Bahrain: US State Department Documents Decline in Terrorism Last Year, Continued Rights Concerns


On 19 July 2017, the United States (US) Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CT) released its Country Reports on Terrorism for 2016. Although the country report on Bahrain fails to assess the full impact of the kingdom’s increasing abuse of counterterror measures to target nonviolent activism and dissent, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes the State Department’s continued engagement on combating terrorism in Bahrain and urges the Bahraini government to address the human rights concerns raised in the report.
The State Department finds that “terrorist attacks against [Bahrain’s] security forces declined in 2016,” with “at least three attacks result[ing] in casualties or injuries; only one of which involved explosives.” According to the report, Bahrain’s primary terror threats remain “violent Shia militants and ISIS sympathizers.” While Bahraini authorities continue to implement the kingdom’s expanded counterterror legislation and have reportedly begun drafting a “National Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) strategy in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Preventing Violent Extremism Plan of Action,” they did not institute any significant new counterterror measures in 2016. The State Department additionally finds that while the kingdom is experiencing continued ISIS activity, “Bahrain has not contributed substantively to the [Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS] military efforts since 2014.” Though the Bahrain country report does not provide evidence of Iranian involvement in the kingdom, the report on Iran states that “on January 6, 2016, Bahraini security officials dismantled a terrorist cell, linked to [the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force] planning to carry out a series of bombings.” The veracity of these links has been questioned in independent media reports on the incident.
Ultimately, the report presents a mixed review of Bahrain’s counterterror efforts in 2016. It asserts that “the Bahraini government continued to make gains in detecting, neutralizing, and containing terrorist threats,” but also notes concerns that these anti-terror measures have led to human rights violations, including arbitrary deprivation of nationality and the misuse of the INTERPOL red notice system to “pursue politically motivated cases against mainstream opposition and Shia activists without a history of involvement in violent acts.” Furthermore, the State Department highlights that the kingdom’s broad anti-terror legislation allows for the criminalization of speech acts and nonviolent dissent: “in Bahrain, the potential politicization of terrorist finance and money laundering issues threatens to conflate legitimate prosecutions of militants with politically-motivated actions against mainstream, nonviolent opposition and Shia community, including Shia clerics.” This appears to be a reference to the government’s June 2016 decision to issue an un-appealable denaturalization order against Sheikh Isa Qassim, Bahrain’s most prominent Shia religious leader, and to prosecute him for money laundering charges stemming from the traditional Shia practice of khums. Similarly, the report finds that the stalled national dialogue process has undermined effective counterterror operations: “The lack of trust between the government and opposition after several years of political paralysis may continue to complicate any government efforts to prosecute legitimate financial crimes, including the financing of terrorism.”
However, despite providing a more thorough analysis of relevant human rights concerns than the 2015 country report, the 2016 edition does not address the full breadth of the Bahraini government’s abuse of counterterror measures. It fails to acknowledge or explicitly condemn the scale of denaturalization, for example, with more than 450 individuals stripped of their citizenship since 2012, many of whom were ultimately rendered stateless and deported. The State Department also fails to note that amendments to Bahrain’s anti-terror and citizenship legislation allow the Ministry of the Interior to issue un-appealable denaturalization orders without trial, as in the case of Sheikh Isa Qassim, which violate international due process standards. United Nations (UN) human rights experts have repeatedly condemned Bahrain’s use of counterterror mechanisms to conduct arbitrary denaturalizations and the State Department itself released a statement expressing “alarm” over the government’s “practice of withdrawing the nationality of its citizens arbitrarily” in 2016.
Furthermore, the report does not express concern over the anti-terror law’s explicitcriminalization of free expression rather than the mere risk of conflation, in addition to the excessive authority the legislation grants to Bahrain’s security forces. The 2006 Law of Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts allows authorities to prosecute individuals as terrorists for speech that can be construed as “threatening the Kingdom’s safety and security or damaging national unity or security of the international community,” for example. In 2013 and 2014, amendments to the law expanded the government’s power to suspend due process in terror cases, such as extending the pre-charge and pre-trial detention periods for terror suspects. Bahraini authorities have increasingly used these provisions to arbitrarily detain nonviolent civil society actors, including most recently Ebtisam al-Saegh, a prominent woman human rights defender who has been continually arrested and tortured by security personnel in reprisal for her work.
These problems have been further aggravated in 2017, with the government amending Bahrain’s constitution to allow military courts to try civilians in terrorism cases. It also directly contravened previous reform commitments by re-empowering the National Security Agency (NSA), the kingdom’s intelligence service, with domestic detention authority after the institution was deeply implicated in torture and extrajudicial killing.
