Proceeding of a seminar held under the auspices of Lord
Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights
Group in the House of Lords on 15th December,
OPENING REMARKS: LORD
We have subtitled this
seminar Five Years of Lost Opportunities, because when King
Hamad came to power, he embarked on welcome reforms such as
the ending of torture, abolition of the state security
courts, an amnesty for political detainees and the return of
exiles. It seemed that Bahrain might be moving in the
direction of becoming a constitutional monarchy, where the
ruler would be titular head of state, with an elected
government. Bahrainis were looking forward to developing
their civil society, moving towards greater equality and
becoming a model for the region. But the project, if it ever
existed, went into neutral and has now gone into reverse.
Although Bahrain signed up
to the Convention Against Torture, they violated it almost
immediately by enacting Decree Law 56, which exonerated
torturers including the notorious head of the security
apparatus, Ian Henderson, and his sidekick Adel Flaifel,
from all the crimes committed before 2001. The UN Committee
Against Torture expressed concern over this blanket amnesty
and the lack of any redress available to victims of torture.
Worse, the practice of
torture itself has not been eradicated and we shall be
hearing later on from a very recent victim. Those who
committed this crime are not protected by Decree Law 56 and
they should be brought to justice.
Extremely worrying, too, is
the treatment of human rights defenders such as Abdulhaid
al-Khawaja, President of the Bahrain Center for Human
Rights. The police regularly use excessive force against
peaceful demonstrators, most recently at the end of
November when they attacked people who were protesting
against the government's handling of the unemployment
There is no opposition
press or broadcasting in Bahrain, and only the internet
serves as a medium of communication for those who want to
criticise government policies effectively. The press law of
2002, passed like the torture amnesty just before the new
constitution was promulgated, allows for prison sentences to
be passed on anybody who criticises the King or undermines
state security, and three writers were detained under this
law in 2005. The Public Gathering Code of 1973 which remains
in force gives the authorities power to ban public
gatherings virtually at their absolute discretion.
There is no mechanism
through which the people can articulate their views on
fundamental issues of governance, inequality, the abuse of
power and endemic corruption which Transparency
International says has got worse in each of the last two
years and that must be the argument for seminars such as
this. We are at liberty to say that a genuine democracy
must allow the people to change their government and you
don't make a hereditary dictatorship into a democracy by
creating a parliament which has been emasculated of most of
its important functions. When ministers are all appointed
by the King and most of the important ones are his
relations, like the Foreign Minister who until recently was
ambassador here in London, there is less of a democracy than
we had in Britain in the middle of the 18th century.
George II was Elector of
Hanover, and he did his best to get Britain to serve the
interests of the Hanoverians. But he wouldn't have got away
with importing Hanoverians to change the demography of
Britain in their favour.
In Bahrain, the ruler
claims the right to allow unlimited numbers of Sunni
immigrants from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Egypt into
the country and to grant them citizenship at his absolute
discretion. We have discussed this abuse of power at
previous seminars, and it has now been challenged by the
International Crisis Group, as well as the US State
Department. This secretive demographic engineering, the
statistics of which have been given to the Parliament on
condition that they are not published is an indication of
the distrust felt by the ruling family and of their Shia
Meanwhile, the UN
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
castigated Bahrain for pretending that discrimination
doesn’t exist in the state and recommends among other
measures, the establishment of a national human rights
institution; the enactment of effective laws to promote
equality; the monitoring of population data by ethnicity,
language and religion, and guarantees that public services
such as health, social security, education and housing are
administered with a view to securing equality between all
sections of the community.
When a group of Bahraini
MPs visited the UK last month I had the chance to discuss
with them the idea of exchanging information and ideas on
the promotion of equality, and they took back with them some
information on how we try to do it here. Nobody pretends
that UK is perfect, but we have grasped the elementary idea
that equality is not realized by a couple of sentences in a
constitution; it requires detailed legislation to ensure
that employers and public service providers act in ways that
promote equality, together with monitoring arrangements to
assess their performance.
According to the US State
Department’s Religious Freedom Report 2005, the Sunnis enjoy
a favoured status in Bahrain; the Shi’a are employed in
lower-paid less skilled jobs, and the educational, social
and municipal services are inferior in most Shia
neighbourhoods. The report does go on to quote the Bahraini
government as claiming to have built lots of subsidized
houses which are available to everyone on the basis of need,
but obviously this can’t be tested when no statistics are
When I had an audience
with King Hamad in January 2003, I told him that democracy
wasn’t to be seen as a set of fixed objectives, but as a
system which constantly evolves, always trying to meet the
needs of the people and finding new ways to enable them to
articulate their own aspirations to the authorities at a
local and national level and I thought he agreed.
Certainly the machinery of
state in Bahrain doesn’t satisfy there criteria and can’t do
so as long as the ruling family holds all the reins. There
must be a road map, to use the fashionable expression, which
leads ultimately to a position where power is transferred to
the people and the starting point must be the right to speak
about the constitutional issue without being silenced or
So far, the limited
reforms in Bahrain have been handed down from the throne by
the grace of the ruler, and not achieved through the
peaceful demands of the ruled. It is this transition which
has to be managed, if Bahrain is really to become what it
already claims to be, a beacon for the region.
