Bahrain: Crackdown campaign widens amid wide-ranging violations
The security forces continued their atrocities by attacking and detaining scores of citizens. Two 15-year old children were detained in Aali: Mahfoodh Hassan Mahfoodh, and Hussain Ali Hussain Habib. A vicious attack against the residents of Sitra resulted in scores of arrests. On 23 August, the following people were taken away following savage dawn raids on Kharjeyyah-Sitra: Ahmad Salman Al-Abbod, 27, Ali Salman Al-Abbod, 24, Hussain Hamid Al-Abbod, 19, Fadhil Hamid Al-Abbod, 18, Ali Mansoor Abdul Karim, 28, Abdul Hussain Mansoor Abdul Karim, 27, Abdul Sahara Mansoor Abdul Karim, 26, Hassan Mansoor Abdul Karim, 25, Abdul Nabi Mansoor Abdul Karim and Abdull Mansoor Abdul Karim. These are brothers from two families. Another attack on Markoban-Sitra resulted in the arrest of Ibrahim Abdul Nabi Habib, 15. This child was one of the people who had recently been released as part of the “Amiri gratitude”. On 21 August, the security forces attacked Daih and arrested several citizens including Abdul Nabi Abdull Fakr, 28. Mr. Fakhr was tortured for one day.
Another family was forcibly exiled from Bahrain. On 18 August, the family of Mr. Abdul Nabi Ali Al-Durazi returned home from abroad. The family comprised of the mother and her seven children: Tuqa, Alia, Kawther, Mohammed, Ahmad, and Mostafa. They family was held for four days in the international airport and then exiled to Iran.
The Central Council of the Arab Labour Union issued a statement on 21 August condemning the attack on the Adleya-based offices of the Bahraini Workers Committee. The Arab Labour Union sent letters to the Amir and prime minister deploring the atrocious attack and calling for the formation of labour unions as per Bahrain’s constitution.
The prime minister has snatched another area stretching from the old port in Manama to the Meridian Hotel; and from there into the sea with an area greater than the entire capital. The prime minister ordered the entire area to be registered in his name and passed the papers for the Amir to sign-off. The prime minister has also ordered all senior officials to leave their work every Sunday morning and pay a visit to his tent in Rifaa. Every Sunday, many of the state employees do not turn up to work and whenever someone asks about their absence, the automatic reply is that they are visiting the tent of the prime minister.
As part of the evil-minded programme for changing the demography of Bahrain, the government has appointed a person in Dammam for issuing passports (that is offering a second citizenship) to all members of the Dowsari tribe. The government initiated this programme while its other plan for importing Syrian Bedouins continues. The government has another person in Deir Al-Zor (Syria) whose responsibility is to grant citizenship to Bedouins who are then exported to Bahrain. These evil-minded programmes are aimed at destablising the social structure of the country and this explains how the resources of the state are wasted in non-productive plans.
The London-based Al-Arab newspaper revealed on 25 August that the Bahraini government has singed a 2-year contract worth five million pounds ($8 m) with a British public relation (PR) firm for publishing articles and offering services to improve the image of the tribal dictatorship. It is worth noting that a similar amount of money has been expended in France and Washington for the same ill-fated purpose.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 27 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
25 August: Press Conference in the British Parliament on Bahrain
A press conference was organised in the British Parliament on 25 August to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the dissolution of parliament and suspension of key articles of the constitution in Bahrain. The conference was addressed by Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG); Mr. Michael Ellman, Lawyer and the Vice-Chair of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH); and Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri, Spokesperson for the Bahrain Freedom Movement (BFM).
Lord Avebury: “Here we are yet again to observe the passing of a year without any form of democracy in Bahrain, the 24th since the late Amir abolished the Parliament, tore up the constitution and resumed the old custom of government by the al-Khalifas, of the al-Khalifas and for the al-Khalifas. The hereditary dictatorship has continued ever since, and the accession of a new Amir this year has not produced the changes that were hoped for, even expected by some optimists. When the Amir announced his first cabinet on May 31, the eight members of the royal family who occupied all the most important posts in the government were kept on, and one extra royal made it as Minister of Electricity and Water. The Amir’s uncle Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa is still Prime Minister, and he is seen to be responsible for the hard line taken over the last five years against the democracy movement and its leaders, represented by the Committee for Popular Petition. If there was going to be any genuine reform, Sheikh Khalifa would have had to be moved, provoking disagreement amongst the leading members of the family. The new Ruler, Sheikh Hamad, may have judged that he could not carry them with him if he embarked on a course which would inevitably deprive them of some of their privileges, and the sidelining of Sheikh Khalifa would have been seen as a first move in that direction.
What we have seen over the last 12 months, however, is that international pressure can produce small improvements in human rights. The visit by Amnesty International, and the forthcoming visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, led to the release of some prisoners who had spent months and in some cases years in custody without being charged or tried. Some of these detainees were under 18, and the authorities continue to arrest minors without allowing their parents or guardians access to them, violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Bahrain has signed. Amongst those detained in July whose ages are known, there are 7 “17-year-olds”, and earlier in the year there were children of 13, 14 and 15 in the lists. When Amnesty visited Bahrain, I understand they were not allowed to enter any of the places of detention, or to speak to relatives who could have given them information about the conditions, including those of children. We have heard of one young person arrested on July 22, who was reported to have been so badly tortured that he had to be hospitalised. Many of the family and friends of this boy were also arrested and interrogated, to find out how the information about his condition had reached the outside world. The implacable determination of the régime to silence dissent is epitomised by the treatment of Sheikh al-Jamri since he was released from prison in July. After a show trial and a ten-year sentence passed by three judges headed by the obligatory al-Khalifa, Sheikh al-Jamri was freed, only to be imprisoned in his own village. When a delegation from the Committee for Popular Petition tried to visit him a month ago, they were stopped at a check point in the village and taken to the Budaya Police Station, where they were interrogated for an hour and a half. The blockade of the village was then stepped up, not only making normal life impossible for Sheikh al-Jamri and his family, but grossly inconveniencing everybody else in the village and their relatives elsewhere who want to see them. Sheikh al-Jamri’s telephone is tapped, and reports of his conversations are given to Mr Adel Flaifel, the security official who has been actively involved in torturing prisoners. His boss Henderson is still around and is said to be active appearing in local press (Al-Ayyam) side-by-side with the interior minister on 15 July. Probably he has thought again about returning to Britain, knowing that he might be charged with torture as Pinochet has been. There are no foreign journalists in Bahrain, the last one having been expelled in July 1997 after being threatened with prosecution for ‘insulting the royal family’. The editors of the two British and two Arabic newspapers are appointed by the Government. Nothing critical of the régime can be published locally, and people have to depend on the Qatari satellite TV station al-Jezira for any genuine discussion of Bahrain issues”.
