February 1999

Bahrain News Summary

  • 27 February: The security forces attacked the house of Seyyed Adnan Seyyed Hashim and arrested him in the early hours of Saturday 27 February. Mr. Hashim is the one who substituted the jailed religious scholar Sheikh Sadiq Al-Durazi in leading the prayers at Al-Sadiq Mosque in Duraz. On 20 February, both Sheikh Sadiq Al-Duraz and Haj Hassan Jarallah (the person in-charge of the mosque) were arrested. Both religious scholars had called for the release of Sheikh Al-Jamri and had re-affirmed that the people of Bahrain demand the restoration of their constitutional rights. Seyyed Adnan Seyyed Hashim delivered his Friday sermon on 26 February, and soon after that sermon the security forces raided his house and arrested him. Sheikh Ali Al-Sadadi, who had also delivered a sermon demanding the release of Sheikh Al-Jamri, was detained last week.
  • Children arrested: The following were arrested in Daih on 27 February: Jaffar Abd Ali, 12, and Hussain Jaffer Jassim, 12. Others arrested last week include: Maitham Ali Al-Sheikh, 18, and Mahmood Hassan Abdul Wahab, 16.
  • Dawn raids on 27 February: The following people were detained following dawn raids on Duraz on 27 February: Jafar Islami, 21; Hussain Mahdi Saleh, 17, (the house was also ransacked); Ahmad Abdul Nabi Abdul Karim, 17, (the house was also ransacked); Ahmad Abd Ali Al-Madani, 17; Mohammed Abdulla Al-Yoser, 17.
  • Columns of fire from burnt tyres and loud sound of gas-cylinder explosions were reported in many places around the country. Graffiti and stickers spread around the country calling for the release of Sheikh Al-Jamri and the jailed leaders. Clashes between security forces and citizens were reported in several places.
  • 26 February: The capital, Manama, witnessed a heavy presence of security forces from all types of units, including black-uniformed “commandos”. These forces encircled the grand mosques in the capital.
  • Class room arrest: The security forces arrested Ahmad Abdulla Saeed, 23 from his classroom at Bahrain Training Institute on 24 February. During their attack and search for him, the security forces roughly inspected the students and then dragged Mr. Saeed in front of his fellow-students.
  • 24 February: Security forces were put on high alert and have been deployed in mass numbers around the capital and around the country. Many residential areas switched off lighting on 24 February, evening, and many students stayed away from classes protesting against the government’s move to put Sheikh Al-Jamri on trial. Protestors who burnt tyres and exploded gas cylinders had blocked several main highways.
  • Arrests: From Bilad al-Qadim: Fadhil Hamid Ahmad Ismail, 25. From Arad: Ibrahim Jaffer, 24, Mohsin Abdulla Isa, 23, Imad Mohammed Isa, 20. From Isa Town: Ali Abdul Hussain, 20, Ali Jaffer Al-Mahoozi, 20, Sadiq Abdulla, 24, seyyed Alo Al-Sammak, 20.
  • Insider sources revealed that the prime minister had extracted a 20-year loan of 8 million dinar ($21m) from the Pension Fund with preferential terms. The loan is in violation of by-laws and involves risks that will be suffered by employees of the public sector.
  • 26 Feb 99:  The US State Department issued its annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices. The extend repot said in the introduction “Bahrain is a hereditary emirate with few democratic institutions and no political parties. The Al-Khalifa extended family has ruled Bahrain since the late 18th century and dominates its society and government. The Constitution confirms the Amir as hereditary ruler. The current Amir, Shaikh Isa Bin Sulman Al-Khalifa, governs the country with the assistance of a younger brother as Prime Minister, the Amir’s son as Crown Prince, and an appointed cabinet of ministers. In 1975 the Government suspended some provisions of the 1973 Constitution, including those articles relating to the National Assembly, which was disbanded and never reconstituted.”
  • Questions in the UK Parliament on Bahrain – 15 Feb 1999: Mr. Dennis Canavan (MP) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs several questions on Bahrain. He asked about the role of Her Majesty’s Government in the appointment of a former serving officer in the British Army in a leading security role on behalf of the Government of Bahrain. Mr. Derek Fatchett (Foreign Office Minister) replied to this question saying “The UK Government received a request from the Government of Bahrain in 1966 for help in recruiting a successor to the Head of the Bahraini Special Branch. Ian Henderson informed us that he wished to be considered for the post. We passed on his request to the Bahrainis, whose decision it was to appoint him.”

Bahrain Freedom Movement

28 February 1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

26 Feb 99:  The US State Department issued its annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices. The folllowing is the summary on Bahrain (full report is available from the US State Department homepage)


Bahrain is a hereditary emirate with few democratic institutions and no political parties. The Al-Khalifa extended family has ruled Bahrain since the late 18th century and dominates its society and government. The Constitution confirms the Amir as hereditary ruler. The current Amir, Shaikh Isa Bin Sulman Al-Khalifa, governs the country with the assistance of a younger brother as Prime Minister, the Amir’s son as Crown Prince, and an appointed cabinet of ministers. In 1975 the Government suspended some provisions of the 1973 Constitution, including those articles relating to the National Assembly, which was disbanded and never reconstituted. Citizens belong to the Shi’a and Sunni sects of Islam, with the Shi’a constituting over two-thirds of the indigenous population. The Sunnis predominate because the ruling family is Sunni and is supported by the armed forces, the security service, and powerful Sunni and Shi’a merchant families. After a period of relative calm in the beginning of the year, Bahrain again experienced incidents of political unrest. There are few judicial checks on the actions of the Amir and his Government, and the courts are subject to government pressure.

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for public security. It controls the public security force (police) and the extensive security service, which are responsible for maintaining internal order. The Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) is responsible for defending against external threats. It did not play a role in internal security during the year. Security forces committed serious human rights abuses…….


a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings. However, there were reports of extrajudicial killings by members of the security forces.

On July 22, the body of a young Bahraini, Nooh Khalil Al-Nooh, from a Shi’a village near Manama, was returned to his family. He reportedly was tortured to death in police custody (see Sections 1.c., 1.d., and 2.b.). There has been no reported government inquiry into allegations that he died from torture.

There were no investigations or prosecutions of any security forces personnel for alleged extrajudicial killings committed during the year or in previous years.

Two Asian laborers died in early August when a fire destroyed a store in Manama. Credible sources consider it likely that antigovernment arsonists were responsible for the attack.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited by law; however, there are credible reports that prisoners often are beaten, both on the soles of their feet and about the face and head, burned with cigarettes, forced to endure long periods without sleep, and, in some cases, subjected to electrical shocks. The Government has difficulty in rebutting allegations of torture and of other cruel, inhuman, or degrading practices because it permits incommunicado detention and detention without trial. There were no known instances of authorities being punished for abuses committed against detainees and prisoners either during the year or in any previous year.

Dissidents and human rights groups allege that the security forces sometimes threaten female detainees with rape and inflict other forms of sexual abuse and harassment on them while they are in custody. These allegations are difficult either to confirm or deny.

In July police used tear gas to disperse protests stemming from the burial of a young Bahraini man who died from mistreatment while in police custody (see Sections 1.a., 1.d., and 2.b.). In October security forces used tear gas to disrupt a protest on Sitra island and arrested demonstrators who were protesting the death of a Shi’a man who allegedly died from injuries he received when police detained and tortured him in 1994 (see Sections 1.d. and 2.b.).

Prisons are overcrowded but generally meet minimum international standards. Local defense attorneys report that their clients received improved care and treatment. In addition, the release of hundreds of detainees from jail, perhaps as many as 400, during the year’s Murharram (April 28-May 7) plus the reduced number of arrests in 1998, helped to ease overcrowding. On December 23, another 209 prisoners and detainees were released by the Amir’s traditional National Day decree.

At the Government’s invitation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continued the series of visits to prisons that it started in 1996…………..