Note that people are going
to the polls in Iraq; and that process, with all its faults,
will produce a government. In Egypt and even in Saudi
Arabia, there are movements towards greater democracy too.
Bahrain can’t stop where it is, being overtaken by all the
neighbours. This would be a recipe for failure.
HASAN ALI MUSHAIMA –
GENERAL SECRETARY, HAQ MOVEMENT
I would like to seize the
opportunity of your seminar to bring to your attention the
situation in Bahrain.
No one is fit to be master
and no one deserves to be a slave. But the Al Khalifas
regime in Bahrain used to deal with people as the masters
who can do every thing and no body can ask or reject.
Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al
Khalifa is the head of the regime that has no respect for
human rights, freedom of speech or the democratic right of
his citizens. He and his government by his uncle Sheik
Khalifa (Holding the position since 1971) has done lots of
harm and were responsible for many atrocities which were
done to the citizens of Bahrain during his ruling.
The recent development in
Bahrain has forced many political activists to rethink their
strategies and political programmes. The failure of Sheik
Hamad’s highly acclaimed “reform initiative” to meet the
minimum standards of freedom and democracy had shaken the
confidence of people in the ability if the ruling family to
adapt to modern standards of government.
In addition to the
tailor-made constitution of 2002, the various repressive
laws such as Law 56 that offers immunity to torturers, the
press Law, the Political Naturalization Decree (Do you know
that the government has imported and naturalized over
100,000 sunnies from Arab and Non-Arab countries and offered
them jobs and housing mean while the shia majority suffered
from high unemployment and lack of housing), the ruling
family imposed the Law of the Societies. This Law has
effectively removed the ability of the political societies
to lead effective opposition to the regime.
Among the most
controversial articles is the one that forces the societies
to re-write their deeds in line with the 2002 constitution.
This has removed the ability of these societies to challenge
it, and transformed the political since into one of the
total submission to the ruling family.
Many political activists
have one decided to challenge the Law of the Societies, and
initiated a programme of civil disobedience. Over the past
year, several popular commutes were formed outside the
official laws, and started their campaigns against the
regime. Among these committees are the committee of
unemployed, the Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture,
the committee of the Homeless and others.
Last month, a group if
activists, of various political and religious persuasions,
lunched a new political organization to take up the
challenges brought about by the doomed political initiative
of Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Haqq is the name of the
new movement, which translates into “rights”. The new Rights
Movement has brought together political figures from various
political and religious persuasion of the Bahraini society
and infringed the line of sectarians and ideological
Haqq is now leading a
peaceful civil resistance campaign achieves the goals of the
successive political movements and uprising that had
challenged the Al Khalifa dictatorship for the past eight
decades. Its aims include the eventual creating if a
constitutional monarchy, the establishment of democratic
system that allows power sharing on the basis of
one-man-one-vote the ratification of the international
conventions of political and human rights into legislation,
the creation of an economic regime that ensures equal
distribution of wealth and opportunities, the end of
discrimination among citizens on lines of ethnicity,
religious affiliation or political stands, and the
institutionalizing of human rights as a culture protected by
Since its inception, Haqq
has been able to mobilize public support to it’s aims, focus
people’s energies and effort towards the embitterment of
their well-being, and promote a cultural freedom for all,
refusing to abide by dictatorial orders issued by the ruling
family in the absence of public debate and initiate an era
of hope that democratic rule will be achieved through a
sustained programme of civil resistance and disobedience.
The movement has stood side by side with those who are
denied equal opportunities for jobs, housing and decent
living. It has taken part in demonstrations, pickets and
seminars to present the case of the people of Bahrain within
reasonable contexts, both to internal and external
audiences. It has also initiated a world-wide campaign to
inform western governments of the reality of the political
situation in our country, established firm contacts with
international political and human rights bodies and
communicated with the United Nations on matters relating to
the sovereignty of Bahrain, the rights of it’s people to
proper governance and the need to establish the rule of law.
We appeal to
freedom-loving people to support our struggle to achieve a
good system of government in line with international
tendencies towards democracy and just political systems. Our
people have scarified with blood to achieve their rights and
as we meet here today, we care also commemorating the Day of
the Martyrs in 17th December. It was the day in
1994 when the Al Khalifa rule issued the shoot-to-kill
policy against peaceful demonstrators. On that day the first
two martyrs of the popular uprising were murdered by the Al
I call on you to observe
one minute silence of victims of torture, extra-judicial
killings in Bahrain and everywhere.
OBSERVATION OF ONE MINUTE
OF SILENCE FOR VICTIMS OF TORTURE, EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS
IN BAHRAIN AND EVERYWHERE.