Michael Ellman: “We, at FIDH, have been very concerned about human rights in Bahrain for many years. During our General Meeting in the Senegal 18 months ago, the FIDH delegates adopted a resolution stating our concern on violations in Bahrain and we cited that the Bahraini government’s violation of political and civil rights of its citizens. And although Bahrain has not ratified the two covenants for political, civil, cultural, social and economic rights, these have become international customary laws and all states are bound to respect the minimum requirements for basic rights stated in these international covenants. In any case, torture and arbitrary detentions can never be justified under any circumstances.
The government of Bahrain denies its citizens all basic political rights and frequently deports them to the outside. We are pleased that Bahrain has ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT) but sad to know that torture has not stopped. In fact CAT is clear in that it requires all countries that ratified it to bring torturers to court even if they committed the offences outside their countries and even if they were citizens of other countries. This means that those who torture in Bahrain, like Ian Henderson and Adel Flaifel, must be pursued when they come to this country and be brought to justice. We should have folders for each one of them ready to be handed to the legal authorities when they step in this country. Torture and tortures will have no impunity and when the International Criminal Court is established they will certainly find the net is getting tighter”.
Mansoor Al-Jamri: “Samih Saeed, the human rights advocate wrote an article yesterday in Al-Quds eloquently describing the situation in Bahrain. He said that the Bahraini authorities have lost another opportunity for national reconciliation. This is an accurate description of what is going on in Bahrain nowadays. When the new Amir assumed power on 6 March, many people had hoped for the turning of a new page in Bahraini history. Indeed, the new Amir went on to state that he does not intend to discriminate amongst the citizens, something that added to the optimism that prevailed the country. The people waited for the three months of mourning to finish, only to realise that nothing has changed.
During this period at lease 37 people have been forcibly exiled; Women who attempted to hand in a letter to the Amir were beaten, arrested and the couch owner who took them to the palace was arrested and had his office closed down for a month; Dr. Sabeeka Al-Najjar was prevented from delivering a speech in Al-Oroba Club on 9 June; the offices of the Bahraini Workers Committee were raided by security forces two weeks ago; and the show-trail and subsequent house-arrest of Sheikh al-Jamri provided the full picture of the policy. In a nutshell, nothing has changed. The prime minister who adopts an iron-fist policy has resumed his ancient attitude and the government went ahead with its programme of deploying mercenaries for repressing the nation. What has happened was nothing more than a cosmetic dressing to divert international pressure. It is for this reason that pressure from human rights organisation must continue until the attainment of basic demands”.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 25 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Bahrain: The government has lost another opportunity for reconciliation
The human rights advocate, Samih Saeed, wrote an important article in Al-Quds of 24 August stating that the “Bahrain authorities have lost yet another opportunity for a national reconciliation”. Mr. Saeed said “when the new Amir assumed power in Bahrain few months ago many had hoped and expected that he will address the political crisis by looking into the demands raised by the Committee for Popular Petition. Despite the positive remarks made by the new Amir, all the people were stunned to witness how he dealt with the situation. The release of some 320, return of 12 exiles, the trail and release of Sheikh Al-Jamri, and the release of Seyyed Jaffer Al-Alawi after 18 years of imprisonment have all combined to send a gloomy message to the people. These measures were aimed at diverting external pressure rather than being part of a reform programme. The government’s plans and aims became obvious, as all people know that there will be a visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Moreover, all sides of the opposition realised that the government is targeting them one by one and is aiming at destroying each one of them without any intention for dialogue or reform. The security forces continued their atrocities unabated. More people have been detained. The British officer Thomas Bryan and his staff raided the offices of the General Committee for Bahraini Workers.” Mr. Saeed said that “despite all these upsets, the recent government’s manoeuvres were forced on the government by the struggle and sacrifices of the Bahraini people; that the continuation of pressure is the only viable approach available to the opposition; and the unity of the opposition and the people will be the main weapon against the ill-intentions of the regime”. The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) issued an urgent appeal on 18 August calling for the uplifting of the house arrest imposed on Sheikh Al-Jamri and the release of pro-democracy leaders. Both OMCT and the Bahrain Human Rights Organisation (BHRO) called for urgent action to “take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical integrity of Sheikh Al-Jamri and to ensure free and immediate access to adequate medical care including hospital access” In London, a “Press Conference” will be organised on Wednesday 25 August on the 24th Anniversary of the suspension of Bahrain’s Constitution. Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human rights Group, will chair the conference to discuss the stalemated political process in Bahrain. [Time: 11.30 am, 25 August, Place: Committee Room, 1 Abbey Gardens (Annex to the House of Lords), London SW1, Nearest Underground Station: Westminster]. Bahrain freedom Movement 24 August 1999 (2nd release) Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Bahrain: Condemnation of government’s policy of “collective punishment”