Questions in the UK Parliament on Bahrain – 15 Feb 1999

Bahrain Mr. Dennis Canavan (MP): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the role of Her Majesty’s Government in the appointment of a former serving officer in the British Army in a leading security role on behalf of the Government of Bahrain. [71303] Mr. Derek Fatchett (Foreign Office Minister): The UK Government received a request from the Government of Bahrain in 1966 for help in recruiting a successor to the Head of the Bahraini Special Branch. Ian Henderson informed us that he wished to be considered for the post. We passed on his request to the Bahrainis, whose decision it was to appoint him. Mr. Canavan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will introduce an embargo on the export of arms to Bahrain. [71302] Mr. Fatchett: There are no plans to introduce such an embargo. Mr. Canavan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent to which human rights are violated by the Government of Bahrain; and what action he has taken to increase respect for human rights in Bahrain. [71300]

Mr. Fatchett: We take seriously any abuse of human rights wherever it might occur. I regularly raise our concerns about the provision of human rights in Bahrain with Bahraini Ministers and officials. I welcomed Bahrain’s ratification of the Convention Against Torture and its agreement to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to monitor prison conditions in Bahrain. I have also urged Bahrain to communicate more with human rights NGOs, including Amnesty International.

Update 24 Feb: Security forces were put on high alert and have been deployed in mass numbers around the capital and around the country. Many residential areas switched off lighting on 24 February and many students stayed away from classes protesting against the government’s move to put Sheikh Al-Jamri on trial. Several main highways had been blocked by protestors who burnt tyres and exploded gas cylinders.

Bahrain: Shiekh Al-Jamri reasserts his call for restoration of parliament

International human rights campaigners called on the Bahraini government to stop it campaign of repression. The 21st of February marks the beginning of a new phase in Bahraini politics. “I am innocent. I committed no crime. All I call for is the restoration of the National Assembly” declared Sheikh Al-Jamri during the 45-minute session of the trial before the unconstitutional State Security Court. The court session was held at a new building in Jaw village, south of Bahrain. The trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri is the first one to be conducted in this room. Sheikh Al-Jamri denied all charges read in the court against him. The session was adjourned to an unknown date.

The government refused to hold an open trial in accordance with Bahrain’s constitution and international standards. It also refused to allow any of the twelve organisations that demanded to attend the trail as observers. The international attention to the case has enabled the wife and four sons of Sheikh Al-Jamri to attend the trial alongside the lawyer.

The family of Sheikh Al-Jamri requested the formation of a team of lawyers comprising Mr. Abdul Shahid Khalaf, Mr. Rashid Al-Jar, Mr. Hassan Radhi, Mr. Ahmad Al-Shamlan and Mr. Abdulla Hashim, who will defend Sheikh Al-Jamri.

The London-based “Middle East Mirror” of 22 February covered the trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri. The newsletter quoted statements from Mansoor Al-Jamri, who described the charges made against Sheik Al-Jamri as “absurd”. He noted that “Bahrain’s rulers feel free to accuse any Shiite of being links to Iran. He said that the “the authorities probably decided to press charges rather than simply release him because they realise that if he is set free, he will again serve as a magnet for the opposition and resume his campaign for the restoration of parliament”.

He said “the authorities thought they could crush the opposition if they detained Sheikh Al-Jamri long enough. But although they have managed to contain the situation, keeping some 2000 people behind bars in the process, they have not solved anything”.

He accused Bahrain’s ruling family of “picking on its Shiite citizens for three reasons. The first is its historical animosity towards the Shiite, whom it sough to subjugate since it migrated to Bahrain from the Arabian Peninsula in the latter part of the eighteenth century. The second is that it can bully the Shiite without triggering an outcry in the Gulf region. The third, is that by associating the Shiite with Iran, Bahrain’s rulers hope to win Western –chiefly U.S. and British – support”.

Around the country:

Around the country, sounds of gas-cylinder explosions and columns of fire from burnt tyres were reported all over the country. Slogans spread on walls around the country demanding the release of Sheikh Al-Jamri and vowing to defend the dignity and honour of the nation.

The security forces conducted a dirty campaign against the citizens as a form of collective punishment. On 20 February members of the security forces burnt a car and a boat belonging to Mohammed Radhi Al-Aman from Ma’amir.

In Daih, Abo-Saiba’a and Karzakkan clashes were reported to have taken place between the citizens and security forces. Karzakkan was besieged on 20 February until early hours of 21 February. In the University of Bahrain stickers spread on the walls demanding the restoration of parliament and release of Sheikh Al-Jamri and all political prisoners.

On 17 February, the security forces attacked Tobli and arrested the following teenagers: Seyed Hassan Shubbar Sharaf, 15, Seyed Isa Ali Ismail, 15, Ibrahim Abdulla Ahmad Abbas, 16, and Syyed Jaffer Mohammed Hashim, 17.

Seyed Kamil Kadhim Ibrahim, 15, was arrested on 15 February from doorstep of his parent’s house in Abo-Saiba’a. In Daih, Seyed Omran Sharaf Al-Alawi, 18, was arrested on 19 February. He was seen later in Al-Khamis police Station suffering from exhaustion.

On 16 February the following people were arrested: Ali Abdul Hussain , 20 (from Jed-Ali ), Habib Hamza, 20 (from Iskan- A’Ali ), Ali Mahoozi, 20, (from Isa Town ), Sadiq, 20, (from Isa Town ), Seyed Ali Al-Samak, 19, (fom Isa Town ).

Bahrain Freedom Movement

23 February 1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

BBC World Service: Trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri

21 February 1999, 1.00 pm News Hour

 Summary:…..The trial of Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri, who has been held with charge for three years. A government official said the hearing was adjourned after 45 minutes to allow the defence team to prepare its case. Sheikh Al-Jamri has denied charges of inciting unrest against Bahrain’s ruling family. ….

News coverage: Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri who has been held without charges for three years. Sheikh Al-Jamri was accused at the time of playing a leading role in violent anti government unrest. His son, Mansoor Al-Jamri, leads a Bahraini opposition group based in Britain.

Mansoor Al-Jamri: Bahrain is being ruled unconstitutionally. There is a lot of problems in terms of basic rights, political rights; there is so much corruption around and the people have been calling for reform without any serious dangers to the ruling family.

Joining me in the studio is the British parliamentarian and the Gulf specialist, Lord Avebury.

Q: Can Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri expect a fair trial?

Avebury: No, that is impossible. The State Security Court system under which he is being charged is itself a contravention of all the norms of internationally agreed judicial procedures and has been condemned by the International Commission of Jurists, by the British Bar Human Rights Committee and so on. They have all asked to attend these proceedings and they were not notified that the trial was going to be in this morning. Even the British and American ambassadors in Bahrain did not know until the last minute he was going to brought before the court today. So is his lawyer saw him for the first time today an hour before the proceeding began. And so you can’t imagine how in these circumstances anybody could possibly receive a fair trial.

Q: If he has been in fact held for three years without trial, why have the authorities decided to bring him to trial and attract what for them must be rather unwelcome publicity?

Avebury: Well, it is utterly absurd. Not only was he in prison since January 1996 , but also before that in 1995. He was in prison from April to September . And the events which have occurred during those periods are ( … ) quite. He is supposed to have organised and planned all the disorders and the sabotage that have occurred during the last four and half years while he is being in prison, incommunicado much of that time.

Q: But, as a religious figure you can at the same time be an inspiration to people carrying out anti-government protests?

Avebury: If it is, it must be done by some kind of a though process. You would have to transmit over the Ether to the religious leaders. Of course it is not just a religious protest. It is important to remind everybody that this is combined effort between the Islamists, the Sunnis, the Shia, the liberals and the leftists. They all came together in the so-called Committee for Popular Petition to demand the restoration of the constitution and the 1975 parliament which was abrogated by the Amir and Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri has repeated that demand in court this morning, when he said he was totally innocent of these charges, that they were fabricated and that there is no evidence whatsoever against him.

Q: If Sheikh Al-Jamri is part of a much larger opposition coalition, why has he been singled out by the authorities?