OMNIOUS SITUATION IN
BAHRAIN: ACTIVISTS AT RISK –ABDULJALIL AL-SINGACE
State has blundered the national wealth on foreign public
relations companies, mainly in UK, who endeavour to polish
the image of the regime in the past five years. These
attempts could not compete with the flowing reports and
studies by human rights and research centres, defacing the
image of Bahrain. These reports are reflection to activities
on grounds by activists and defenders of rights. This fact
has infuriated the State and waged anger of Sh. Hamad and
Al-khalifa family, who found these reports damaging to their
and human rights defenders have played a role in
enlightening masses of their rights and the tactics to seek
it. They have succeeded in opening channels with the
international media and rights organizations to be in close
observance to the situation in Bahrain. Furthermore, they
have participated in popular activities, showing support and
willing to provide sacrifice for the rights and demands of
a result, people became attached with the activists and
realized their values, which made them under a systematic
targeting campaign. In this short contribution, light will
be shed on some of the tactics used in an attempt by the
State to obstruct and contain activists from being able to
continue their role and participation in the advancement of
tactics to curtail activists' movements
the aid of the public prosecution
and the State appointed judges,
new measures have been standardized to combat activities of
defenders of human rights. These would include the
implementation of Codes devised to curtail liberties and
restrict freedoms. Among these codes are
the Penal Code, the Gathering and
Assembly Code, the Press, Printing and Publication Code, and
the Civic Societies Code. In fact, laws introduced, drafted
or proposed, by the State following the Charter are even
worse. These would include the Political Societies Code, the
drafted "Combating Terrorism Code", the drafted new
"Gathering, Assembly and Procession" Code, the proposed
"National Security" Code. Such codes and others cast serious
doubts on the credibility of the so called "reforms".
laws have been devised to restrict freedoms and silence
activists by giving a free hand and absolute powers to the
executive authority. Of these laws still enforced is the
Penal Code promulgated in 1976 and its amendments enacted in
1982 (see Appendix A).
is true that the previous State Security Law and Court have
been revoked. Nevertheless, Article 186 of the Penal Code
provides that the crimes set forth in the Articles from 112
to 184, of the same Code, require that their perpetrators
must be prosecuted before a special court whose formation
and terms of reference shall be determined by an Amiri
Order. The aforesaid Articles mention such crimes as the
publication of anti-regime news and statements, formation of
opposition societies, assemblies and rioting. Thus, the
formation of a court that is governed by special procedures
for the trial and prosecution of the opposition is still a
legal right held by the ruling authority.
Out of the new
Codes, the Political Society eliminates any form of
opposition by forcing all political societies (parties) to
believe in and abide by the unilateral Sh. Hamad
Constitution, restricts the societies movement, inside and
outside Bahrain, and subject them to severe penalties,
should they violate it.
Of the drafted
codes is the "Combating Terrorism" which resurrects State
Security measures in other severe format considering death
and life imprisonment
for showing any opposition to Sh Hamad constitution of 2002بهدف
تعطيل أحكام الدستور أو القوانين أو اللوائح أو الإخلال
أو تعريض سلامة المملكة وأمنها للخطر أو
أو أمن المجتمع الدولي، إذا
كان من شأن ذلك إيذاء الأشخاص أو بث الرعب
بينهم أو ترويعهم أو تعريض حياتهم أو حرياتهم
أو أمنهم للخطر، أو إلحاق الضرر
بالبيئة أو الصحة العامة أو الاقتصاد الوطني
أو المرافق أو المنشآت أو
الممتلكات العامة أو الخاصة أو الاستيلاء
عليها أو عرقلة أدائها لأعمالها، أو منع
أو عرقلة السلطات العامة
أو دور العبادة أو معاهد العلم عن
Tailing and tapping
Activists have been trailed and followed
when meeting with media and international human rights
organizations inside Bahrain, in hotels and café’s. When
The State has used anonymous phone numbers
to spread, in a wide scale, romours defaming activists and
Activists have also received alarming remarks through
considered close to the ruling family. The threat considers
the activities of the defenders to have crossed red borders
and should refrain from such acts, or face consequences.
Job intimidation and
Many activists have been subjected to
psychological stress from their employers upon clear
instructions from the State Security establishment.
Activists have been demoted from their posts, which they
qualify for, because of their activities abroad and meetings
with international organizations.
Others have been sacked from their posts which they excelled
because they participate in seminars and exercise their
right for freedom of expression.
The State which owns and dictates stands
and views on all newspaper in Bahrain, has played a nasty
role in the containment of activists. Their statements, in
any media interviews, are either maimed or concealed.
State-guided columnists are directed towards activists as
part of the State campaign to build a barrier between people
and the defenders.
Physical attack and Abuse
The old State tactic was to raid and
ransack premises of activists just before dawn, subject them
to all forms of torture forcing them to sign a pre-prepared
confession enabling imprisonment prosecution by State
judges. These are some of the State Security era tactics.
Now, this tactic has changed. Activists now are not
imprisoned and subjected to behind door torture. As a result
of world observance to the human rights records in Bahrain,
there aren't any form short term imprisonment of activists.
However, they are attacked on the premises in public (Attack
on Al-kwajah and his companions on June 19th,
July 15th, December 3rd 2005), to
cause them severe pain in sensitive areas of their bodies,
by trained special forces and mercenaries.
of rape and sexual attack
Recently, the State has reverted to the use
of blackmail of activists by threatening them and their
families of sexual assault. The recent attack of this kind
was made to three members of the Unemployed Committee; Mosa
Abdali, Hasan Abdulnabi and Sameer Alasfoor. All the three
were subjected to all forms of blackmail, harassment and
abuse so as to prevent the picketing of the unemployed
nearby the Royal Court.