“Interfaith International” delivered another intervention before the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission on 23 August condemning the abuse of human rights in Bahrain. The intervention stated “Interfaith International welcomes the recent steps announced by the government of Bahrain. However, we are concerned about the siege imposed on the entire village of Bani Jamra and several mosques in the country. The house arrest imposed on Sheikh Al-Jamri since his release on 8 July and the subsequent collective punishment of Bani Jamra people, are deplorable. These acts do not go along with the spirit of the steps taken by the new Amir of Bahrain.” Interfaith International went on to say “While many governments have ratified human rights treaties we witness the continuation of abuses. Some governments have become sophisticated enough to ratify covenants of human right while at the same time continue to abuse human rights. This may be related to the increasing workload on the UN human rights capabilities and the knowledge of government of the deficits in monitoring all aspects and methods of human rights abuses. ” The continuation of interventions on Bahrain by human rights organisations before the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission has cornered the government’s delegation that is trying to create a fictitious impression about the situation in Bahrain. The experts of the UB Sub-Commission have succeeded in forcing the Bahraini government to ratify Article 20 of the Convention Against Torture. The respected experts have also succeeded in obtaining a concession for allowing the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Bahrain. This defeat is being reported in the government’s controlled press as a “victory”. It is because of this defeat that the government is revenging inside the country by intensifying its repression against the citizens. The security forces attacked Karbabad on 20 August and arrested several people including Seyyed Mohamed Amin, 18 [brother of the martyr Seyyed Ali Amin], Jaffer Ahmad Abdulla Salman, 17, and Hassan Ahmad Abdulla Salman, 18. The mother of Khalil Abdulla Sheikh Majid (30 years old from Abu-Saiba) was shocked when she was allowed to see her son for the first time after more than two year in detention without charges or trials. The body of the exhausted son carried all marks of torture which he had been suffering for more than two years. In London, a “Press Conference” will be organised on Wednesday 25 August on the 24th Anniversary of the suspension of Bahrain’s Constitution. Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human rights Group, will chair the conference to discuss the stalemated political process in Bahrain. [Time: 11.30 am, 25 August, Place: Committee Room, 1 Abbey Gardens (Annex to the House of Lords), London SW1, Nearest Underground Station: Westminster].
Bahrain freedom Movement 24 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
OMCT Intervention on Bahrain
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) delivered an intervention on 19 August before the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission stating: “Before the 55th session of the Commission on Human Rights, OMCT recalled that since December 1994, month that marked the beginning of demonstrations for the restoration of democracy in Bahrain, thousands of people have been arrested on the basis on the 1974 State security Measure Law. Article 1 of this law allows for administrative detention without charge or trial for up to three years. Of the thousands of people detained since then, only a few hundred have been brought to trial before the State Security Court. The conduct of these trials has moreover raised concerns over the respect of procedural rights of these people. Thus, Sheikh Abd al-Amir al Jamri. A judge and member of the dissolved Parliament, was convicted, on 7 July 1999, to ten years of imprisonment and to US$15 million fine, alleged for spying to a foreign state and inciting a sabotage. This trial, which took place more than three years after the arrest of Sheikh al-Jamri, was held under most doubtful conditions. Moreover, the sentences ended in a real bargaining: Sheikh al-Jamri was offered the following alternative: to remain in isolation for the rest of his life or to be freed after having read a letter prepared by the Ministry of Interior asking the ruling family fort forgiveness. Having accepted this option, Sheikh al-Jamri was released on 8 July 1999 and is now under house arrest. This case, Mr. Chairman, illustrates up to caricature the infeudation of the Judiciary”
Press Conference 24th Anniversary of the suspension of Bahrain’s Constitution
Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human rights Group, will chair a meting to discuss the stalemated political process in Bahrain. Distinguished speakers will also participate. You are cordially invited to attend. Time: 11.30 am Date: Wednesday 25 August 1999 Place: Committee Room, 1 Abbey Gardens (Annex to the House of Lords), London SW1 Nearest Underground Station: Westminster
For more information, please contact Lord Avebury 0171 274 4617
Bahrain: NGOs condemn the government’s atrocities
Mansoor Abdul Redha, 21, was returning to his besieged village of Bani Jamra on 19 August when he accidentally hit two security men who were besieging the area. The young person was arrested following the accident. Scores of paramilitary personnel have been deployed around the house of Sheikh Al-Jamri and around Bani Jamra since 8 July. This is a collective punishment prohibited by the country’s constitution and by international conventions.
Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) condemned the government of Bahrain at the 51st session of the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights. Interfaith International and Liberation delivered statements on 19 August condemning the abuses of human rights in Bahrain. Mr. Jeremy Corbin, the British MP, delivered the intervention for “Liberation” in which he drew the attention of the UN experts to the continuing violation of human rights in Bahrain. Dr. Charles Graves of “Interfaith International” exposed the atrocities of the government and called on the UN experts to monitor the situation in Bahrain so that the claims of the government’s delegation can be verified.
The government’s delegation is the largest one to attend the UN Sub-Commission this year. A leading member of the delegation is a Jordanian, Gassan Sheikho, who responded on 20 August on behalf of the Bahraini government, saying that his government has a “new strategy” for human rights. The opposition believes that this new strategy is based on a “charm offensive”, where all the sweat sentences and pledges to behave are stated to the international community, while at the same time continuing the abuses of human rights inside the country.
Mulla Abbas Al-Setri, 50 years old, who had been sentenced to 15 years jail, was transferred to hospital last week for an emergency treatment. The jailers refused to transfer him until the last minute, and had it not been for the meeting of the UN Sub-Commission in Geneva, he would have been left to die in his cell. The operation was supposed to have been performed last March.
The foreign-staffed security forces attacked Nuweidrat on 11 August and arrested the following people: Faisal Al-Barbori, 22, Ali Qambar, 22, Maitham Al-Barbori, 17, his brother Adel, 16, Hussain Abd Ali Marhoon, 18 and Abbas Jasim Qambar, 22.