Additionally, the State Department’s CT Bureau overstates the government’s attempts “to build outreach through initiatives such as the community police” to reduce tensions and “bridge the divide” between the Shia majority community and the “mostly Sunni (and non-Bahraini origin)…police force.” In its separate 2016 report on Bahrain’s implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations, the State Department stated that, according to the Bahraini government, a total of 1,500 community police had graduated from the Royal Police Academy by 2015. Though it went on to note that its “contacts have confirmed that Bahraini Shia have been among those integrated into the community police and the police cadets,” it found that this integration had not occurred “in significant numbers.” Moreover, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) determined that these new units play only a “marginal” policing role, and local activists report that community police personnel are unarmed and typically operate under the strict supervision of standard security forces. Community police are known to man checkpoints while armed Ministry of Interior officers observe from nearby vehicles, for example. Aside from the limited number of Shia community police, there is no evidence to suggest that Bahraini authorities have taken further steps toward incorporating Shia into the security forces, as the US Government has consistentlyadvised. The Bahrain country report likewise omits growing evidence that sectarian discrimination in Bahrain’s police and armed forces, including the propagation of extremist discourse, has led to increased extremism among security personnel.
Similarly, while it notes that the Bahraini government has used unsubstantiated terror accusations to dissolve the country’s major opposition political groups, like the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the State Department does not assess how attacks on independent political and civil society have motivated militancy, despite reporting that “a sense of economic and political disenfranchisement…remained a primary driver of violent extremism in 2016.”
 “It’s positive that the State Department remains committed to countering violent extremism in Bahrain and is aware of some of the severe human rights abuses being committed in the name of fighting terrorism,” said Husain Abdulla, ADHRB’s Executive Director. “But the CT Bureau should better coordinate with its counterpart in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to present a holistic picture of human rights and security in Bahrain. The US cannot effectively work with the Bahraini government to defuse extremism when the authorities label human rights defenders terrorists and use anti-terror laws to crush dissent. Any strategy that fails to take these factors into account threatens to inflame, rather than reduce, militancy and instability.”
In light of the Bahraini Minister of Interior’s recent visit to Washington to discuss further cooperation with American security officials, it is especially imperative that the US Government acknowledge the full scale of human rights violations associated with Bahrain’s counterterror efforts. ADHRB therefore reiterates its support for the State Department’s engagement on countering violent extremism in the kingdom, but urges it to further investigate and document abuses committed by the Government of Bahrain under the guise or in service of counterterrorism. Further, we call on the State Department and other US agencies like the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense to recognize the challenges posed by such abuses to achieving American anti-terror objectives in Bahrain, and to condition any continued collaboration on substantive security sector reform. To that end, we also call on the Government of Bahrain to take all necessary action to safeguard human rights while combating violent extremism, specifically by repealing or significantly amending the anti-terror law to decriminalize fundamental freedoms, bringing an end to arbitrary deprivation of nationality, and eliminating arbitrary detention, torture, and religious discrimination.


How Bahrain uses sport to whitewash a legacy of torture and human rights abuses


The cyclist Sonny Colbrelli secured prominent exposure for the name of his Bahrain Merida team early in the Tour de France, heading the group sprintat the end of the second stage in Liège before finishing a creditable sixth. The team’s leader, Ion Izagirre, crashed out on the first day, but Bahrain Merida has already established itself on the world tour, after the star signing Vincenzo Nibali competed through three spectacular weeks in May to claim a third-place finish in the Giro d’Italia.
The cycling team, launched in January with an estimated £13.7m budget by Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a son of the ruling King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, is the latest venture which will help to promote the autocratically ruled, troubled country through an association with globally televised sporting events.
The Formula One grand prix is still a fixture in Bahrain, lending the island its super-fuelled glitz every year. Sheikh Nasser launched the Bahrain Endurance 13 triathlon team in 2015, with a stated aim of promoting sport’s values, and his belief that “through triathlon, people can enjoy a better life”. The Bahrain shirt is now worn by the English Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee, among other international triathletes.
Sheikh Nasser is a brigadier-general in the Bahrain army and commander of the royal guard, although not a member of the government or council of ministers, to which King Hamad has appointed 12 members of his Khalifa family. A sports enthusiast, Sheikh Nasser occupies the most senior positions in several of the country’s sports bodies, including as president of the Olympic committee. On 11 May Fifa welcomed him on to the stage at its congress held in the Bahrain capital Manama, where Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, thanked him for hosting the congress in “your beautiful country”.