Avebury: I think that he is probably being brought before the court as a test case, and that if they manage to secure a conviction and there is not too much an outcry amongst the World opinion, that then all the rest of the people, who also have been in prison for over three years without trial, and other leaders of the Committee for Popular Petition will also be put on trial. They will all be charged and sentenced.

Q: You paint a very dismal picture of the state of human rights and civil rights in Bahrain?

Avebury: It is appalling. The Amir should listen to the voices of those people who are saying an absolute ruler who confronts an opposition in this way is (..) disaster. We know this because it is the 350th anniversary of the execution of our King Charles I. So if he wants to move into the modern world, he should start a dialogue and a process of reconciliation so that all the people of Bahrain can come together in a movement toward democracy.

Q: And the attitude of the Westerns government, after all, who do trade with Bahrain?

Avebury: Not only that they do trade, but of course UNSCOM is based in Bahrain, and the (US) Fifth Fleet, and these things deter the Americans, and to a lesser extent the British, from intervening with the authorities there to say you can not go on like this; you must restore the rule of law and democracy and constitutional rule.

BBC: Sunday, February 21, 1999, Published at 16:28 GMT

Sheikh trial opens in Bahrain

The capital Manama has been the scene of unrest since 1994

The trial of a leading Shi’a opposition figure in Bahrain, Sheikh Abdel Amir al-Jamri, has been adjourned after 45 minutes to allow the formation of a legal defence team.

Mr al-Jamri is one of eight Shi’ite Muslim leaders arrested in January 1996 for inciting protests, and he has since been held without charge. The other seven are still in jail.

He is accused of playing a leading role in anti-government unrest which has rocked the country periodically since 1994.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett: Bahrain has accused Iran of stirring up trouble. The largely Shi’ite opposition in Bahrain is demanding economic and political reforms including the restoration of parliament, dissolved in 1975.

Mr al-Jamri’s lawyer Abdul-Shahid Khalaf, said five charges were read out, including spying for a foreign country, forming a party to overthrow the government and broadcasting false statements against the government.

If found guilty, he could face the death sentence.

‘I am not a criminal’

The trial, being held behind closed doors, opened at the island’s State Security Court in Jaw, 30km (18 miles) south of the capital, Manama.

But Mr Khalaf said the hearing in front of three judges was adjourned after 45 minutes to allow Mr al-Jamri’s wife Zahra Youssef Attiyah to form a defence team of five lawyers.

According to his wife, Mr al-Jamri pleaded innocent to the five charges and told the court: ”All I ask for is parliament and I am not a criminal.”

His son, Mansur al-Jamri, said his father was being put on trial despite having parliamentary and constitutional immunity.

He believed the government could be using the trial to provoke unrest as an excuse not to introduce greater political reforms.

“The people of Bahrain … never thought the government would go through this red line. It really is a red line,” he added.

Bombings and arson

At least 100 people have been arrested and 40 killed in bombings and arson attacks blamed on Shi’ite Muslims.

The predominantly Sunni Muslim government has accused Iran’s revolutionary Shia regime of manipulating the protesters – a charge that Iran denied.

Mr al-Jamri began his political career more than two decades ago. He was among 30 members elected to parliament in 1973, two years after Bahrain was granted independence from Britain.

A statement from the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement said Mr al-Jamri has been tortured during his detention.

It complained that the government had ignored all appeals – including one from Amnesty International – for his release.

Under Bahraini laws suspects can be detained for up to three years without trial.

There have been increasing international calls for the sheikh’s release and many human rights organisations have asked the Bahraini authorities for permission to send observers to attend the trial.

21 Feb 99 MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s leading Shiite Muslim opposition leader was put on trial behind closed doors Sunday, three years after he was detained on charges of spying and inciting unrest against the ruling family. Sheik Abdul-Ameer al-Jamri, 62, was detained in January 1996 after he ignored government warnings and stepped up a campaign for political reforms. Bahraini laws allow detention for up to three years without trial. Al-Jamri is being tried by the State Security Court, which was set up in March 1996 to deal solely with the Shiite unrest. A panel of three judges is presiding over the trial being held in Jaw, 20 miles south of the capital, Manama. At least 40 people have been killed in bombings and arson attacks blamed on Shiites, members of the second-largest sect of Islam. They are the majority among Bahrain’s 400,000 citizens. Bahrain’s ruling family belongs to the mainstream Sunni sect, the biggest single sect in Islam. Only Al-Jamri’s wife, Zahra Youssef Attiyah, 55, and their four sons were allowed to attend the trial besides a defense attorney, Abdul-Shaheed Khalaf. A government official said the trial was adjourned after a 45-minute session to give the defense time to prepare its case and to provide new documents. It was not known when the trial will resume. Al-Jamri was the most prominent voice calling for a return of Bahrain’s elected parliament, a release of political prisoners and more freedom of speech. In the court, he pleaded innocent to the five charges read out to him, including spying for a foreign country, forming a party to overthrow the government and broadcasting false statements against the government, Khalaf said. He quoted al-Jamri as saying: “All I asked was for the Parliament to be brought back. I am no criminal.” He also distanced himself from the violence on the island and apologized for the unrest by Shiite militants, Khalaf said. He said he applied for a bail and is awaiting a ruling. The emir, Sheik Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, dissolved the legislature in 1975. It has remained shuttered since then.

MANAMA, Feb 21 (Reuters) – The trial of Bahrain’s leading Shi’ite Moslem opposition activist began in the island’s State Security Court on Sunday and was adjourned pending formation of a legal defence team, a lawyer said. Lawyer Abdul-Shahid Khalaf said his client Sheikh Abdul-Amir al-Jamri, who has been detained without charge for three years, was accused of spying for a foreign country, running an illegal organisation, fanning unrest, and circulating false news. If found guilty, he could face a maximum penalty of execution. Khalaf said the trial of Jamri, who was in court, was adjourned to allow Jamri’s wife, who was also present with their three sons, to form a group of five lawyers to mount a defence. Seven other opposition activists detained along with Jamri in January 1996 are still in jail. There have been increasing international calls for Jamri’s release and many human rights organisations have asked the Bahraini authorities for permission to send observers to attend the trial. Bahrain, the Gulf’s main banking and financial centre, has been the focus of sporadic and sometimes violent unrest since December, 1994, when members of the island’s majority Shi’ite Moslem community demanded economic and political reforms of the predominantly Sunni Moslem government. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds arrested. Restoration of parliament, dissolved in 1975, was one of the protesters’ main demands.

BBC morning news: The trial of Bahrain’s leading Shi’ite opposition figure, Sheikh Abdel Amir al-Jamri — who has been held without charge for three years — is to begin later today.

Sheikh al-Jamri was accused at the time of playing a leading role in anti-government unrest.

His son, Mansur al-Jamri, told the BBC his father was being put on trial despite having parliamentary and constitutional immunity.

He said he feared the government could be using the trial to provoke unrest as an excuse to emphasise why it was not agreeing to greater political reforms.

The largely Shi’ite opposition in Bahrain is demanding a restoration of parliament, which was dissolved in 1975.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

AFP: Shiite cleric on trial in Bahrain served as both judge and MP

Nicosia, Feb 21 (AFP) – Sheikh Abdel Amir al-Jamri, Bahrain’s top Shiite Moslem opposition figure who went on trial Sunday after a wait of three years in prison, has served as both a religious judge and a member of parliament.

Jamri, 62, faces charges of instigating anti-government unrest which has rocked the Gulf archipelago state periodically since 1994, leaving at least 38 people dead. He was one of eight Shiite leaders arrested in January 1996, and has since been held without charge.

“I am innocent. All the accusation against me are false. I am determined to demand the return of a parliament to Bahrain,” Jamri said when he finally had his first day in court, according to his family.

Born in 1938 in the Shiite village of Beni Jamra, he is an eloquent preacher who used to attract huge crowds in Bahrain’s largest Shiite mosques.

From 1962 to 1973, he studied in Najaf, Iraq, under Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer Al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric who was executed by Iraqi authorities in 1979. Another mentor was the late Ayatollah Abul Kassem al-Khoi, spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites.