Mosa was abducted by from his home just
after midnight under the threat of weapons to a rural
isolated area. The attackers, although wearing face mask,
identified themselves as security group (Mokhabarat). Mosa
was handcuffed, beaten using plastic sticks, stripped from
clothes and sexually assaulted. He was given a message to be
delivered to other members and activists supporting the
unemployed demands. The message was subjecting the activists
and their families to similar treatment received by Mosa.
Hasan was also abducted from home late at night, blinded and
taken to an anonymous place, where he was interrogated,
beaten and threatened to face similar treatment received by
Mosa. He was released near dawn and order to pass the same
note. Sameer was telephoned at about 2am by an anyomous
voice identified Sameer and asked him about the age of his
wife as well as informed him about his 14years daughter.
Role of human rights organizations:
Many ideas could be suggested to push for
the importance of protecting activists and defenders of
human rights. These would include:
1) Petition to be signed by the attendees
to be sent to the Embassy of Bahrain in London
Petition by organizations to be circulated
State of Bahrain (through the embassies, the head of the
state sh hamad and his family, issuing condemnation
communiqués and showing support to the activists and holding
the State for their safety and security.
Issuing reports assessing the human rights
situation in Bahrain and the role of defenders
Sending international observers to Bahrain
These ought to be taken up by the UN Rapporteur of Human
Rights. This is an under-utilised mechanism. People not in
the front line can assist the Human Rights Rapporteur by
presenting factual narratives out the suffering.
PERSONAL TESTIMONY – MOSA ABDALI ALI
My name is Mosa Abdali Ali. I am 24 years
old, a Bahraini citizen, married with one child. After
working for several years in my earlier life, I became
unemployed four years ago. Despite continuous efforts to
find a job, I am still without work. I spent some time in
contact with the Ministry of Labour which is responsible for
employment of the citizens. During my daily attendance at
the ministry’s headquarters, I came in contact with other
youth who were unemployed despite the presence of more than
200,000 expatriate workers.
As a result of my contacts with other
unemployed youth, the National Committee of the Unemployed
was formed. The committee, which was formed in January this
year, undertook many activities, like educational seminars,
picketing of the government departments, demonstrations and
contacts with officials and trade union activists. The
unemployed do not receive any financial support from the
Government which has not instituted a social security
On 19th June this year, I
participated in a peaceful picket near the Royal Court in
Rifaa. As we were gathering, we were attacked by a heavily
armed contingent of Special Forces. Fifty of the
demonstrators, including myself, were arrested, beaten and
humiliated at Rifaa Police Station. I was severely beaten
and sustained massive injuries to my back and legs. For
three months I had to use crutches and I am still undergoing
As our grievances have never been properly
addressed or investigated, we continued our activities.
A picket was organized for 28th
November and was to be held at the Royal Court. In the early
hours of Sunday, 27th November, I was attacked by
a contingent of about 20 heavily armed men who arrived at my
house in five cars. I was outside the house taking out some
rubbish. I was immediately abducted after they fired a few
shots to frighten me. They all had masks on their faces. I
was taken to a secluded area where I was severely beaten on
all parts of my body.
After threats to do the same to my family, especially my
wife, they threw me on to the ground and I was sexually
assaulted by two of them. I was crying and asking them to
stop but with no success. After they finished their dirty
assault, I was asked to tell my colleagues in the committee
and several other activists including Dr Abduljalil Al
Singace not to get involved in the affairs of the committee
or they would face similar treatment.
I was left in the same place as they left
the scene. I contacted my friends who hurried to the scene
and took me to the house of one of my friends. They had
frightened me to the extent that I was afraid of going to
the hospital to report the attack. After persuasion from my
friends, I lodged an official case against the officers. I
have hospital reports on the ill-treatment I sustained.
I am currently on a hunger strike,
together with my other colleagues in the committee to
protest against the ill-treatment by the Bahraini
Thank you for your kind attention.
Your case should be referred to the Medical Committee for
the Victims of Torture. And I hope the Bahraini authorities
will appreciate that there will be tremendous interest in Mr
Ali’s case. We will be looking carefully to see that he does
not suffer any repeat of the treatment he has received once
he returns to Bahrain.
MOUSA AL-SITRAWI – THE
NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF PEOPLE DEPRIVED OF CITIZENSHIP
Committee was founded by a number of human rights activists
in May 2005 to help the citizenship deprived of Bahrainis to
regain their right of citizenship they deserve as per
Bahrain Citizenship Act of 1963.
The Committee started with 60 cases of
deprived citizenship. This number has increased during the
last few months and now we have over 160 cases concerning
about 500 individuals. In addition to that number, the
committee is also sponsoring the case of Al Sitrawi family,
composed of 84 members.
The committee started following up these
cases with concerned offices in the Government. The steps
Letters sent to the
Royal Court addressed to HM the King of Bahrain attached
to it our first list of 60 cases.
Telegrams sent to the
Royal Court addressed to HM the King of Bahrain
requesting for a meeting to discuss these cases.
Meetings with members
in the Parliament.
Meetings with members
in the Shura Council.
Meetings with the
Under Secretary of the Ministry of Interiors, who is
also the head of the Directorate of Immigrations and
Meetings with the Head
of Legal Affairs in the Directorate of Immigrations and
Participating in the
Parallel Conference for the Future Forum that was held
in Bahrain and in Qatar in November 2005.
peaceful demonstrations and protests asking for the
rights of citizens.