On 15 August, the security forces attacked Daih and arrested Fadhil Abdul Rasool Al-A’adab, 18, and his 15-year brother Salman. Their parent’s house was ransacked during the raid.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
21 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Bahrain: Escalation of repression and hate-based polices
On 17 August, at 2:30am, the security forces attacked the house of Seyed Qasim Mohammed Al-Mosawi in Duraz and arrested his son 15-year old son, Taqi. The dawn raiders tortured the child as he was taken away to an unknown torture centre. The house was ransacked and the raiders damaged many of its contents.
The health of Sheikh Al-Jamri has further deteriorated while the security forces continued imposing a house arrest on him. He has been denied staying overnight in any hospital for carrying out a needed operation in his left ear. He is suffering sleeplessness as a result of the torture he received during three and half years of solitary confinement. The entire village of Bani Jamra is still under a medieval-type siege since 8 July.
Slogans spread all over the country condemning the atrocities of the foreign security forces which have been re-deployed inside residential areas to continue their violations of basic rights. Several loud gas-cylinder explosions were heard in different parts of the country in response to the atrocities of the security forces.
The government is to inaugurate three large schools, each equipped to receive 4500 pupils, specifically designated for the children of the recently imported mercenaries from the Syrian deserts. These schools will be opened next September in Zallaq, Safra and Hamad Town for serving the concentrations of the mercenary imports. At the same time, the government will be preventing the children of some 20,000 Bahrainis from receiving education as from September. These are the third generation of people (locally known as Ajam, all born in Bahrain but have since been denied their rights for citizenship.
Bahrain freedom Movement
18 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
FIDH intervention on item 2 at the 51st Sub-Commission for promoting and protection of human rights.
The FIDH and its member organisation, the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Bahrain are still duply concerned by the situation of human rights in Bahrain.
During the 50th session of the Sub-Commission last August, the government of Bahrain took 2 decisions (promises).
a) To invite on its territory the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. b) To remove the reservation it had on article 20 of the Convention Against Torture. The FIDH and CDHR are happy that the visit of Working Group will occure, even if it was lately, next November, but they regret that the government hasn’t removed its reserve on article 20 of the Convention Against Torture. The grave and systematic violation of human rights continue in this country. The torture is practised in prisons and centres of detention. On the basis of the “ Law of security of he state”, the arbitrary detention is commonly practised. Arrested persons for political reasons are judged by the security court of the state while it doesn’t respect the guarantees of independence edicted by international instruments. The condemnation of Shaikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri, prominent chief of the opposition, to 10 years of prison and the “lebiration” he then obtained prove clearly the arbitrary which characterises the judiciary system in Bahrain. the FIDH has not been allowed to send observers to the trial. As well as all international observers.
Bahrain: Offices of Workers Committee attacked; More abuses of human rights On 8 August, the security forces attacked the offices of the General Committee of Bahraini Workers damaging many of their contents and confiscating some of the documents and folders. The offices of all members of the executive committee were also broken into and their papers were scattered around. The personal computers were played with and all rooms and halls witnessed the savageness of the mercenary forces. The attack on the Adleya-based offices is considered to be a warning to the executive committee, which is calling for the establishment of a trade union. On 10 August, the general assembly was forced to meet in the Bahraini Engineers Society and the meeting was one of the most tense one following the intimidation of the security forces. The London-based Al-Quds of 14-15 August reported the protest staged by Dr. Omran Hassan Mohammed of the Kuwaiti Institute for Scientific Research in front of the Bahraini embassy in London on 13 August. Dr. Mohammed carried posters containing photographs of the tortured children of Bahrain. He also protested at the way the government attempted to intimidate Sheikh Al-Jamri, the pro-democracy leader who is under house arrest since his release from solitary confinement on 8 July. Sheikh Al-Jamri has been denied his rights for medical treatment and the hospital he visited two weeks ago had been banned from performing an operation to the left ear. Sheikh Al-Jamri is suffering from extreme pain in his left ear that suffered torture during his three and half years of solitary confinement. Bani Jamra, where Sheikh Al-Jamri resides, is under siege since 8 July and the residents have written to the authorities and to the new Amir requesting the lifting of the siege which is creating a tense atmosphere. No outside visitor is allowed into the area without a special clearance involving the signing of names of guarantors. This inhuman siege has uncovered the real face of the autocratic regime, which refuses to enter the modern age and insists on dealing with the population by force. On 5 August, the foreign-staffed forces attacked Sharakkan and arrested four children: Ali Mohammed Mahdi, 15, Ali Jasim Mohammed, 16, Ibrahim Habib Hassn, 16, Safi Al-Sheikh Ali Al-Shahrakkani, 17. In Geneva, the government’s delegation is claiming that all detainees have been released. This false statement is being made while all people know that there are more than a thousand arbitrary detained people. These include known activists such as Abdul Wahab Hussain, Hassan Mushaima’a, Omran Hussain Omran, Sheikh Hussain Al-Akraf, Sheikh Hussain Al-Saem, Sheikh Ali Ashor, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Rayyash, Sheikh Hussain Al-Daihi, Hassan Mattar, Dr. Isa Mattar, Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi, Haji Ali Al-Ekri (together with his son Mohammed Ali), Mahdi Sahwan and his brothers Abbas and Mohammed, Sheikh Hamza Hasan Al-Hawwaj, Sheikh Sadiq Al-Durazi, Raed Al-Khawaja (completed his term but not released), Jaber Al-Shu’la (completed his term), Haj Majid Milad (re-arrested after completing his term), Seyyed Ahmad Nema (reasserted after completing his term), Saeed Al-Sheikh, Mahmood Al-Halwachi, Ammar Abdulaal, Abbas Fraikh, Redha Obol and many hundreds others. Some 500-600 languish in the Dry-Dock detention camp. On 13 August, loud sounds of exploding gas-cylinders were heard in several parts of the country, especially near the besieged area of Bani Jamra. Slogans spread over the walls calling for an end to repression. Many jeeps full of foreign-staffed security forces are deployed in residential areas in a cowardly show of muscle against the citizens. On 4 August, an explosion was reported in the Exhibition Road of Manama and windows of several places had been shattered. The opposition denounces all acts of violence and at the same time calls on the government to restore the rule of constitutional law. Bahrain Freedom Movement 15 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Judge Louis Joinet
On the other hand, Louis Joinet, UN Sub-Commission expert, said in an intervention on 5 August that “It was hoped that reforms in Bahrain would continue,”. The Bahrain government submitted a statement on 4 August to the UN Sub-Commission stating that the “Nation has a new Emir” and that “1999 marks a new era in Bahrain”. Mr. Joinet, is due to head a UN delegation to Bahrain to investigate the cases of arbitrary arrests in Bahrain.