On his return to Bahrain, Sheikh Jamri was elected to the parliament, but the house was dissolved in August 1975 on charges of obstructing the work of government. He has since spearheaded a campaign fort he restoration of parliament.

In 1992, he led a group of five campaigners who collected 300 signatures in favour of parliament that was presented to the emir, sheikh Isa ibn Salman al-Khalifa. A similar petition in April 1994 attracted more than 20,000 signatories.

But his political activities cost Jamri his position on the higher Shiite religious court, in which he had served as judge since 1977 (till 1988).

After anti-government unrest broke out in December 1994, Jamri opposed a proposal from the emir to reactivate a 30-member, appointed consultative council which had no legislative power.

The council was no substitute for a democratically elected body and would not be acceptable to the Bahraini people, he argued at the time.

He was first arrested in April 1995 and then again on January 21, 1996. The cleric has three daughter and seven sons. The eldest, Mohammed Jamil, served 10 years in jail, from 1988 to 1998, and one of his daughters was imprisoned for a few months in 1995. Mansur, his second son, has lived in exile in London since 1987.

As a theologian, he has written five books on religious issues, and was also the author of a collection of poems.

[Source: French News Agency, AFP]

News update:

* The trial of sheikh Al-Jamri was held near Jaw Prison, south of Bahrain, on 21 February, at 11.00 am. The State Security Court was chaired by Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al-Khalifa with two Egyptian judes sitting by his sides. The court session was adjurned after 45 minutes to an unknown date. Sheikh Al-Jamri denied alll charges and said he is calling for the restoration of National Assembly

Bahrain: Secret trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri to start on Sunday 21 February

The Government of Bahrain decided to ignore all calls regarding the holding of an open and fair trial, and will start the secret trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri on Sunday 21 February. A special courtroom has been set up in Jaw Prison for conducting the first session of the trial.

The trial falls short of all international standards. According to Bahraini oppressive laws, a person is first taken to an investigating judge to sign on confessions or papers prepared by the intelligence deportment. After that, the State security Court considers these signed papers as admissible evidence. It is now known that Sheikh Al-Jamri had refused to sign any papers prepared by the intelligence department in front of any investigating judge. Hence the interior and justice ministries have jumped the process and submitted the case to the State Security Court.

The situation inside Bahrain continue to escalate amid speculation that the government might start the secret trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri at any time, ignoring all national and international calls for respecting international standards of human rights.

The residents of Daih went out in a peaceful demonstration on Friday 19 February, afternoon. The demonstrators chanted slogans demanding the release of Sheikh Al-Jamri and calling for an end to atrocities committed by the security forces. The latter attacked the demonstration and the attackers reportedly arrested several citizens.

The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights, FIDH, has called on 18 February 1999, for an open and fair trial. A statement said, the FIDH “is deeply concerned regarding the conditions in which the upcoming trial of Sheikh Abdel Amir al-Jamri is likely to take place.” It went on to urge “the authorities of Bahrain to ensure that Sheikh al-Jamri’s trial will be conducted in full respect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,”.

More than a dozen international organisations have requested to attend the trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri, but the authorities refused to answer positively.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

20 January 1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

His Highness Shaikh ‘Issa bin Salman al-Khalifa Office of His Highness the Amir PO Box 555 The Amiri Court, Rifa’a Palace Rifa’a Bahrain Fax 00 973 66 88 84 Your Excellency, The Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales wishes to remind you of its previous letters requesting that its representatives be allowed to attend and observe trials held in the State Security Court as independent international trial observers. Our last letter was sent in November 1998, to which no response was received. All our requests to attend trials have, to date, either been ignored or refused.

The Committee has been seriously concerned for some time now about the continuing detention of Judge Abdul Amir Al-Jamri without charge or trial.  The Committee has now been notified that Judge Al – Jamri is soon to be tried. The Committee has not been made aware of the details of his trial.

The Committee respectfully requests that it be allowed to send an observer to attend the trial of Judge Al-Jamri. The Committee would be grateful to receive details of the place and date of the trial and the charges that have been brought against Judge Al-Jamri.

We trust that Judge Al Jamri will be able to instruct a lawyer of his choice to act in his defence and that his family will be able to visit him.

We look forward to your early response in order that we can proceed with arranging to send an observer. Yours sincerely, Cc     His Excellency Sheikh Mohamed Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa,     Minister of the Interior     Fax: 00 973 27 67 65 or 29 05 26     His Excellency Shiekh Abdallah Khalid Al Khalifa,     Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs     Fax: 00 973 53 12 84

from: FIDH, International Federation of Human Rights

17 Passage De La Main-D’or, 75011 Paris, France

Tel: 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18, Fax: 33 (0) 1 43 55 18 80


Paris 18 February 1999

to: His Highness Sheikh Issa ibn Salman al Khalifa

Office of His Highness the Amir, The Amiri Court

PO Box 555, Rifa’a Palace, Manama- Bahrain

By fax: 973 533033 / 532839 / 68884

Your Excellency

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) is deeply concerned regarding the conditions in which the upcoming trial of Sheikh Abdel Amir al-Jamri is likely to take place.

All the information we have lead us to fear the principles related to the right to a fair trial guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will not be respected during this trial: the defender of Sheikh al-Jamri has been appointed by the Interior Ministry; the trial will be conducted by the State Security Court, which holds trials in camera and where relatives of the defendant, independent observers and the media are not allowed; no specific charges have been expressed against Sheikh al-Jamri.

In view of this information, the FIDH urges the authorities of Bahrain to ensure that Sheikh al-Jamri’s trial will be conducted in full respect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in particular, to:

  • make known what the charges against Sheikh al-Jamri are;
  • allow Sheikh al-Jamri to choose the lawyer of his choice;
  • guarantee that the trial will be public;
  • all international observers to monitor the trial.

The FIDH will follow with great attention the trial of Sheik al-Jamri. We hope that it will be held in conformity with the commitments made by the authorities of Bahrain to the international community, in particular, to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which will start its 55th session next month.

Yours faithfully

Patrick Baudouin



Special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council

12February l999

H.E. Shaikh Mohammed Bin Mubrarak Al-Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Bahrain

Permanent Mission of the State of Bahrain to the

United Nation, Geneva,

chemin William-Barbey 51

1292 Chambesy

Your Excellency,

Our organisation, which is dedicated to the peaceful co-existence of the world’s religions, has been preoccupied with problems of the Shi’a religious community in Bahrain and especially the fate of Sheikh Abdul-Ameer Al-Jamri, who remains in prison since two years, and will soon be tried in court.

Members of Interfaith International are concerned, along with the whole international community that the trial of Shaik Al-Jamri take place under recognised international standards of justice, and that he be provided proper legal assistance.

We ask Your Excellency to appeal to your government to assure a fair and just judicial proceeding in the case of Shaik Abdui-Ameer Al-Jamri. We heard your intervention before the 54th Session of commission on Human Rights last year, and we note comment that the state of Bahrain shares with the international community its concern for human rights.

Taking into account what Your Excellency considers the “importance of respect for religious, cultural and traditional particularities of states in order that human rights are not taken as a pretext for political aims contradictory to a society’s values” our organisation believes that the respect for the rights of political prisoners such as Shaik Al-Jamri, and of his juridical rights under trial, would certainly be a sign of “upholding society’s value” in Bahrain. We are certain that one of the fundamental values of society in Bahrain is a free and equitable trial for political opponents.

With highest regards to Your Excellency.

Yours Sincerely,

Charles Graves, D. Theol


Bahrain: Calls for releasing Al-Jamri continue

The news about the intention of the government to try the detained pro-democracy leader is increasing the tension and speculations about future of politics in Bahrain. The people are voicing their protests at the way the government had been torturing and ill-treating Sheikh Al-Jamri. The declaration of the government that it intends to put Sheikh Al-Jamri on a trail before the State Security Court, after more than three years of detention and torture, is not only condemned by the people of Bahrain, but also by the many international human rights organisation who had written to the government calling for an open trial attended by international observers. The International Bar Association said it “believes that Sheikh al-Jamri is being punished for exercising his right to freedom expression and urges the Bahrain government to release him immediately”.