Holding seminars and
workshops, the latest was held at the Hilton Hotel on
the 11/12/2005 titled "Citizens Despite Deprivations".
Despite of all attempts to put an end to
the sufferance of this category of Bahraini citizens, no
positive response from Bahraini officials, to solve this
critical and important issue, was received.
The Committee's demands on behalf of
Bahrainis deprived of citizenship:
Granting the Bahraini citizenship to all
those entitled to it as per Bahrain Citizenship Act of 1963.
Reinstating the citizenship to the
Bahrainis deprived of it, for example Al Sitrawi Family.
The story of Al Hajj Saleh
Al Sitrawi and his family are familiar to everyone, but
those who know the details of the family’s sufferance and
the sources of our pains are very few.
The family members
suffered from emigration, displacement and separation from
each other for long years and to more than five countries in
all of the world continents. It was also subjected to
continuous humiliating security irritations at the hands of
the security bodies in some of those countries. Some members
of the family were subjected to prison and torture, during
the 1st and 2nd Gulf wars, for
baseless accusations by bodies of Saddam’s Regime for having
Bahraini origins. They were also deprived from the least of
living elements like work, study and obtaining food from
food supplies during the economical sanction, therefore;
they suffered from starvation. The family members were
deprived from issuing birth certificates for their new born
children or even issuing a death certificates for their
deads. Despite all the indefinite tears of sorrow and pain,
despite all of this and that, the Bahraini authorities take
very slow steps in dealing with our case, even if only from
humanity point of view.
During the last 20 years,
the family sent more than 90 petition letters to the
Bahraini authorities and authorities of different countries
in which the family resided. Also, many highnesses,
Excellencies, members of the Bahraini and Kuwaiti parliament
and other officials had spoken for the favor of the family,
but the answer for the reasons of depriving the family from
restoring their Bahraini nationality were always ambiguous
One of the reasons stated,
as officials claimed, that Al Hajj Saleh Al Sitrawi had
tried to separate Sitra Island from the mother island. This
is obviously a faked claim and the history can prove this.
Let us, blindly, suppose that this claim was right, is it
fair to punish three generations for it? Is it fair to
displace three generation because of it? Is it fair to
naturalize hundreds of foreigners who never were related to
Bahrain and hold back Al Sitrawi’s case who is attached to
Bahrain by land and family?
We appeal to H.M. King
Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa to take his direct, firm
and final decision in this case. Either H.M. orders
to restore the Bahraini nationality to the family or to
order to finalize this case and admit, officially, that the
Bahraini nationality is not our right to end long years of
pain and hope.
We have the right to ask
H.M. to put an end for this case, as we have the right to
obtain dignity and respect for our fate after long years of
procrastination and messing around with our hope and future
A: extracts from Penal Code
(Promulgated by Decree Law No.15 of the Year 1976, with the most
significant amendments introduced by Decree Law No.9 of the
The Bahrain Penal Code restricts basic rights and freedoms in
violation of basic norms stipulated for in the constitution,
and in conflicts with the international standards that the
Government has undertaken to comply with. This law
incriminates and imposes prison sentences and fines on
anyone who viewed by the State to have attempted or
performed the following:
deliberately releasing abroad, what viewed to be, false or
malicious news, statements or rumors about domestic
conditions in the State (Article 134).
abroad, without permission, any conference, public meeting,
seminar or takes part in its deliberations with the aim of
discussing the political, social or economic conditions in
the State of Bahrain or other states (Article 134 bis.).
setting up, organizing or running a society, organization,
group or branch thereof aiming at the overthrow or changing
the political, social or economic system of the State,
promoting or favoring such action, where the use of force,
threat or any other illegal method is noticed (Article
or favouring, in any manner, the overthrow or changing the
political, social or economic system of the State with the
use of an illegal method (Article 160).
setting up, organizing or running in the State of Bahrain,
without a license issued by the Government, international
societies, organizations or institutions of any kind
whatsoever or branches thereof (Article 163). In the cases
set forth in Articles 159 and 163, the Court shall order the
dissolution of the aforesaid societies, organizations and
institutions, closing their premises and confiscation of
their monies and assets (Article 164).
with the use of one of the publication methods, hatred of
the ruling regime or showing contempt towards it (Article
broadcasting any false or malicious news reports, statements
or rumors or spreads adverse publicity, if such conduct
results in disturbing public security, terrorizing people or
causing damage to the public interest. The same penalty
shall be inflicted upon any person who possesses, either
personally or through others, any documents or publications
containing anything provided for in the preceding paragraph,
if they are intended for distribution or reading by others
and upon any person who possesses any publishing, recording
or promotion device intended, even on a temporary basis, for
printing, recording or broadcast of any of the above
by one of the methods of publication, non-compliance with
the laws or making a presentation to improve something that
is deemed a crime (Article 174).
part in a demonstration in a public place where at least
five persons are assembled with the aim of committing crimes
or acts intended to prepare or facilitate the commission of
such crimes or aimed at undermining public security, even
though for the realization of a legitimate objective
by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other
constitutional institutions, the army, law courts,
authorities or government agencies (Article 216).
the Penal Code threatens with deportation those who are
still deprived of Bahraini citizenship. Article 64 bis.