The visit was scheduled to be in October, however, there is a possibility that this visit might be delayed until early 2000. This means that the government will find extra time for continuing its policy of arbitrary detention.
The government is attempting to cover-up its violations of human rights and to depict a false picture for a “new era” in Bahrain. Several people had been arrested inside Bahrain in an attempt to find out who had leaked the news about a 14-year old person who had been admitted to hospital. The child, Ahmed Marzooq Yousif, 14, from Abu Gowa area had to be urgently hospitalised last week after a brutal round of torture session carried out by the security forces.
The urgency in attempting to cover-up the torture case came as the UN Sub-Commission received a formal notice on 4 August dispatched by the government of Bahrain regarding the withdrawal of reservation to Article 20 of the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT). The withdrawal was a culmination of international pressure on the government of Bahrain to improve its human rights record.
The people of Bahrain were astonished at the government decision to ban any kind of tribute to those persons killed at the tragic incident, which took place during a wedding two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia. Custodians of assembly halls in all areas were threatened not to receive people coming to pay their tribute for the victims. It is worth mentioning that common history, tradition, values and kinship tie the peoples of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. One assembly hall was closed down by the security forces in Sitra ( Safala) during a commemoration.
Longest serving political prisoner
On Monday 9 August, the longest serving political prisoner was released after 18 years in prison. Seyed Jaffar Al Alawi was arrested in 1981 and then sentenced in 1982 for 25 years in jail. He suffers from different illnesses as a result of the torture he suffered in prison.
It was reported that 12 Bahrainis were refused employment at the Ministry of Education. These Bahrainis are qualified teachers who applied for advertised vacancies. However, the government employed 12 Egyptians instead. This is because it prefers Saudi Arabia would pay the salaries for Egyptian teachers working in Bahrain and secondly, Bahrainis are treated with suspicion by the government which bases all its polices on repression.
The besieged residents of Bani Jamra have called on the international community to intervene to end their suffering as a result of the intolerable conditions. The siege started on 8 July when Sheikh Al Jamri was released. The area is totally isolated from the rest of Bahrain and no one from other parts of the country is allowed to enter. Residents are not allowed to enter or leave the area between 6pm-8pm and 10:30am-1pm. People’s businesses are also suffering. A petition signed by the Bani Jamra residents called on the government to left the siege.
On the other hand, the prime minister has ordered the interior ministry to threaten Sheikh Al Jamri of grave consequences if continues to refuse visiting his palace in Rifa’a.
Article on Bahrain
The London-based Al-Arab newspaper published an article today 11 August, for Hani Al Rayis titled “Bahrain and the international Convention against torture”. Mr. Al Rayis said that “although the Bahraini government finally agreed to lift its reservation on Article 20 after one year of ratifying the Convention. It is only due to international pressure that this was achieved”. He welcomed this move and called upon the Bahraini government to implement and respect the right of the people detailed in the Convention.
The following persons are known to have been arrested last week: Ibrahim Habib Hassan, 18, Ali Jasim, 20 and Mohammed Ali Mahdi, all are from Shahrakan. Their families tried to find their whereabouts but had not been successful.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
11 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Update on 9 August: Seyyed Jaffer Kadhim Al-Alawi was released today. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in 1982, following his arrest in December 1981.
Bahrain: UN experts to review compliance of government with last years’ pledges
In Geneva, The UN Human Rights Sub-Commission started its annual session. The government of Bahrain deployed a large delegation with the aim of averting criticism by the UN experts. Last year the UN experts criticised the Bahraini government and noted that “the elected National Assembly of Bahrain was dissolved in August 1975, that for more than 20 years Bahrain has been without an elected legislature and that there are no democratic institutions in Bahrain”, and “serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain, including discrimination against the indigenous population, extra-judicial killings, persistent use of torture in Bahraini prisons on a large scale as well as the abuse of women and children who are detained, and arbitrary detention without trial or access by detainee to legal advice”. The Bahraini government pleaded with the experts to avoid the issuing of a condemnation resolution similar to the one issued in August 1997. This year the government’s delegation is attempting to divert the attention of international community from the on-going violation of human rights in Bahrain by distributing pamphlets saying things have changed in Bahrain. Information from Bahrain revealed that the government is close to signing a military co-operation with France. Such an agreement has been talked about following the Amir’s visit to France last month. On 5 August, a Bahraini official said the government had decided to “retrieve a diplomatic passport it had issued to the prime suspect in a foiled 1996 Qatar coup attempt”. The official said that this is “because the person (Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani) is currently in the state of Qatar and is accused in an internal problem”. Security sources in Qatar have shown news-agencies a copy of what appeared to be a Bahraini diplomatic passport, which they said, was being carried by Sheikh Hamad in his shuttles between Syria, France Britain, Spain, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. This shows how the government of Bahrain is abusing its powers. While many of the indigenous population are denied their rights for a passport, the government distributes passports and citizenship on imported people from the Syrian deserts and did not hesitate to issue a diplomatic passport for a non-Bahraini as part of some political games. Bahrain Freedom Movement 8 August 1999 Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Bahrain asks for passport given to Qatar suspect MANAMA, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Bahrain said on Thursday it has decided to retrieve a diplomatic passport it had issued to the prime suspect in a foiled 1996 Qatar coup attempt, the official Gulf News Agency (GNA) reported. “Because the person (Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani) is currently in the state of Qatar and is accused in an internal problem…, Bahrain has decided to cancel the passport and retrieve it,” an official told GNA. He said Bahrain had informed Qatar of its decision and asked its fellow Gulf Arab state to return the passport. Sheikh Hamad, a former cabinet minister and cousin of the emir, was arrested last month in a foreign country and returned home to face trial for allegedly masterminding a 1996 coup attempt to overthrow Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Security sources have shown Reuters a copy of what appeared to be a Bahraini diplomtic passport which they said was being carried by Sheikh Hamad in his shuttles betweem Syria, France Britain, Spain, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
But a Bahraini government official at the time declined to confirm or deny whether the suspect had been issued a diplomatic Bahraini passport.