In his speech, Sheikh Nasser said of hosting the congress: “This adds another dimension to our national vision to be an island that hosts, supports, organises, develops and participates in the success of the global sports movement … Let’s widen participation and turn football into a true catalyst for diversity, tolerance and excellence.”
The Bahrain Grand Prix has been a fixture of the F1 calendar since 2012, despite being moved in 2011
 The Bahrain Grand Prix has been a fixture of the F1 calendar since 2012, despite being moved in 2011. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
The following day, the Guardian met people who have suffered beatings and torture during years of brutal repression by the country’s rulers; they said that thousands of people accused of agitating against the regime are now in prison. On a small island populated by approximately 600,000 citizens, the Shia Muslim population have long complained that they are discriminated against in employment and housing by the Khalifa regime, which adheres to the Sunni branch of Islam. The government fears the political and religious influence of Iran on the Shia community, and has responded to campaigns for greater democracy and equality with increasingly thuggish persecution.
ust a few miles up the Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman highway from the five-star hotels and security-ringed convention centre where the rituals of the Fifa congress were accommodated, the sinister side of Bahrain was in open view. There, mostly Shia towns including Diraz, strongholds of protest and opposition to the Khalifa regime, were blockaded, armoured police vehicles parked menacingly at the entrances.
That day, 12 May, Sheikh Nasser and King Hamad were in England, hosted by the Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, where two prestige events were sponsored by Bahrain and Sheikh Nasser himself presented the King’s Cup.
Just 11 days later, the contrast can hardly have been greater between those royal pleasantries, and the Bahrain regime’s latest bloody crackdown on its citizens. While Nibali was winning the Giro’s most iconic and talked-about stage, up and over the Stelvio pass in the Alps of northern Italy, on 23 May Bahrain’s security forces finally ended their long stand-off, and stormed Diraz.
The crisis there had resulted from the regime outlawing the main Shia opposition party Al-Wefaq last year, stripping Bahrain’s most senior Shia priest, Ayatollah Isa Qassim, of citizenship, accusing him of money‑laundering and being in a hostile alliance with Iran. Local supporters crowded around his house in Diraz to prevent the authorities arresting him, until a Bahraini court found him guilty and security forces advanced into the town.
According to experts appointed by the United Nations office of the high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR), the Bahrain forces used “excessive and lethal force to disperse peaceful protestors” – not for the first time – resulting in five deaths which the OHCHR condemned as unlawful killings. Dozens more people were injured in the assault, and 286 people are said to have been arrested and detained. Grimly familiar accounts of torture by the security services have seeped out again from Bahrain’s police cells. The dissolution of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), a non-religious political party, followed on 31 May.
“Over the past year, there has been a sharp deterioration of the human rights situation in the country,” the OHCR experts said. “This has included unacceptable restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, aimed at muzzling any discordant voice and suppressing dissent … It is tragic that while security forces are meant to protect life, their actions have shown otherwise.
“The authorities have resorted to drastic measures to curb dissenting opinions such as torture, arbitrary detention, unfounded convictions, the stripping of citizenship, the use of travel bans, intimidation, including death threats, and reprisals for cooperating with international organizations, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”
The 2011 grand prix was moved from Bahrain after the government’s notoriously brutal response then to the mass demonstrations at the Pearl roundabout in Manama, but returned in 2012 and has continued to lend prestige to the regime every year since. After that 2011 crackdown the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed by the government itself, found that the security services’ actions resulted in the deaths of 13 civilians, due mostly to the use of “excessive and unnecessary lethal force”, and that five more people in the custody of the Ministry of the Interior died having been tortured. Eight more civilians were found to have died due to tear gas, a ninth after being attacked by police officers, another woman had a fatal heart attack while witnessing security forces kicking and beating her neighbour’s son with batons.
During that repression, Sheikh Nasser himself called publicly for the punishment of sportspeople who had taken part in demonstrations, and retribution did follow. On television on 4 April 2011, Sheikh Nasser issued this injunction: “To everyone that demands the fall of the regime, may a wall fall on their heads. Everyone involved in such issues and networks will be punished. Whether he is an athlete, an activist or a politician, he will be punished in this time. Today is the judgment day … Bahrain is an island and there is no escape.”
The BICI reported that an athlete named in that programme was arrested the following day. A week later, Nasser ordered a committee of inquiry to investigate which sportspeople had taken part, and to punish them. Its chairman was to be Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, another member of the extended ruling family and a senior figure in world football administration, president of the Asian Football Confederation, candidate for the Fifa presidency last February, when he came second to Infantino.