Provides that if a foreigner is convicted of any of the
crimes set forth in the law, the judge, may order in his
judgment, for his deportation from the State of Bahrain.
The most serious article in the
Penal Code is Article 168 which authorizes the setting up of
state security courts. It provides that for the crimes
provided for in Articles from 112 to 184 of the Code their
perpetrators shall be tried before a court whose formation
and procedures shall be determined by an Amiri/Royal order.
If there were a national institution of human rights it
would be the right body to deal with such a matter. It’s the
lack of machinery by which you can see redress for these
complaints which affects not just your particular group but
anybody else who has a grievance against the state for which
they can’t get any remedy. I think in the particular case of
people who are deprived of citizenship unjustly the UNHCR
has a responsibility to deal with any question of
statelessness which arises when people are deprived of their
citizenship. It may well be worth asking for their
assistance. Maybe here in London we could play a small role
in facilitating a dialogue between your committee and the
UNHCR to see if there is any way they could be of some
assistance. Now we will open the discussion to the floor of
any of the papers you have heard.
My name is Hugh Canniver, I work for the Bahraini
government. I am here in a personal capacity. We have been
presented with a totally one-sided story. There are two
sides to this.
Mousa has made very serious allegations about the Bahraini
government recently. The government has taken these
extremely seriously. A few days ago the Minister of the
Interior came to his house and visited him to speak about
his case and to launch a criminal investigation into the
matter. He has also invited human rights groups to
participate in a transparent process. This meeting is
giving us a very biased picture of events. I think this is
one example of many.
Bahrain the political situation is changing. The main
opposition party has split. There are no members of Al Wifaq
here. There are a few members of the far-right Islamist
party Al Haq. There is a duality going on in terms of what
people are stating here.
Bahrain has an active civil society and the right to
demonstrate is accepted. What is not accepted is people
coming armed with rocks and stones and going on the rampage.
No government in the world is going to tolerate this and
Bahrain is no exception.
There are constant demonstrations in Bahrain even at the
media centre which was organised for foreign journalists who
came to the Forum For The Future. Mr Al Khawaja was
sitting there waiting to meet journalists and nobody tried
to restrict that.
There is another point to be made about civil society. There
is a civil society in Bahrain. A case in point is one of the
campaigns in which three of the gentlemen here were involved
in. They were sitting with Al Wifaq, the main Shia Islamist
organisation in Bahrain. They launched a campaign to force
gender segregation on Bahrain in the universities. What you
had was one demonstration backed by these gentlemen calling
for a complete segregation in universities. And you had
students opposing this. Fortunately for them 300 people
turned up at the counter demonstration.
Which campaign are you talking about?
I am talking about the campaign you, Al Wifaq, which you are
a member of………
I am not a member of Al Wifaq. I have never been a board
member of Al Wifaq, do not tell lies. I am a member out of
This was the policy of your party?
Which policy and which party?
We have a duality going on here. These people have come to
London to present themselves as human rights activists but
in Bahrain they have a different agenda – an anti women
agenda and essentially. I would like to say to Lord Avebury
that this meeting was organised by the Bahrain Freedom
Movement. But are you aware of the Bahrain Freedom Movements
agenda? Are you aware that they have two names and if so do
you know what the alternative name is? Why do they need to
To answer your leading question, this meeting was convened,
as a number of meetings have been in the past, to talk
about human rights in Bahrain. We normally invite
distinguished speakers both from the communities in Bahrain
and from the United Kingdom. We have done the same thing
this year. The credentials of the people who spoke at this
meeting speak for themselves. They have been activists for
many years for human rights in the front line in Bahrain.
Are you aware they have to names? Are you aware what their
second name is?
This meeting is being held under the auspices of the
Parliamentary Human Rights Group of which I am the vice
The UN intervened last night to protect nine human rights
activists were picketing outside United Nations house. They
were secured by a special convoy of the UN. These cases are
based on reality. We are not here to fake stories. These are
true stories. I have examples of each of these cases in
which there were attacks on human rights activists. These
people have the right to demonstrate and to talk freely. I
don’t know how you from a British origin can talk about
democracy not allow people to demonstrate freely. And not
only that. Is attacking people and sexually assaulting them
part of democracy. This is what is happening in Bahrain. We
have full respect for human rights in Bahrain and we want
it to be achieved. During the demonstrations of 2002
everybody was respected but this has not continued. A
peaceful man is taken in the night, abducted and physically
and sexually assaulted and what you want to say is that what
has been done is okay. This is not okay.
This is very basic. In the case of Abu Mousa. These physical
and sexual attacks are completely and absolutely forbidden
by the Sharaih and all Sunnis and Shias would agree to this.
Is there any mechanism in the Gulf Co-Operation Council, of
which Bahrain is a member whereby you can complain about
this at the highest level? This is very serious, it is very
I don’t see
any possible avenue in the whole Arab world, not only in the
GCC. That is why we come here and speak about human
rights. When Mousa made his case to the public prosecutor
his lawyer was prevented from attending. He was interrogated
as if he is a criminal. So this is within the country.
Having said that there was a case recently which I read
about where somebody who was killed with a rubber bullet
did bring proceeding and it was amazing that the courts
found in his favour. The incident happened in 2002 but it
only just came before the courts recently and his family
were awarded compensation for his loss of life.
