevailing in Bahrain was suddenly exposed to the world. Notable human rights organisations did their best to expose the extent of the crisis in that country, and wrote letters to the Amir and the British Foreign Office presenting the case for change and detailing the extent of the abuses. Politicians such as Lord Avebury, Jeremy Corbyn, MP and others worked hard to force the issue of change in Bahrain on the Agenda. Although the opposition preferred a more conciliatory approach to the Amir’s visit, refraining from any act of overt protest, the initiatives of the friends of the people of Bahrain have highlighted the crisis of human rights and democracy in Bahrain. The entourage of the Amir did not reciprocate this goodwill gesture. The Foreign Minister lashed out against the opposition in his press conference to the distaste of the participating journalists. Furthermore, the security forces in Bahrain continued its aggression against the people, arrested and tortured tens of citizens during the Amir’s visit. Tens of people, including children were arrested and tortured in revenge for the negative publicity that surrounded the Amir’s visit to London. More repressive measures are being taken against the people of Bahrain who are now facing the prospect of having to secure an official permission for any social or religious function. It is ironic that, as the people of Bahrain celebrate the fifth anniversary of the popular uprising (the intifada), the situation in the country has become so polarised against the government that further unrest cannot be ruled out. The opposition had hoped that its moderate demands to reinstate the Constitution would be met by a welcome gesture from the Al Khalifa, but the tight-lipped prime minister had not been in a mood for reconciliation and dialogue. He sought to uproot the people of Bahrain from their own land in the hope that no one would know. In the circumstances it has now transpired that the people of Bahrain have proved to be a force to be reckoned with. As the people of Bahrain await the new millennium, confidence has suddenly surfaced amongst the youths, who are awaiting the outcome of their sacrifices. Undoubtedly if it was not for the blood of the martyrs, the Al Khalifa would not have contemplated change, however it may be small. It is thus their right to celebrate their achievements and express the hope that the tyranny in Bahrain will be uprooted in the not-too-far future.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 1 December1999
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