APR 93



VOICE OF BAHRAIN PAGE3 APRIl 1993 Amnesty International: Children Are Tortured in Bahrain The Working Group For Children of Amnesty International issued an appeal to protect innocence and vulnerability of children in the worst 27 countries around the world. Bahrain was one of these countries. It is No 16 in the list of countries abusing children for political reasons. According to Ad, “several young people were arrested for distributing leaflets in various towns and villages. In Bahrain, political detainees are commonly held for prolonged periods in incommunicado detention; Bahrain permits detention without charge or trial for a period of up to three years, renewable. Many detainees held under this law have been tortured in order to extract information or confessions.” This latest communique by Amnesty International invalidates the argument that the Government of Al Khalifa has shown any sign of openness or respect of Intemational laws and conventions. The “OK” Council is “Functioning” This is how the intelligence community in Bahrain calls the newly-appointed Council. Especially, the British officers look at the Consultative Council as nothing but a talking shop and a rubber stamp for the government. Members are paid BD 3000 (US$ 9000) monthly if they have no other source of income otherwise thc pay is half of that. So far the major achievement has been as follows: Some members proposed to issue a condemnation of the Israeli action of deporting 400 Palestinians. That proved an untenable task. The Egyptian Legal expert, I)r. Ashmawi, protested that intention saying it was not the duty of the Council to issue such statements. He tried to validate his argument by listing the vanous Amin decrees related to the Council and insisted these decrees do not permit engaging in such activities. One of thc members, Abdul Nabi Al Shu’la shouted in anger: What are we here for then? The govemmentrelented to the demand and the Council scored a point. A statement was in support of the deportees. People in Bahrain exchanged jokes about this action and Inquired whether a similar statement could be issued in support of thc Bahraini deportees whose numbers increases by Ihe day. For example; last month one of the Bahraini deportecs, AzizMashaAllah Mohammed passed away after enormous pressure for being away from his family in Bahrain. Mr. MashaAllah was being treated in a Copenhagen hospital for injuries sustained some years ago during two years of detention and torture. He was deported to Iran from where he travelled to Syna, Algiers and finally, Denmark. This is in addition to those who are continuously dcportcd on their ax rival at the airport, the latest of whom Mr. Mohammed Jawad Kadhem Al Demestani. (see other news). Freedom of Expression Banned The latest violation of the freedom of expression in Bahrain came last month as Bahraini people were engaged in activities related to the month of Ramadhan. The tradition has been to organise intellectual seminars in various parts of the country. People have often enjoyed these seminars since they provide them with both ideological and social satisfaction. This year, however, the situation was different. On 6th March 1993* a seminar was planned to take place at Al Khawaja Mosque in the Capital, Manama. ‘rwo people were to debate contemporary issues relating to the popular demand for the enactment of the Constitution. Dr. Abdul Latif Al Mhamood and Sheikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri had been invited to present their views on matters relating to their meeting with the Amir, Sheikh Essa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, January 1993. In that meeting the two were accompanied by four others (see Voice of Bahrain No. 14) and were attempting to receive a formal response to the petition they had sponsored in mid November calling for democratic elections according to the Constitution. The meeting was stormy. The Amirrefused to acknowledge the need for an elected parliament and insisted on his form of “consultative council”. When the six presented their case he was so upset that he abruptly brought the meeting to a swift end. Since then, there has been populardemand for increased activities to speed up the democratic process. A detailed study was prepared by Dr. Al Mahmood (an assistantprofessor at the Bahrain University) in which nine major differences between the appointed Council and the elected parliament were highlighted in a legal form. The meeting was called to explain the view of the opposition in a peaceful way. But the Government took the matter seriously and intervened at the highest level to cancel the seminar. Subsequently, the security service took charge of the situation and ordered the police to take a high profile on the night of the seminar. Police had hanged the mosque with a prohibition notice declaring the seminar had been banned. They were put on full alert later in the day in case the organisers insisted on convening the seminar. Both speakers were contacted on the morning Saturday 6th March and warned of arrest if they tried to reach the mosque in the evening. They were asked to order the youth to stay away or face unknown reprisals. The government eventually succeeded in banning the seminar but left deep resentment in the country. Furthermore, the government again intervened on 1 8th March to ban aprogramrne which had bcen planned to take place at Mo’men Mosque in Manama. This time, the theme was a general discussion of the Palestinian problem and the current position of thc holy city of Jerusalem. Without warning, the security forces surrounded the house of Sheikh Al Jamri who was one of the speakers, and attempted to arrest him. People gathered as thenews spread around and after a series of heated exchanged succeed to foil the pre-planned arrest. The situation remained tense throughout the night and deteriorated further in the days which followed. On Saturday 20th March, Sheikh Al Jamri was served with a notice to attend one of the Police stations (at Al Khamis Police Fort) for questioning. There, he was interrogated by a police officer, who told him to stop lecturing without prior permission from either the Interior or Justice Ministries. He was told the Security Service would summon him for further interrogation after the month of Ramadhan. This deterioration in the state of public freedom is worrying to say the least. The Bahraini opposition has refrained from any activity that may jeopardise the state of peace in the country. It has tailored its demands down to the constitutional rights . The government has however, resorted to the use of force to prevent any expression of opposition to the despotic rule of the Al Khalifa. The situation is volatile and outburst of anger could lead to disorder at a time when people were expecting an openness following the Kuwaiti crisis. So far, only Kuwait has managed to retain some form of a limited con.stitlltional demacranv Token steps are being adopted by the government to prevent the situation getting out of hand. Last month, 15 people were released after serving 12 out of a lS-year prison sentence. Although the prisoners had almost finished their full prison sentences the Amir tried to present the releases as yet another”Amiri gratitude” on the day of Eid (the Muslim feast at the end of the holy month of Ramadhan). Unless some serious measures are taken to ensure respect for human values by repealing the State Security Law, releasing all political prisoners, allowing the unconditional return of the political exiles, allowing freedom of expression within the constitutional framework and preparing for free elections, the situation is likely to deteriorate. The government has been engaged in a systematic programme of spreading fear through detention, interrogations, and threats to use force. In 1992 hundreds of young men were interrogated and briefly detained under the State Security Law, despite the fact that B ahrain had been under UN monitoring of human rights situation. The future is not bright for a healthy political environment. The government has to choose between peace, prosperity and harmony or confrontation with the people of Bahrain.