Attacking and silencing mosques becomes a law:

Security helicopters have been ordered to fly over houses in the past week in a cowardly show if force against unarmed and peaceful citizens. On 16 February, the cabinet issued a law for banning the use of loudspeakers to curb speeches in mosques and community centres. The new law imposes fines and jail sentences on the citizens. Such fines ranged from 100 to 500 dinars 91 dinar=$2.65), confiscation of equipment; to three months in jail and a fine of 200 to 1,000 dinars. Anyone wishing to install loudspeakers must get prior approval from the government, which may approve and then cancel, at any time, the use the loudspeakers. All mosques must apply for using their existing loudspeakers within 60 days, otherwise the interior ministry will confiscate their loudspeakers. Electricians who install loudspeakers in violation of the law also risk a fine and jail sentence, and their shops will be closed for up to seven days.

Many people in mosques around the country had been summoned and intimated by the interrogators at the interior ministry. The government has, by virtue of this law, institutionalised the repressive measures that have been already implemented against mosques around the country for the past three years. More than fifty mosques had been attacked and damaged by security forces in the past three years alone.

Children and youths arrested:

On 11 February, the security forces attacked Nuweidrat and arrested several children. Abbas Ali Marhoon, 13, was arrested and beaten to exhaustion in public before his arrest. Three other children were also arrested with him: Abdul Shahid Jaffer Al-Mulla, 14, Ahmad Mahdi Habib, 14, and Mahdi Ahmad Marhoon, 14. The four children are still in detention and their families have not been able to identify their whereabouts. On 15 February, the security forces attacked Bilad al-Qadim and arrested Faisal Al-Askafi, 20, and Jaber Mansoor Fardan, 25.

On 16 February, at dawn, the security forces raided the house of Sheikh Sadeq Al-Durazi and arrested him. He has been leading the prayers at al-Sadeq Mosque in Duraz. The person in-charge of the mosque, Haj Hasan Jarallah, was summoned by the interior ministry and interrogated. The elderly person (Jarallah) had spent more than a year in administrative detention between 1996 and 1997.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

19 February 1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

BFM Statement

Sheikh Al Jamri: his release is an international demand

A grim atmosphere prevails all over Bahrain, as the government embarks on of its most dangerous gamble, that of bringing Sheikh Al-Jamri for an unfair and secret trial before the unconstitutional State Security Court. More than a dozen human rights organisations have requested to attend any forthcoming trial, but the government has, so far, refused to grant such permission.

The Committee for Popular Petition (CPP), which is a coalition of all major political, ideological and religious groups in the country, and which had managed to collect some 25,000 signatures in 1994 calling for the restoration of constitutional rule, wrote a letter to the Amir urging him to order the release of the two jailed members of the CPP, Sheikh Al-Jamri and Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain. Its argument is based on the need for dialogue, reconciliation and political reform.

The Strategy of the government is to continue its crackdown on the Shia section of the society. This is due to its belief that targeting the Shia will enable the government to divide the nation and to win support from some political circles. It is this ill- intentioned strategy that has driven the country to the ongoing political crisis. The consensus of the world is vehemently against racist policies that often resulted in ethnic cleansing or sectarian oppression.

The secret trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri may start early next week, and it will be a watershed in the history of Bahrain. After all, he is a member of the parliament that the Amir had dissolved in 1975, a judge, a celebrated poet and a campaigner for democracy. He has been persecuted for his political beliefs for many years. The message of the government to all the people of Bahrain (and not only the Shia) is that sheer force and repression will be comprehensively deployed to deal with any dissent. The people of Bahrain are bracing themselves to face a regime that disregards decent human behaviour and violates all laws, including its own unconstitutional ones.

The opposition calls on freedom-loving people to seek the freedom of Sheikh Al-Jamri and to urge the Bahraini government to save the country and the region from the dangers of violence and counter-violence, and abandon repression as a tool in its encounter with the pro-democracy activists.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

18 February1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

Lawyers group concerned over secret Bahrain trial for former judge
Dubai, Feb 16 (AFP) – The International Bar Association (IBA) expressed concern on Tuesday that the trial of a former judge and Shiite Moslem opposition leader in Bahrain is likely to be held in secret. Sheikh Abdel Amir al-Jamri was arrested three years ago as part of a government crackdown on the periodic unrest that has rocked the nation since 1994, but he has yet to face charge or trial. The IBA said in a letter to Bahrain Emir Sheikh Issa ibn Salman al-Khalifa that it feared a trial would be held in camera without a defence lawyer of Jamri’s own choosing and would therefore “contravene international fair trial standards.” “The IBA believes that Sheikh al-Jamri is being punished for exercising his right to freedom expression and urges the Bahrain government to release him immediately,” IBA president Klaus Bohlhof wrote. Bohlhof called for Bahrain to allow international observers to attend the trial of Jamri, who was one of eight Shiite leaders arrested in January 1996. The IBA said Jamri had been suspended several years ago as a religious court judge, allegedly du to his vocal opposition to state security laws and the dissolution of parliament in 1975.

The unrest, led by Shiite opposition demanding the restoration of the parliament in the tiny state, has claimed at least 38 lives since 1994./ END

International Bar Association A Federation of National Legal Associations  and Individual Lawyers His Highness, Shaikh Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa Amir of the State of Bahrain The Amiri Court, Rifa’a Palace, Rifaa’ BAHRAIN 12 February 1999 Fax: 00 973 668884 Your Excellency,

The International Association (IBA), a federation of 171 Associations and Law Societies, themselves representing 2.5 million lawyers and over 18,000 individual member lawyers from 183 countries, is concerned to learn that former judge, Shaikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri may be tried immediately in camera.

Shaikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri has been in detention without charge or trial and without access to lawyers since 21 January 1996. Shaikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri was suspended several years ago from his duties as a judge of the Religious Court, allegedly due to his vocal opposition to the implementation and enforcement of the State Security Act and the suspension of the National Assembly. He was arrested following anti-government protests and was detained under the 1974 State Security Law. Article 1 of the State Security Law provides for administrative detention without charge or trial for up to three years in contravention of international standards laid down in the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 9 & 10). It has been reported that a trial is being prepared against Shaikh Al-Jamri in a state security court in camera and that Shaikh Al Jamri’s defence is to be conducted by a counsel not of his own choosing. IBA is concerned that his trial may, therefore, contravene international fair trial standards. Article 14 (3d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) stipulates that “everyone shall be entitled to … defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing” and Articl 1 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that “All persons are entitled to call upon the assistance of a lawyer of their choice to protect and establish their rights and to defend them in all stages of criminal proceedings”. IBA is concerned that Shaikh Al-Jamri’s trial may be held in camera in contravention of Articl 14 (1) of the ICCPR “everyone shall be entitled to a free and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal”.

The IBA believes that Shaikh Al Jamri is being punished for excercising his right to freedom of expression and urges the Bahrain government to release Shaikh Al-Jamri immediately. If he is to face trial, I respectfully request you to permit international observers to attend the proceedings and urge you to ensure that he is tried in accordance with international trial standards. Respectfully yours Klaus Bohlhof

(Releads with govt confirmation of trial, pvs LONDON) – 12 February 1999

MANAMA, Bahrain (Reuters) – Bahrain will try a prominent opposition activist held without trial for more than three years, a government official said Friday.

The Bahrain Freedom Movement said in a statement issued in London the Bahraini government had contacted a local lawyer Tuesday to take up the case of Sheikh Abdul-Amir al-Jamri, a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric and a member of the parliament which was dissolved in 1975.

“He will be tried and he has chosen a lawyer who will defend him according to the legal procedures,” the official told Reuters. The official declined to say when Sheikh Jamri would be tried or give further details. The London-based movement said the Bahraini government planned to “conduct a swift and secret trial” to silence increasing international calls for Jamri’s release.

Sheikh Jamri and seven other Bahraini opposition activists, seeking political and economic reforms from the Sunni Muslim-led government, were detained in January 1996. They were charged with inciting unrest in the Gulf Arab state but were never put on trial. It was not immediately clear if the seven other activists were also to be put on trial.