What happened to the person how shot him? Nothing! You can
buy the silence of people by giving them money. But the
problem is not giving victims of torture money. If you want
to prevent torture you have to take the torturers and bring
them to account for their actions. Hugh said that the
minister went to see him. That is not an addressing of the
You are ignoring what should be done.
In the normal course of events in a society where the rule
of law functions the atrocity which was committed against
Mousa would have been investigated by the police. They
would have referred it to the prosecution service and there
would have been proceedings against those responsible. You
don’t need a minister to do that. You need an effective and
impartial police force who take action against wrong doers.
PARLIAMENTARY BAHRAIN GROUP:
We have to remember that Bahrain only gained its
independence from the British in 1971. In this day and age
human rights violations are practised in virtually every
country in the world. That does not excuse them. What
exactly are we asking the Al Khalifa’s? are we asking them
to give up everything they have in matter of months and
years that say the British monarchy took centuries and
centuries to give up. We are set in a hall, in the House of
Lords. People are not elected to the House of Lords, they
are appointed. This is not democracy as some might see it.
seems to me that there are some quite serious problems in
communication. King Hamads accession to the throne was
accompanied by a lot of expectations about reform. However
we are now apparently in this antagonistic stance with
protesters against the monarchy.
also have to remember that Bahrain is not the UK, it is not
the USA, it is not France and it does not have a gradual
democratic history that has taken so long. There has not
been this history of gradual change in Bahrain. So I don’t
think we can talk about simplistic parallels about what
should be done.
should think a bit more about how we should go about this:
an approach that is indigenous to somewhere like Bahrain.
After all accelerated changes in unstable regions, as we all
know, can make matters worse. Do we expect the king who has
been three for four or five years to give up everything. We
are going to have a situation where the country will not be
able to cope with that kind of change without things
question to those who would like to answer is is this kind
of antagonistic stance, meeting in the House of Lords, not
exactly talking to the king, is there a possibility that
this will aggravate the situation. Human rights violations
are taking place, people are on two different sides and
there is no real fruitful dialogue going on. Is there not
space to acknowledge that there are ways to change the way
we approach the problem on both sides, given the situation
I will start to answer this as the question was really
addressed to me as the convenor of this meeting. I hold a
lot of meetings of this kind. I have held meetings recently
on China, on Bangladesh etc Nobody says that these meetings
which obviously do make suggestions about reforms are in
some way irregular. I am not sure that we make a tremendous
impression on the Chinese President who was here the other
day. Every little shove along the road to reform is somehow
look at Bahrain in the same way. Obviously we have a minor
role play in what happens in Bahrain but we should be
positive and constructive and I think we are.
are not saying that the king should suddenly abdicate and
hand over power to the elected assembly. But what I did
suggest in my introductory remarks is that there should be a
road map and that road map could be as short or as long as
you say indigenous conditions would justify. I think this
road map would have to include concomitant measures such as
the development of equality mechanisms. I do not think this
is being impractical or a foreign concept which is somehow
being foisted onto the people of Bahrain. When I discussed
it with the Bahraini MP’s who were here last month I found
them quite receptive and they thought it would be possible
to engage in a dialogue between the people in Bahrain and
the UK about how you bring about equality. In Bahrain you
have a sentence in the constitution which says there shall
be equality. But there doesn’t seem to be an acknowledgement
by the authorities that just be writing this in the
constitution you bring it about. So I agree with you, there
should be an indigenous approach, what we do in this country
is not necessarily a role model for the Bahrainis, they have
to develop their own democratic mechanisms. But as I said
to the king when I had the honour of talking to him –
democracy is not a static process, it is not something say
this is what we are going to do, we have done it and it is
over. It is an evolving process, it is something which
never comes to an end. But unless you have means by which
people can articulate how a particular democracy should
develop then you have the risk of coming to a full stop and
people seeing barriers to further progress. This makes
them frustrated and angry. The reason why people are
demonstrating is because they don’t think there is any sign
of further movement along the road to a genuine democracy.
When you look at the constitution of Bahrain where the king
appoints all the ministers and the ambassadors, the judges
etc that this is an absolute monarchy. It is called a
constitutional monarchy but you don’t make it that by just
giving it the name. That is why people are frustrated in
Bahrain and the manifestations like the committee for the
committee of martyrs and victims, the committee of the
unemployed are all facets of this. I do not see that there
are mechanisms within the process of government for these
problems to be addressed in accordance with the will of the
people and that is why there are these frustrations and
If it took a country two or three hundred years to develop a
democracy does it mean that we must also take the same time
to reach it? You are talking about five or six years and we
are talking about more than ten years. We have a very bad
memory of Al Khalifa. We are talking about 100 years of
voicing the same demands. In 1934 we first asked for a
government. And you want as to wait another 100 years.
think we did not speak to the king. We talked with the king.
We tried at different times. I am the vice president of Al
Wifaq and we tried from the beginning to talk to the king.
Let us discuss all the problems. But in Bahrain nobody is
listening to you in Bahrain.#
the king says this is what I give you now half of the glass
and we will fill it later, we agree. But he said that he
would give the full glass of water and he gave nothing.