Sheikh Salman and his representatives state that the committee was never constituted and never sat, and that he did not take part in identifying athletes for punishment. The Bahrain Football Association did announce it intended to sanction players and clubs, not for participating in demonstrations, but for breaching regulations relating to the fulfilment of fixtures. More than 150 professional sportspeople were widely reported to have been arrested, detained, tortured, imprisoned or excluded from their sports for taking part in the pro‑democracy demonstrations.
Since the protests, according to a report in June 2012 by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin, allegations were made in Bahrain court proceedings by two people who claim that Sheikh Nasser was personally involved in beating and torturing them during the 2011 crackdown.
The two men were among 14 opposition activists sentenced to long‑term prison sentences by a military court in June 2011 for their part in the pro-democracy demonstrations. Amnesty International declared the 14 men prisoners of conscience because it believed none advocated any violence during the protests. The UN OHCHR said it was deeply concerned by the harsh sentences and said then: “The trials appear to bear the marks of political persecution.”
In response to the report, the Bahrain government wrote to the ECCHR in June 2012 rejecting the allegations against Sheikh Nasser and denying that he had any involvement in torture. Sheikh Nasser’s representatives have also told the Guardian that he wholly rejects the allegations that he participated in beatings and torture.
Separately, a victim of beatings and torture by Bahraini security services following the 2011 crackdown, now based in the UK, has been seeking to persuade the British authorities to have Sheikh Nasser prosecuted for torture. In July 2012, statements including the alleged victims’ testimony and the ECCHR report were submitted to the director of public prosecutions. The dossier was passed to the war crimes team of the Metropolitan police counter terrorism command, but the Crown Prosecution Service has said that the police are not investigating. The Bahraini torture victim’s lawyers say this is because key witnesses remain in prison, so are impossible to interview, but they have written to the Home Office, seeking Sheikh Nasser’s exclusion from the UK.
Sheikh Nasser’s representatives point out that the allegations of torture have not been tested in a British court, and that there are no proceedings against him. He has remained free to travel to Britain and other countries despite the allegations having been made, and has never been arrested or questioned by any authorities. In fact, he and King Hamad could hardly be more welcome in this country, having enjoyed the company of the Queen and Prince Andrew at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
A small group of Bahrainis held a protest at the show, then complained that members of their family in Bahrain were summoned to their local police station at the same time, in an orchestrated operation. The protestors’ family members were interrogated aggressively, they said, and explicitly told to have the protest in England called off.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy based in London, said his sister was called to the Muharraq police station. “This is a new low by the Bahraini authorities,” Alwadaei said, “blackmailing activists in the UK by detaining their family members in Bahrain.”
The campaign groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which have persistently criticised the Bahrain regime for its repression, argue that its association with glamour sport is used to “launder” a more wholesome image for the country. Like other gulf states, Bahrain is contemplating a future without plentiful income from oil, and has developed an economic plan to 2030 based on diversifying its industries and attracting tourists. The Bahrain Merida cycling team is backed by a roster of Bahraini companies and state authorities, including the Mumtakalat sovereign wealth fund and the Bahrain Economic Development Board, which promotes the country as a destination, describing it as “the home of motorsport in the Middle East”.
Nicholas McGeehan, the Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates researcher for Human Rights Watch, says: “The professional cycling team will give the country maximum exposure for a relatively modest investment. The problem for Bahrain as it seeks to launder its image is that there is a lot to cover up, given its blood‑spattered modern history and rapidly deteriorating situation.”
Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, Allan Hogarth, says: “It seems pretty clear that the Bahraini authorities have stepped up efforts to associate the country with major sporting events as glitzy cover for an ever-worsening human rights crackdown. For the most part, Bahrain’s harnessing of the glamour and prestige of sport has helped deflect attention from the arrests of peaceful critics, reports of tortured detainees, unfair trials and death sentences.”
These horrors have been perpetrated in Bahrain during the modern era in which sports governing bodies state a commitment to human rights, and to discouraging repressive regimes from using sporting events as cover. Asked about the Bahrain Grand Prix, a Formula One spokesman replied with a general expression of support for human rights, but said it is not “a competent authority to determine the facts nor to judge whether any local laws have been contravened”. The spokesman presented the argument that hosting the grand prix in fact improves human rights in Bahrain, saying: “Our partners at the Bahrain International Circuit have put together an event that has attracted race fans and families from across the region, and representing all walks of life.”