More than 120 people have been accused of involvement in the attempted coup — of whom 110 are bieng tried. Ten suspects, most of them foreigners, are still at large. Thirty-seven of the accused are in jail and the rest have been released on bail, mostly on health grounds. Qatar officialy asked its partners inthe six-member Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE and Oman — and Syria to help arrest Sheikh Hamad and other suspects at large. But the request was not taken seriously until Doha’s relations with its neighbours, strained after the current emir seized power in 1995 from his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, improved.
Bahrain News Analysis:
Will the local authority be reformed?
“We shall continue to pursue the means of developing and firmly establishing our political institutions, with the aim of achieving further participation in decision-making and formulating the future for the coming generations,” the prime minister was quoted as saying during a visit to the ‘Central Municipality Authority” on 4 August. The opposition has always welcomed any positive development in the country that leads to the establishment of rule of constitutional law. The people have demanded the reinstatement of the constitution and believe that anything short of this will not end the political crisis that has engulfed the country since 1975.
The municipal “central” authority was named as a “provisional” one in the early seventies. This is because according to the “forgotten” laws of Bahrain, the “Central Municipal Authority” must be an elected one. All the years of the seventies and the early eighties the government was ashamed of this fact and had to say that the authority was “provisional”. Later on the word “provincial” was dropped and the authority was made an “appointed” department inside a ministry. The story of this authority is an example of the backwardness of the prime minister, who cancelled its election since assuming his position in 1971. The elections of the 1920s-1950s have all disappeared by a whim. The first municipality was established in the capital in 1919 with an appointed 8-member council. The eight were selected by the ruler to represent the cosmopolitan capital. Hence the members 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. In 1945, the council was further developed to include other areas of the country. Upon assuming his position in 1971 as a prime minister, this municipality authority was transformed into a “provisionally” appointed council, and then into a “permanently” appointed committee. In 1996, the prime minister announced that he was going to divide the country into four estates (provinces) and handed two of these estates to members of the Al-Khalifa family. The other two estates have not yet been established. He also announced that each estate governor will appoint thirty “mukhtars” (appointed individuals). This system is more or less the same as the one that existed in the feudal establishment that governed Bahrain between 1869 and 1923. What does the prime minister mean by opening up is not yet clear, and the opposition has learnt lessons not to expect much from the “hot air balloons”. In any case, the people would want to have their rights restored by electing the municipality council as existed before the era of the prime minister.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 5 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Bahrain: Further attacks against citizens
The foreign-staffed security forces committed more atrocities against the people of Bahrain. On 4 August, they attacked the grand mosque in Samahij, smashed its contents and destroyed many items inside the mosque. Attacking mosques was halted on 6 March following the death of the late Amir. The resumption of attacks on holy places is indicative of the insistence of the ancient prime minister and his security forces on continuing their repressive mentality against the nation. Dawn raiders have also been in continuous operation. Last week, they attacked Bilad al-Qadim and arrested Mohammed Jaffer Hashim, 18, Mohammed Abdul Jabbar Saleh Al-Durazi, 18, and Khalil Ibrahim Al-Towbaji, 18. Similar raids against Karbabad were reported and one person, Hussain Makki Al-Shajjar, 18, disappeared with the raiders who ransacked his parent’s house. Forcible exiles continued as well. A family has been held at the International Airport in dreadful condition since 31 July. Adel Mahdi Al-Satrawi, 36 years old, from Manama, together with his wife and four children (Zainab, Mahdi, Mohammed Ali, and Hussain) are being ill-treated following their arrival to their homeland from Sweden. The family has been denied food and water and is depending on the goodwill of the sweepers to provide them with something to eat and drink. The father is being subjected to interrogation and the entire family is expected to be forcibly deported in the coming days. Saleh Al-Beladi was forcibly exiled to Saudi Arabia on 29 July. Upon his arrival, the interrogators ill-treated him, roughed him up and then forcibly deported him to Saudi Arabia. Similarly, Khalial Al-Halawachi, his wife and five children (one of them disabled) were held for five days, and then forcibly deported to the UAE. The government of Bahrain is the only “national” government in the world that forcibly deports the indigenous population, while at the same time it imports mercenaries from the Syrian deserts and grants them full citizenship. Bani Jamra continues to be under siege and Sheikh Al-Jamri has been repeatedly prevented from staying over-night in the hospital, as the doctors wanted. He is in need of critical treatment before he loses the hearing in the left ear, which is suffering as a result of the torture he had been subjected to during his solitary confinement for more than three years. Bahrain Freedom Movement 5 August 1999
Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Ahead of the UN Sub-Commission meeting:
The prime minister surrenders to the will of the international community
It was reported in the local press on 1 August that the cabinet (headed by the ancient prime minister) discussed the modification to Decree No. 4/1998 in relation to the ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture. The report does not specifically say when would the government actually ratify Article 20 of CAT, but it is believed that the government is trying to prevent a condemnation resolution.
The UN Human Rights Sub-Commission is starting its annual meeting in Geneva and will be reviewing whether or not the government of Bahrain has complied with the pledges it made last August.