Under Bahraini law, the maximum period for holding suspects without trial is three years. The movement said Jamri was expected to be tried before the country’s State Security Court, which it said usually conducts quick trials with some three sessions in camera, each lasting less than one hour.

The Bahrain Freedom Movement said that more than 10 human rights organizations had asked the government for permission to send observers to attend the trial. Two London-based rights group — the Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, part of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, and the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the United Kingdom — demanded in separate statements access to the hearings.

Hundreds of people have been arrested in Bahrain, the Gulf’s main financial and banking hub, since anti-government protests by the island’s majority Shi’ite Muslims erupted in December 1994. The disturbances abated last year.


DUBAI, Feb 12 (AFP) – A Bahraini official confirmed reports Friday that Manama is soon to try a jailed Shiite Moslem opposition leader arrested three years ago but there was no word if the trial would be open to the public…

Sheikh Abdel Amir Al-Jamri “will be tried secretly in the next two weeks, the attorney, who asked not to be named, told AFP, “I fear the verdict will not be fair”.

Meanwhile the London-based opposition Bahrain Freedom Movement (BFM) issued a statement claiming there would be a clandestine trial in order to skirt international calls for Jamri’s release.

“The Bahraini government has decided to try Sheikh Jamri secretly to get around national and international appeals for his release,” it said, adding the government had asked one of its own attorneys to defend the sheikh.

But it said the attorney in question, Abdula Hashim, “was not informed” about any trial and had filed petitions for Jamri’s release in vain.

In a letter to Bahraini Amir Sheikh Issa ibn Salman al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the Geneva-based Centre for the independence of Attorneys and Judges said Jamri should be free to be defended by the attornrey oh his choice.

Sheikh Jamri, 62, was one of eight Shiite Leaders arrested in January 1996 as part of a government crackdown on the periodic unrest that has rocked the nation since 1994 and left at least 38 dead.

News update:

Brutality claims more victims:

On the eve of 12 February, Haj Ali Karim, 60, from Sanabis, passed away after three years of suffering. Mr. Karim died in Salmania Hospital as a result of injuries he suffered when the security forces attacked a peaceful procession to commemoration of the Martyr Issa Qambar in March 1996.

A detained teenager Abbas Abula Hussain Al Shu’la, 17, from Manama, is suffering a sever illness (sickle cells). The prison authorities refuses him proper treatment. Instead, he is being daily injected with a pain killer inside his prison cell. Eye witnesses said that his condition is deteriorating rapidly.

Arbitrary arrests:

On 11 February, early in the morning, the security forced its way into the house of the Mr. Ahmed Jum’a and arrested his son Hassan, 19. Later on the same day, Hussain (brother of Hassan) was detained for 24 hours. The brother had gone to Al Khamis detention centre to enquire about the reasons for arresting his brother.

On 10 February, the security forces ransacked houses in Bilad Al Qadim area and arrested three young persons. They were Abdula Al-Nachas, 23, (son of the Martyr Sheikh Al Nachas and who had spent 2 years in detention along with his martyred father), Wajih Saleh, 26 (he had previously been detained for two years), Hussain Mansoor, 23. All threeare detained in the Al Khamis detention centre, which is run by the notorious Khalid Al-Wazzan.

On 9 February, three teenagers were arrested from Daih area after a raid on their houses. The teenagers are Isa Mula Mansoor Al Utaibi, 16, Abdul Ghani Ahmed Al Zaimur, 16, Ali Ahmed Al Zaimur, 15. The latter two are brothers and were all taken to the Al Khamis detention centre.

Bahraini Government to put Sheikh Al-Jamri on trial

After more than three years of arbitrary detention, the Bahraini government decided to put Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri on a political trial. On 9 February 1999, the Government contacted one of the lawyers and ordered him to take up the case of Sheikh Al-Jamri. The Government is intending to conduct a swift and secret trial in an attempt to get rid of national and international calls for releasing Sheikh Al-Jamri. Al-Jamri is a member of the Committee for Popular Petition, ex-judge and a member of the dissolved parliament.

Mr. Abdulla Hashim, the lawyer defending Sheikh Al-Jamri has not been informed about the case. The main drive of the Government has been to label the pro-democracy movement as a Shia one, and hence Mr. Hashim (a Sunni) is intentionally kept out of defending Sheikh Al-Jamri.

Mr. Hashim submitted a petition to the State Security Court on 21 January 1999 stating that “according to the State Security Law Article 5, any administratively held person must be released at the end of the three years”. Contrary to all norms, the Court failed to address the case raised by Mr. Hashim.

The State Security Court considers confessions extracted under torture as admissible evidence. Also, the said court admits confessions made by other detainees in case the person in question refused to write confessions under duress.

Under recently imposed unconstitutional laws, The State Security Court conducts quick trials with some three sessions in camera, each lasting less than an hour. After such sessions, the judges (two Egyptians under the chairmanship of a member of the ruling Al-Khalifa family) issue their politically-motivated sentences.

More than ten international organisations have asked to be allowed to send observers. These include the Geneva-based Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (part of the International Commission of Jurists), the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Pen International, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists, and Interfaith International, amongst others. They also urged the Bahraini Government to respect international conventions as well as the country’s constitution.

The Government of Bahrain hopes that its racist polices of targeting the Shia community will enable it to win support from some quarters and thus be able to derail the pro-democracy movement. The opposition believes such a policy will back-fire as it did in the old South Africa and hopes that the next Millennium will have no place for despots and racists. The trial of Sheikh Al-Jamri will exacerbate the political crisis in Bahrain and is likely to be a disastrous manoeuvre by the ruling family.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

12 February 1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

P.O. Box 216, 81 avenue de Chatelaine, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland

Tel: (+4122) 979 38 00, Telefax: (+4122) 979 58 01, E-Mail:

11 February1999

Your Excellency,

Subject: Judge Abdel Amir Al-Jamri

The Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL), is a component of the International Commission of Jurists dedicated to promoting and protecting the independence of judges and lawyers.

The CIJL has been concerned that for more than three years Judge Abdel Amir Al-Jamri has been detained without charge or trial. The CIJL is informed that Judge Al-Jamri will now face trial. The details of this trial are however not known.

The CIJL would like to request you to allow it to send an observer to attend the trial. For this purpose, the CIJL would appreciate knowing the place the place and date of the trial as well as the charges that are submitted against Judge Al-Jamri. We hope also that the family of Judge Al-Jamri will be able to visit him and that he will be able to solicit the services of a lawyer of his choice.

We look forward to receiving your response as soon as possible so that we can make the necessary arrangements to send the observer.

Please accept the assurance of our high consideration.

Mona A. Rishmawi


His Highness Sheikh Issa Bin Sulman Al-Khalifa, The Amiri Court, Rifa’a Palace, Bahrain

Fax: 00 973 66 88 84

Cc: His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, Minister of Interior

Fax: 00 973 27 67 65, or 29 05 26

Cc: His Excellency Sheikh Abdulla Bin Khalid Al-Khalifa, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

Fax: 00 973 53 12 84

International PEN, 9/10 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Roard, London EC1M 7AT, England

Tel: 0171 253 4308, Fax: 0171 253 5711, Emial:, Website:

His Highness Shaikh Issa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, Amir of Bahrain, Office of His Highness

PO Box 555, The Amiri Court, Rifa’s Palace, Bahrain

Fax No: +973 533033

10 February 1999

Your Excellency

On behalf of the International PEN, the world-wide association of writers with a 78-year history of defending freedom of expression, we write to reiterate our concern for Sheikh Al-Jamri, a poet and religious scholar currently detained in your country.

Aged 62, Al-Jamri has now spent more than three years in prison without charge or trial, we wrote recently to remind you that, according to the laws of Bahrain, his continuing detention was illegal. We now hear reports that a trial is being prepared against him in a state security court. There are grave concerns that these proceedings may fall short of international standards for due process.