PAGE 2 VOICE OF BAHRAIN APRIL 1993 Al Mahmood: These Are the Differences The most detailed study of the differences between the Consultative Council appointed by the Government of Bahrain and the elected parliament as detailed by the Constitution was presented last month by Dr. Abdul Latif Al Mahmood an assistant professor at the Bahrain University and one of the sponsors of the November petition signed by 300 personalities. In the study nine major differences were highlighted by the study as follows: l . The Shura Council is consultative while the National Assembly is legislative. 2. The Shura Council is appointed while the National Assembly is freely elected by the populace. 3. The Shura Council is for offering suggestions while the National Assembly is for enacting laws and monitoring. 4. Thc Shura Council is for recommendations while the National Assembly is for implemcntation of policies. 5. The provisions of the Shura Council is *’for information” while those of the National Assembly are binding. 6. Members of the ShuraCouncil represent themselves while members of National Assembly represent all citizens. 7. The Governments ‘s presence in the Shura Council is secondary while in the National Assembly it is integral. 8. Presidency of the Shura Council is appointed whilst that of the National Assembly is elected. 9. Sessions of the Shura Council are held in secret while those of the National Assembly are public. These are the main differences between the two establishments; the Shura Council which was appointed by the Amir in December 1992 and the National Assembly which was prescribed by the 1973 Constitution and which has been banned for the last 17 years. These significant differences have knock-on effects on the preservation of public and individual rights and duties described by Chapter 2 & 3 of the Constitution. They are hindrances to the progress and development of the country and its human resources.


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