Last February, the government spread a rumour that it was going to ratify Article 20. The rumour was aimed at testing the water. Now the government is speaking about its acceptance for the modification, but has not actually said that it has signed the modification. When the Government of Bahrain ratifies Article 20 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT), the UN Committee for CAT will be empowered to receive and investigate complaints submitted by individuals and groups against the government of Bahrain in relation to torture cases.
February 1998: In February 1998, the Bahraini government was forced to ratify the Convention Against Torture (CAT), a step that spared it the humiliation of facing an international condemnation. However, it placed a “reservation” on Article 20 of CAT, thus preventing victims of torture from presenting their cases to the UN Committee.
August 1998: As reports of systematic use of torture persisted, the international community felt obliged to take these allegations more seriously. Professor Francoise Hampson, the British expert at the UN Human Right Sub-Commission, sponsored a carefully-worded resolution condemning the Bahraini government’s human rights records. Eight other experts (from the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission) joined her giving the resolution the necessary number of sponsors.
No sooner had the official Bahraini delegation to Geneva learnt of the proposed resolution than did they dispatch a team headed by the deputy foreign minister (Ghazi Al-Quseibi) to Geneva. This time, however, the business was more serious and a resolution seemed certain. The faces of the international experts were grim as they studied the reports of more serious crimes of torture. Nooh Khalil Al Nooh, the 22-years old young man had just been slaughtered by the torturers working for the interior ministry. Images of his tortured body were already circulating in the corridors of the Geneva UN Palace. Ghazi Al-Qusaibi found himself unable to defend the bad records of his government. Ultimately he told his bosses that the only way to avert a public humiliation was to make substantial steps to satisfy the human rights experts. The prime minister immediately sanctioned his proposals.
19 August 1998: Ambassador Ahmad Al-Haddad (Geneva) read a statement of surrender to the experts, thus saving the skin of his bosses. The surrender note read by the Ambassador stated:
“I am pleased to draw this Sub-Commission’s attention to the following recent development: (1) Having recently acceded to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Government is actually studying the withdrawal of Bahrain’s reservation regarding Article 20 of that Convention within one year, and, (2) The Government has also agreed to extend an invitation to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for a preparatory visit to Bahrain- the date of which will be fixed in consultation with the Chairman of the Working Group”. The surrender note went on to say: “In the light of these developments, which clearly probe the willingness of the government of Bahrain to engage in and pursue constructive dialogue with the UN’s human rights mechanisms, I hope that this Sub-Commission will lend its support to my Government and the draft resolution concerning Bahrain be withdrawn. I would also like to thank the co-sponsors of the draft resolution, and all members, for the useful exchange of views that has resulted and the positive dialogue achieved”. As a result of this surrender, the UN experts agreed to withdraw the draft resolution and to investigate the intentions and seriousness of the government’s officials. A day later, the UN experts read what the government’s press in Bahrain claimed to be a “victory for the government in the UN”. The co-sponsors took note of all these manoeuvres and false claims and will use these propagandist articles against the officials of the government.
What is Article 20?
The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1984 and went into force on 26 June 1987. By August 1998, 105 states ratified CAT, but 11 of them withheld recognition of Article 20. One of the eleven was Bahrain’s government, which promised to recognise Article 20 within a year, following the surrender of 19 August 1998. Article 1 defines what is meant by torture, and Article 2 prohibits torture and emphasises that no excuse is acceptable for torturing any person. Articles 4-16 and Article 19 describe the duties of the States in prohibiting torture, punishing torturers, educating, rehabilitating the victims of torture, controlling the system of interrogation and detention, and the method of report back to CAT. Article 20 allows the States to withdraw recognition at the time of ratifying. However, once ratified, a State can not withdraw its recognition. Article 20 provides CAT experts (ten of them) the powers to receive information and to investigate the information received. Once a State ratifies Article 20, the experts can receive information about torture in that country. If the experts formulate an opinion that
1. Information received is reliable
2. Well-founded indications that torture is continuing in that country
3. Torture is systematically practised to inflict “sever pain or suffering, whether physical or mental”, “inflicted intentionally”, “for such purposes”, “by a public official” Then CAT can intervene “confidentially” with the State to investigate the information. CAT may also accept that the names of those submitting the cases of torture may not be divulged to the authorities of that country if the safety of a person is endangered. CAT then invites the representative of that State to co-operate in the examination of the information and to submit observations with regard to the information received. Negotiation with the State may take a long time once a case is admitted for investigation. This is because CAT meets only twice a year. However, to speed matter, CAT may empower one of its experts to follow the cases submitted on a certain country. The investigation may result in a visit to that country to verify the situation. The people of Bahrain hope that their government will be subjected to international monitoring so that they can live peacefully and honourably in their homeland. The acceptance of the prime minister to ratify Article 20 of ACT is another victory for the people of Bahrain in their long struggle against repression and dictatorship. Another victory for the people is when the government of Bahrain is forced (next October) to allow a visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Bahrain and to investigate cases of arbitrary detention. Both, the ratification of Article 20 and allowing the visit, are the two conditions that had been specified by the UN experts last August in return for not issuing a condemnation resolution against the government of Bahrain. Bahrain Freedom Movement 2 August 1999 Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
Bahrain: Initiatives for reforms require more decisive and serious steps
Mohammed Jaber Sabah, a member of the dissolved Bahraini parliament wrote an important article in the London-based newspaper, Al-Quds, on 1 August, stating that “both the constitution and the national assembly are considered the most important achievements of the Bahraini people following a struggle that lasted seventy three years. Both of these achievements founded the modern state and society in Bahrain and heralded the rule of law and principles of democracy. However, these achievements were lost when Bahrain was forced to go back to a non-modern era”. Mr. Sabah argued that he senses genuine intentions by the new Amir to reform the present situation. A spokesperson for the BFM stated that “such a hope is shared by many people inside and outside Bahrain. However, genuine intentions require a genuine step towards alleviating the situation. The new monarchs of Jordan and Morocco had successfully undertaken such a step, while in Bahrain no evidence exists that a similar initiative might be underway. In fact, the foreign-staffed security forces have been re-deployed inside residential areas for arbitrary arrests and intimidation of citizens”. On 30 July, the security forces dragged three children who had been arrested a day earlier to a main street in Qurayya and ordered them to write graffiti while being filmed by a special crew working for the interior ministry. The three children Seyyed Ahmed Nazar Alawi , Seyyed Habeeb Fakher and Mohammed Idrees Mansoor were exhausted by the torture they had suffered in detention. The past several nights witnessed the return of protests. Citizens in Sanbis, Karzakkan, Shahrakkan, Malkeya, Sitra and other areas voiced their protests against the atrocities of the security forces by burning tyres on main highways. Wall writing intensified across the country calling for the emancipation of the people from repression and dictatorship. Bahrain Freedom Movement 2 August 1999 Fax: (44) 171 278 9089
The Amir’s reforms are well overdue
Will he deliver?