Nowadays we feel that we are going back. The constitution of
1973 was better than this constitution. After 30 years
instead of moving forward we are moving back. You ask us to
wait five or six years. We will wait if the government and
the regime is honest with the people and they say this is
what we can give you now.
original people of Bahrain see that those who are coming
from Syria and Yemen get a house directly and they find them
jobs. And the original people are waiting for 20 years to
get a house and have to protest to get a job. But those
people who just came now and have no relationship with the
country are given 350 dinars because they work in jobs
which are not allowed for Bahrainis. Unfortunately you are
not living in Bahrain. If you would like to know the truth
please visit Bahrain, but do not go with the government.
Please feel that you are looking for the truth and just meet
the people. You are here and you are making this kind of
speech but if you meet the people it would be different.
I know that when you take delegations of MPs they stay in
five star hotels, they meet the king, they meet the royal
family. They do not get out into the villages and see the
problems, suffering, hardship and destitution of the
ordinary people. Talk to the unemployed, talk to the
victims of torture. Do members of these delegations ever do
that. Of course not, they are too busy enjoying themselves
in the five-star hotels.
Another problem with delegations is that the delegation
members do not speak Arabic.
Just regarding what you mentioned about five star hotels. I
think the gentleman is aware of the article that was written
in the Birningham Mercury.
other thing about dialogue. I take your point that dialogue
should be there but not at any single time has there been a
serious dialogue between the king and senior
representatives. They may send a person like a messenger
but they do not talk. They do not believe in debates.
people of the republics of the former Soviet Union did not
have to wait 200 years for democracy. We have never asked
for a full democracy in Bahrain. We have never asked to
replace the government of Bahrain. We ask to be recognised
as people on a one to one basis. When you end up with the
same prime minister for 34 years I think democracy is
farce. Out of 22 ministers 11 are from the royal family I
think that speaks for itself about the degree of
democratisation that we have undertaken.
are worse than before. Before in the 70s and 80s we had five
ministers from the Al Khalifa, five Sunnis and five Shias.
Now you have 11 ministers from the Al Khalifa, six Sunins
and five Shias.
is not only me who is saying we have gone back. The EIU put
Bahrain down to number 15 out of 20 in the Middle East in
terms of democracy. Oman and Qatar are given a higher
The protest in Bahrain is violent protest, smashing cars.
Intelligence reports tell us that three is a fifth column
working for Iran.
This is a very old story.
The international community has isolated Iran as a piarah
state and will not allow a satellite state of Iran. If you
look at the economy of Bahrain it lives on subsidies from
Saudi Arabia and the UAE – we have not seen a Marshall Plan
from the West.
Bar Human Rights Committee:
We have to monitor Bahrain from afar and through our
contacts internationally because Bahrain has habitually
refused entry to our representatives.
wish to address some comments to the gentleman who his here
as an apologist for the Bahraini government. Ours is a
completely independent organisation, we have to be very
careful about what we say and the organisations we become
involved with. We know for a fact through our information
that Bahrain is not what you can refer to as a civil
society. It is not somewhere where you can be free to
demonstrate and Bahrain is somewhere where torture is
widespread. You come here to tell lies and it is not the
practical reality. We have seen in many regimes around the
world acting in the same way. First there is a blanket
denial, then some form of investigation which is usually
ineffectual because it does not address the underlying
causes of human rights violations and then it goes on to
accuse others who are activists of being politically
motivated. Of course people will be politically motivated if
their human rights are violated. If the Bahraini people want
to demonstrate in the streets with weapons it is my opinion
as a lawyer that they are perfectly entitled to because they
are being tortured. We are aware that demonstrators are
being attacked by militaristic police, we are aware of
targeting of human rights defenders. Those to us are all
tell tale signs of a state which has the highest category of
also want to add my voice to events recalled by friend at
the front: the demonstration outside the UN House in Mamama.
Our information indicates that nine human rights activists
picketed there. They had to protected from the police by a
UN convoy It was clear through contacts and information that
once they had started their protest they were going to be
attacked. This happens regularly and habitually in Bahrain
and has happened frequently, recently.
am constantly struck by an analogy with Turkey as Turkey has
had in the past an authoritarian regime and militaristic
police and a penal code which seeks to control its
population and has habitually targeted human rights
defenders. We do not have the same regional legal
protection which we have been able to apply to Turkey. We do
not have a carrot to offer Bahrain as we do with Turkey –
entry into the EU. We have seen the same kinds of apologist
come forward who deny that these things happen.
There is also the movement of judges against women. Five
judges were removed for misusing their powers. The
government was forced to remove them. There is a growing
women's movement in Bahrain which is tries to institute a
The Ahmado Bello University in Nigeria has put out a
publication on Shariah and Women's Rights which deserves
Regarding the Personal Status law there were both pro and
against demonstrations. There are demonstrations every day
in Bahrain. They are allowed. What is not allowed is people
coming armed with stones.Mr Carter, the President of the Bar
Human Rights Group said there was a misunderstanding at the
airport in Bahrain.
I can show you pictures of peaceful demonstrations.
Daily demonstrations are a true reflection of the genuine
problems of all aspects of human rights in Bahrain.
Most of the police are foreigners. When foreigners are given
jobs and the local people do not have jobs violence will
This is not a recipe for racial harmony if the police are
foreigners. Nobody at this meeting is encouraging violence.
Change must come about through peaceful means.