There are reports that the trial is to be conducted in camera and that Al-Jamri’s defence is to be conducted by a counsel not of his own choosing. We would urge instead that the trial – if it is to take place at all – should be open to the public and that Al-Jamri be accorded the right to select his own defence lawyer. We also request, along with many other human rights organisation, that international observers be permitted to attend the proceedings and that full details of the precise charges against him be made known.

However, we also wish to stress that, in our opinion, the only truly fair resolution to this case is Sheikh Al-Jamri’s immediate and unconditional release. To our best knowledge, he is guilty of nothing other than his advocacy of political change in Bahrain and his ardent call for the country’s national assembly to be reinstated. As such, we fail to understand the reasoning behind his three-year-long detention and believe his continuing stay behind bars to be in violation of his fundamental human right to freedom of expression and of opinion.

Yours sincerely,

Momero Aridjis


Terry Carlbon

International Secretary

Sunday Herald (7 February 1999 , Page 5):

Britain’s Secrete Role in regime of Terror:

By: Neil Mackay

BRITAIN’S ethical foreign policy is under siege following the discovery of secret diplomatic papers which prove a British secret service officer was recruited by the Foreign Office to run one of the Middle East’s most repressive internal security forces. The Sunday Herald can reveal that Scottish special branch agent Colonel Ian Henderson, now in his seventies, is still controlling Bahrain’s secret service and personally directs operations against opponents of the country’s repressive regime, although Bahraini official insist he has retired. The investigation has also discovered that Britain is supplying arms and training to Bahraini forces.

The revelation will be raised in the House of Commons tomorrow by MP Denis Canavan. He will demand that Foreign Secretary Robin Cook introduce an embargo on arms sales to Bahrain.

Recruited in secret by British diplomats in 1966, Henderson had a reputation as a brutal expert in counter-terrorism operations. At the time of his appointment he was in disgrace following his deportation from Kenya on charges of co-ordinating violent reprisals against Mau-Mau rebels.

The discoveries will be a double embarrassment for the government and its ethical foreign policy. Not only does it come on top of the recent exposure of British-paid mercenaries operating in Sierra Leone, but it provides further evidence that British firms are still supplying reactionary governments with weapons for use in internal security operations.

Diplomats concede that the revelations could be ”very controversial” for British interests in the Arab world. Last year, British firms supplied large consignments of arms to Bahrain which can be used in counter-insurgency operations. During that time the Department of Trade and Industry granted 28 licences to British companies to export military equipment to Bahrain, including machine-guns, flame-throwers, grenades, smoke-bombs and mortars.

According to Mansoor Al-Jamri, exiled leader of the Bahrain Freedom Movement, the sale of these arms and the training of personnel has exposed the government’s ethical foreign policy as a sham: ”It shows national interests are placed ahead of principle, even under a Labour government”.

Foreign Office Minister, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, confirmed weapons are supplied to all units of the Bahrain security forces, including the Defence Force and the National Guard-units accused by opponents of shooting demonstrators. The units also receive training in the U.K.

According to human rights campaigner Lord Avebury, vice-chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, the exports flout the European Union’s code of conduct on arms exports which states that member states “will not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression”.

He said Britain had ”colluded in imposing a regime of terror” on Bahrain, adding that the Foreign Office had betrayed its own mission statement. ”I am ashamed to be British” Avebury said.

Although the government denies it has breached the EU code, the U.K now stands accused of operating double standards in the region. In the interests of protecting defence export interests, Britain colluded in the repression of Bahraini dissidents and Henderson was part of that process.

Antony Parsons, the British political agent in Bahrain, and Michael Weir of the Foreign Office’s Arabian department worked to persuade the Emir to hire Henderson. Throughout his appointment, successive British governments insisted that as Henderson was employed by the Bahrain government, they had no jurisdiction over his actions.

Last night they continued to support that line when an official told the Sunday Herald: ”Henderson is not a British official. His role is a matter for the Bahrain government. Britain never supported his position”.

But secret correspondence between Weir and Parsons reveals that in 1966, the two diplomats actively lobbied to place Henderson in power. A letter from Parsons makes it clear he and his officials had asked Shaikh Al-Khalifa, the Emir’s brother, ”if he and the ruler want us to try recruit specialist staff for the special branch”.

A letter, coded telegram says Henderson’s ”suitability” for the job should be stressed and the Bahrainis urged to give him a ”free hand to concentrate on rebuilding the special branch”.

Within weeks of Henderson taking up the appointment, Parsons was able to report that covert operations were in place to interfere with the operations of possible terrorists. ”Henderson seems to have got well on top of the job and the (special) branch is improving rapidly” he wrote.

Parsons died last year but last night Weir, who progressed up the diplomatic ladder to become ambassador to Cairo, confirmed the accuracy of the top-secret correspondence. ”Henderson was recruited via the Foreign Office, ”he admitted.” But in the light of what has happened I can see this was controversial”.

Bahrain News

  • Scottish Newspaper reveals British documents on Ian Henderson:
  • A Scottish newspaper, The Sunday Herald, of 7 February 99, Page 5, lambasted the British government on what it termed a “double standard” policy towards Bahrain. In a leading investigative article, the “Sunday Herald” revealed the role of Britain in recruiting Mr. Ian Henderson to restructure the Bahraini Special Branch and to establish a reign of terror in Bahrain. The article entitled “Britain’s Secret Role in Regime of Terror’, by Neil MacKay, provided details from official documents of the United Kingdom and illustrated the end results of such a policy: the death under torture of Bahrainis calling for political reforms. The paper also revealed that Denis Canavan, the Labour MP will be calling for an embargo on arm sales to Bahrain during parliamentary session on 8 February.

  • Increasing the burden on citizens:
  • The Housing Bank (of the Ministry of Housing) increased the interest rate on mortgages offered to ordinary citizens to 35%. The government has wasted millions of dollars donated by the President of the UAE that were supposed to have been channelled for assisting the housing of citizens. It is believed that the donated money has been transferred to the ill-intentioned project for importing thousands of Bedouins from the Syrian and Jordanian deserts for destabilising Bahrain society. HH sheikh Zayed al-Nahyan of the UAE donated the money for the citizens, but it is being wasted on non-development programmes.

    On 2 February. Local paper said that the government signed two loan agreements worth $117 million with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development to finance government projects. At least 35% of the budget is wasted on security and defence expenditure and most of the loans will also be wasted on importing more mercenaries into Bahrain.

  • Qatar attacked in the papers:
  • On 4 February, the government-controlled newspapers started attacking Qatar ahead of the session to be held next month in The Hague. The International Court of Justice it to state its opinion on the admissibility of submissions made by the Bahraini and Qatari governments in relation to the dispute on the sovereignty of Hawar islands.

  • Class rooms closed down:
  • On 5 February, the security forces attacked a small religious school in Bani Jamra and closed it down. Several class rooms for at least 75 girls who study religious subjects (degree level) under the guidance of Seyyed Jawad Al-Wedae, a leading Bahraini scholar were attacked and sealed-off by a red tape. The government of Bahrain implements a wide-ranging discriminatory policy against the Shia section of the society.

  • More arrests:
  • The following people were known to have been arrested in the past week. From Kaezakkan: Jasim Mohammed Hassan Kadhem, 26, Fawzi Mohammed Hassan Mahdi, 19, Mohammed Abdulla Yousif, 20. From Bilad al-Qadim: Abdul Amir Al-Saffar, 26, Aref Ali Al-Sammak, 19, Mohammed Ali Mansoor Al-Saeed, 19, Salah Habib Ali, 25. From Borhama: Shakir Hassan Makki Darwish, Hassan Ali Hassan Al-Saegh.

  • Deterioration of detainees’ conditions:
  • Abbas Khamis Omran, 27, (from Al-Jazira) is suffering from the torture he has been subject to. He had been suspended for prolonged periods from his arms. He has been denied proper treatment and he is in critical conditions inside a solitary cell. Similarly, Saeed Ibrahim Al-Sheikh of Daih is being held in a solidarity confinement since last November.