When the Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa undertook his first visit to Europe last month in his capacity as a head of state, he ought to have realised the depth of the feeling of international human rights activists with regard to what is happening in Bahrain. The French media gave a cautious welcome to the visit indicating the unease about the events in that country and the extent of repression that has befallen its people over the past quarter of a century. Several human rights organisations made their position clear in letters to both the Bahraini ambassador and the French president. They asked for a return to constitutional rule and the abolishing of the tools of repression especially the State Security Court and the State Security Law. Such protests from notable international organisations must have caused a degree of embarrassment to the visiting ruler, who would have liked to enjoy his first overseas visit free from the trouble of having to answer the accusations presented by concerned parties. The ruler has suddenly found himself in the middle of a furore and having to answer the concerns caused by the actions of his uncle, the prime minister.
Prior to his departure to France and other places, Sheikh Hamad had issued a decree pardoning the veteran opposition figure, Sheikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri, a victim of the repressive policies of the prime minister. Although the Amir wanted the release of the Sheikh, the presentation of the pardon to the nation by the government caused severe anger and frustration among the people of Bahrain. None of them wanted the play to be so disastrously produced especially after several international human rights organisations have put their weight behind Sheikh Al Jamri. The Amir ordered the release, the prime minister wanted to implement it in his own style; through public humiliation. The end result is that the Sheikh was released, but the people felt more hatred towards the system that seeks to humiliate the nation. The prime minister was instrumental in denying the Amir a gracious response from the people.
The people of Bahrain have been waiting for the period of mourning to end so that political reforms may begin. For the past two months since that happened no serious reforms have taken place. Some releases were ordered by the Amir prior to that of Sheikh Al Jamri, but again they were done in the prime minister’s style. Meanwhile, the people of Bahrain were taking heart from several regional developments.
First came the parliamentary elections in Kuwait. That event in itself inspired the people to be more forceful in demanding the reinstatement of the Constitution and the election of the National Assembly. Second came the announcement by Qatar that the Amir had appointed a committee to draw up a constitution. Again, it became apparent that the other Gulf states are moving forward in a faster pace than the Al Khalifa. Thirdly, the Saudi authorities released high-ranking clerics who, five years ago, had called for a major change in Saudi internal and external policies. They were released without public humiliation.
A Saudi politician recently expressed astonishment at the way Sheikh Al Jamri had been treated. He said: “What sort of a judicial system do they have? How could they pass such a harsh sentence against him one day and release him the next?”
It is within the context of the relations between the ruler and the ruled that the situation in Bahrain must be judged. The people sought to protect not only their constitutional rights but also their moral stand. For decades the present government has been inflicting heavy blows on the people and subjecting their pride and dignity to enormous torture. When they found the opportunity in 1994 they immediately grabbed it and aired their angry feelings to the world. For the first time a small Gulf country witnesses such widespread protests. If it were not for the opposition which has tamed the public feelings the situation would have been different. When a notable figure such as Sheikh Al Jamri, who has consistently and peacefully campaigned for a return to civil society and constitutional rule gets silenced in the most humiliated way and paraded on TV screens in the way it happened, it needs more than kind words from the opposition to stop the anger of the people claiming more devastating dimensions. Up and until now, no serious initiatives have been taken by the new Amir despite the goodwill expressed by the opposition. Diplomats and observers have repeatedly sought excuses for this inaction, citing the policies of the prime minister as the main obstacle. But it must be emphasised here that the rights and wellbeing of people cannot be tampered with in this way for the sake of one person. Indeed there is a system of repression in the country which has been in operation ever since Ian Henderson came to Bahrain in 1966. But isn’t it time for a solid stand by the friends of Bahrain to put an end to this tragic situation?
As the country embraced itself for the coming of the new Amir, the people looked for the friends of Bahrain to help it overcome the ordeals it has been subjected to for more than quarter of a century. Countries like Britain and the United States should have realised by now that their interest will be better served by a return to a constitutional rule and not by an absolutist regime. Unfortunately, the game of wait-and-see has dominated the scene ever since the new Amir came to power last March. The repression continues, so does the people’s feelings towards the system. It is a test of wills between the people and the repressive regime. The hope is that a smooth change takes place soon towards a more democratic regime. If that fails then the only alternative will be instability. That surely does not safeguard anybody’s interests.
There are plenty of opportunities to drive home to the Amir the idea that the people of Bahrain deserve to be respected and treated in accordance with international laws and conventions. The people who have been struggling for more than seventy years to attain their basic rights are worthy of respect and support. Whether through ambassadors, foreign ministers, head of states or even through representatives of these countries in Geneva, the avenues for delivering the message are plenty. What is lacking is the will to support democracy and human rights in Bahrain. A second thought on this may change the minds and inclinations of those in power both in London and Washington.
Bahrain Freedom Movement 1 August 1999