JANUARY 1992 . BAHRAIN: URGENT STEPS NEEDED TO IMPROVE DISMAL HUMAN RIGHT RECORD On the occasion of Bahrain’s National Day (Monday, Decemberl6, 1991), ARTICLE 19 has called on the Bahraini government to take urgent measures to improve its dismal human rights records and to respect the promise made by Prime Minister Al Khalifa in December 1990 to support the are-introduction of democracy in the political life of Bahrain”. The ruling Al Khalifa family disbanded the limited democratic process in 1975 and since then have even removed from the Constitution the clause which states that ‘sno provision of the Constitution may be suspended except during a state of emergences. In the Censorship News: Time for change in Bahrain, ARTICLE 19 reports that all political organizations are banned, trade union rights are severely circumscribed, draconian censorship laws gag the domestic and foreign media, and all but the major religiousfestivals are prohibited. Large numbers of people are arrestedmerely for criticizing the Government, many areheldfor long periods withoutcharge or trial and some are subjected to torture. An appalling number have died in detention seemingly as a result of torture. Said Essoulami, Middle East research Coordinator for ARTICLE 19 commented: aDeplorable violations of human rights continue in Bahrain and are hidden from the scrutiny of the international community by pervasive censorship and the gaggingofnational and foreign press. International attention must focus on Bahrain if actual improvements in human rights are to be achieved.” ARTICLE 19’s recommendations to the Bahraini Government include the following: – repeal the State Security Law which, among other things authorize the detention without charge or trial of suspects for up to three years, and longer at the direction of the Minister of the Interior; – release all prisoners detained for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly, in eluding all those who have been held without charge or trial, many for several years; – declare a firm policy that torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment will notbe tolerated and investigate claims oftorture, especially those cases which have resulted in deaths in detention; -recognize the right to freedom of association and in particular the right to form political parties; -abolish censorship of the media and, in particular, repeal the following provisions of the 1979 Press and Puts lication Code includingArticles 10 and 13 which require the authorization of the Minister of Information before any printed material, whether produced locally or abroad, may be circulated, and Article 5, which grants the Minister of Information power to ban the printing of any newspaper or other publication. – hold free and democratic elections for councils and a national legislative assembly, axed, as a first step, restore suspended articles of the Constitution which allow a measure of democratic participation. Censorship News on Bahrain is available from ARTICLE 19, the International Centre Against Censorship, 90 Borough High Street, London, SE1 ILL. Telephone: 071-403 4822 For further information, please contact Helen Darbishire, Campaigns Officer Said Essolllami, Middle East Research Co-ordinator Tel: 071 403 4822 Fas: 071 4031943 X. ARTICLE l9is an organisation based in London and is dedicated to promote the issue of human rights with special emphasis on freedom of expresssion and denves its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “Eve7wone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression- this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” A similar report was published by Amnesty International in May 1991.
PAGE 2 VOICE OF BAEIRAM JANUARY 1992
Dr Al-Mahmood: Intemed for his opinion The Bahrain University Lecturer Dr. Abdul LatifAl-Mahmood was arrested on 14 December at the airport after his arrival from Kuwait where he had delivered a lecture at a seminar organised by the University of Kuwait. The theme of the seminar was aFuture Perspective for Unity amongst GCC Countries”, in which he outlined his views on the necessary conditions to achieve unity, the factors causingits delay and the future perspective for popular participation. He argued that the basic causes of failure in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are athe personaUtnbal conflicts between Gulfgovernments, the absence of popular participation the non-existence of effective constitutional frameworks, the lack of a non-biased judicial system, the restrictions imposed on the media and the vicious use of sectarian division and tribalism as a basis for governing”. He also called for zan end to the prerogatives unfairly erUoyed by children of the royal families”, such as zreservingonethird of the StateJs budget for their personal use”, aimplementing a master-slave relationship with the peopled zexemption from payment of customs and other bills for electricity, water, telephone, etc…” aimmunity from accountability”, areserving senior posts for themselves, despite being unqualified”, etc.. He urged the Gulf rulers anot to consider popular participation as a form of gratitude” and called for the aestablishment of social justice”, prohibition of ausing authority as a means of personal wealth generation”, sallowing for utilisation of national human resources and freedom of expression” and aputting an end to injustice and oppression”. Fairly minded people would agree that what Dr Al-Mahmood stated was merely an articulation of the principles underlining the inalienable rights enjoyed by citizens of modern states, where political and civil liberties are based on the basic concepts of accountability and popular participation. Earlier this month, replying to a journalist’s question, the Bahrain Information Minister said that such people (like Dr. Al-Mahmood) are a threat to astability”! This is a misconception. While no one denies the importance of stability and order for the existence of human beings, civili ze d hi story has proved that achieving the compliance of the people through fear is counter-productive. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nation in 1948 provides an international code for securing the basic right entitled to human beings. On the other hand the Bahrain State Security Law of 1974, considers the mere talking about these concepts a punishable crime which entitles the Interior Minister to order the administrative detention of people, like Dr. Al-Mahmood, for up to three years, renewable. This time lAr. A1Mahmood was fortunate enough to be fined 500 Dinars (US$1300) after two weeks in detention. Others are spending their tenth year for Offenses” similar to those of D. A1Mahmood. It is not surprising for the Al-Khalifa government of Bahrain to be condemned by international human rights organisations forits cruel and degrading treatment of political suspects. It is, however, surprising that countries like the United Kingdom, which claim to champion the cause of human rights and democracy, and insist on linking their foreign relations with Commonwealth and Eastern European countries to turn a blind eye to abuses of human rights in Bahrain.
Indeed, the people of Bahrain believe that these countries actually support the abuse of human rights. This is a fact Bahrain internal security systems, responsible for torturing (in some cases leading to death), imprisoning, persecution, surveillance and controlling every walk of life in Bahrain is run by BRITISH subjects such as Mr Jim Bell (Director General of Public Security) and Ian Henderson (Director of State Security Investigations).
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