  • Interrogation of a lady:
  • Mona Salman Haider, the sister of Hanan Salamn Haider, who had been jailed and tortured fir two months until end of December, was summoned (last week) for interrogation by the torturers at the interior minister. She was released and threatened of further arrested and interrogation.

  • ICRC delegation in Bahrain:

        A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited Bahrain last week. Many of the prisoners                   protested at the continuation of torture and detention. The citizens informed the delegation that they see no improvement to their conditions and it seems the intransigence of the government is increasing.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

7 February 1998

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

Bahrain: Situation is exacerbated by mismanagement and corruption
Detainees held in the Dry Dock prison camp started a hunger strike at the beginning of February demanding their immediate release. There are about 500-600 innocent citizens held for indefinite periods without charges or trial.

Ordeal of a teenager:

A 3-year ordeal was followed by the arrest of an 18-year citizen, Mosa Madan. Few days ago, the security forces arrested Mosa Madan in Sanabis. He had been detained in 1996 and tortured by Khalid Al-Wazzan. Then at the age of 15, the torturer Al-Wazzan feared that another person was to die under his hands. He released the young boy, but a week later, Al-Wazzan mounted a raid on Mosa’ residence (in Duraz). Mosa was not at home at the time of the attack, and later he disappeared from sight. For the past three years, Mosa’s whereabouts was unknown as he kept hiding to protect himself from the merciless child-abusers who conduct torture and investigation at the ministry of interior.

Violating all norms:

On 29 January, six people were released after spending three years and eight months in detention. Eight months ago, the State Security Court aquatinted the six citizens of the charges made against them in relation to the burning of a video shop in Jedhafs in 1995. The interior ministry refused to release any of the persons and kept them for three years and eight months while knowing their innocence. The six citizens are: Abbas Yousif Al-Uleiwat, from Mossala; Abdul Amir Ahmed Al-Gas, 27, Jedhafs; Seyed Aqil Yehya Al-Qallaf, 23, Jedhafs; Mohammed Abdulla Al-Haddad, 22, Jedhafs; Seyyed Hussain Ali

Mosa. Jedhafs, 22; Saeed Isa Al-Hammar, Jedhafs.

Urgent Action: The International Secretariat of OMCT issued an urgent appeal on 2 February calling for the immediate release of Sheikh Al-Jamri and his colleagues. OMCT, the international organisation against torture said “those persons were detained under the 1974 State Security Law. Article 1 provides for the administrative detention without charges or trial for up to three years. The Security Measures in Bahrain violate many international human rights binding provisions which have become international customary law, such as those laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly Articles 7, 9 and 10”.

Corruption and mismanagement:

The deteriorating state of the economy is increasingly being reflected in the articles and news published by the government-controlled press. Water supply is increasingly becoming a national problem. Some of the key issues are: 1.    For each 1000-person increase in population, the demand on water increase by 507000 m3 per annum. Nevertheless, the ruling family is continuing its costly and ill-intentioned programme of importing more and more thousands of Bedouins from the Syrian and Jordanian deserts for destabilising the structure of the society. 2.    70% of the water is consumed by farms, most of the which (as much as 80%) is free of charge, going to farms belonging to members of the ruling family. These farms are non-productive and are used for “special parties” hosted by members of the ruling family.  3.    Education and health services are suffering because the government allocates a lion-share (more than one-third) of the budget for defence and security matters. Moreover, the importation of thousands of mercenaries with their families continue, thus increasing the load on limited resources available for the public. 4.    Begging and stealing are on the increase. Many members of the mercenary families resort to begging and stealing in the market while at the same time working as informers for the interior ministry.

Bahrain Freedom Movement 5 February 1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

February 1999

Mounting pressure on the third anniversary of the arrest of Sheikh Al-Jamri

Scoring own goal

The failure of the Bahraini government to allow international human rights organisations into the country has become one of the major complaints expressed by friendly governments against the dictatorship in that country. Over the past years many promises were given by the Al Khalifa and their PR agents to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others to allow their representatives into the country, but none has managed to make his/her way into Bahrain.

It is unlikely that any will be able to do so in the near future, especially as the popular uprising (intifada) continues. With it continues the policies of repression, especially arbitrary arrests, torture, collective punishment and forcible exile. When three families attempted to return to their country in December and January they were turned back. Rarely, if any, such cases happen anywhere in the world. But with the unique tribal system of government in place, the government’s decision to deport its own citizens is not totally out of the picture. Whether this policy will succeed in containing the unrest is unclear. What is clear, however, is the fact that with the passage of time, the dictatorial regime become more throttled, and its persistent refusal to listened calls for reform will eventually lead to its collapse.

One of the basic demands of the opposition is the repeal of the notorious State Security Law (SSL) and the State Security Court (SSC). Both have become symbols of the country’s tools of repression which have sent thousands of innocent citizens into torture chambers with a large loss of life. But these two terror tools are themselves violated by officials of the regime on a wide scale. Many people sentenced by the SSC were jailed for longer periods, and those who were acquitted by this unjust court were often kept behind bars without explanation.

The authorities have failed to heed international calls for the overhaul of the SSC, and are adamant to pursue the Bahraini population by their weapons of repression exploiting the SSC to the most. At the same time the SSL has also been violated in the past. Prisoners were often held for periods exceeding the three-years limit stipulated by the 1974 SSL which empowers the minister of the interior to order the administrative detention of political suspects for up to three years without charge or trial. This draconian law has been condemned by every human rights organisations and is considered one of the most barbaric legislation in the world. Sheikh Al Jamri, the former judge and Member of Parliament, has been in detention since 21st January 1996, and has finished his three year period without being either charged or released. Human rights organisations have issued strong statements condemning the Al Khalifa government for failing to honour their own repressive laws. The prime minister has, however, remained defiant and insensitive to world’s opinion.

Under such regime it is difficult to see how stability and security of the country may be achieved. The notion of security seems a far-fetched commodity that is not readily available when the rule of law is not upheld. The opposition has remained faithful to its causes and committed to the ideals of the people of Bahrain. It is well aware of the challenges posed by the attempts of the Al Khalifa to distort the facts and images relating to the popular uprising. But the wisdom has led it to ignore such malpractices and raise the level of awareness and activities. The government has failed to disrupt the activities of the opposition despite its attempts to infiltrate its ranks with informers and agents. The peaceful civil resistance of the people has opened wide scopes of activities and the government has remained vulnerable to international condemnations. Media coverage of the affairs of Bahrain has indicated a steady state of anti-regime activities despite its new laws aimed at more severe crackdowns against the opposition.

Over the next few weeks both the government and the opposition will become locked in battles to reach the hearts and minds of the international experts on human rights in order to secure their support. The opposition succeeded in bringing about international condemnation of the barbaric acts by the Al Khalifa. During last summer’s session of the UN Sub-Commission on human rights the Al Khalifa offered an undertaking to allow a delegation from the working group on arbitrary detention to visit the country and see for itself what is going on. So far the visit has not taken place, whilst the regime continued arbitrary arrests and torture on a wide scale. Surely this is a flagrant misdemeanour on the part of the ruling tribe and is likely to cause a harsh reaction from human rights activists in Geneva.

Political observers are aware of the fact that the regime is playing with time in its gamble to crush the opposition. However, there is a consensus amongst them that such tactics can be two-edged sword. The most likelihood is that they will infuriate the international observers and human rights experts and lead them to take a stronger position vis-a-vis the ruling tribe. Meanwhile the opposition has exhibited a good degree of resilience in dealing with the international factor and has become respected worldwide.

There is international respect to the Bahraini opposition for its restraint in the face of all-out aggression by a regime bent on crushing the opposition. They have achieved a great deal to their cause whilst the Al Khalifa have become a liability not only to Bahrain but also to the region as a whole. The next few months will be crucial to the situation especially as more and more of the atrocious acts of the Al Khalifa are uncovered and made public. Whilst more pressure from friendly quarters may convince the Al Khalifa of the futility of their barbaric acts, the opposition has made it well known that nothing less than restoration of civil and political rights to citizens is acceptable. Time alone will make this possible.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

1 February 1999

Fax: (44) 171 278 9089

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