A Fifa spokesman said football’s world governing body “is fully committed to respecting human rights” and believes its intervention, asking the Bahrain Football Association to report to it on the 2011 abuses, “is likely to have contributed to the improvement in the situation of a number of sportspeople”. Sheikh Salman’s representatives said he was involved in reconciliation efforts. Asked whether Fifa was colluding in the country’s image-laundering by siting its congress in Bahrain, a Fifa spokesperson said: “While we do recognise the importance of seeking to address the potential involvement of Fifa’s member associations in adverse human rights impacts, we do not share the criticism regarding the potential human rights implications of the congress.”
The International Triathlon Union (ITU) also sent the Guardian a general statement of commitment to human rights, and it too suggested that the sport itself could “help overcome” the Bahrain regime’s repression: “The strong values always portrayed by ITU and the triathlon family will surely help overcome current situations in a number of countries and federations around the world.”
The Royal Windsor Horse Show did not respond to questions about human rights in Bahrain, and was positive about the sponsorships: “The Kingdom of Bahrain has a history of supporting Fédération Equestre Internationale equestrian sporting events around the world and their support for the Royal Windsor Horse Show allows the organisers to deliver the best possible results.” Buckingham Palace declined to comment.
The Foreign Office, which has been criticised by human rights groups for being too indulgent of Bahrain because of the country’s geographic importance, said the British government believes in working with the country, and did register concerns with the UN Human Rights Council in March.
Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, did not respond to questions about human rights and the Bahrain Merida team, neither did the team itself, nor Merida, the Taiwanese bike manufacturers. The Bahrain Endurance 13 team did not reply to questions, while a representative for Alistair Brownlee offered no comment in response to questions about his decision to sign up. The manager of the triathlon team, Chris McCormack, has previously said that some athletes considered Bahrain’s human rights record and decided that joining the team “wasn’t for them”.
Sheikh Nasser’s legal representatives replied to the Guardian’s questions by vehemently denying that he had been personally involved in torture in 2011, but did not offer any explanation for his call in 2011 for punishment and “a wall to fall” on protestors.
The representatives stated that Sheikh Nasser has been involved in sporting activity since he was 12, and is motivated by a genuine love of sport. They also pointed out although he is a member of the Khalifa family, he is not a member of the government, and said therefore that he is not personally implicated in the human rights abuses.
None of the people with whom the Guardian talked in Bahrain the day after the Fifa congress felt able to be quoted now. They said the climate of repression is so fearful that they and their families are in danger of arrest, torture and potential long prison sentences if they say anything considered critical of the regime. For them Bahrain is not the glamorous haven of sporting values presented by teams and athletes who bear its name; it is an island, as Sheikh Nasser himself said, from which there is no escape.

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US State Department Releases 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report on Bahrain


On 27 June 2017, the US Department of State released its 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, including a country narrative for Bahrain. The report Assigned Bahrain Tier 2 status, indicating the government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” but is “making significant efforts to do so.” Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes the State Department’s continued engagement on the problem of human trafficking in Bahrain and calls on the Bahraini government to implement the recommendations of the TIP report.
According to the State Department, the Bahraini government demonstrated growing efforts to eliminate trafficking by developing a national referral mechanism and investigating potential trafficking cases throughout the year, including several that implicated government officials. Rates of referral for recruitment agencies allegedly implicated in abusive practices increased. Bahraini authorities reportedly focused efforts on “expanding victim assistance, broadening training for government personnel, and raising awareness among Bahraini society and labor-sending communities.” The Bahraini government told the State Department that it informed every victim of their legal right to restitution in the event of a conviction following investigation.
However, the State Department found that, because of a high level of distrust in the Bahraini legal system among workers, it is likely that only a small portion of those affected filed complaints concerning abuse. This trust deficit was exacerbated by continued reports of “official complicity.” Additionally, some migrant workers refused to contact the police after experiencing abuse due to being “free visa” holders, or laborers who work for a non-sponsor employer and therefore do not possess legal working status. Although workers are permitted to change sponsorship during an investigation, there were only five reported cases of workers actually taking advantage of this process.
Similarly, the State Department reported that the Bahraini government failed to take concrete steps to amend elements of the kafala sponsorship system – the underlying framework governing migrant labor which is linked to a variety of severe rights violations. Both government and independent organizations documented numerous cases of abuse, including physical and sexual assault, but the national referral mechanism created to protect victims did not report how many it had yet identified. The government particularly “made minimal efforts to proactively identify potential forced labor victims.”
In addition, the authorities conducted only 29 trafficking-related investigations during the reporting period, and the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs received just 25 for consideration. The State Department reported that Bahraini courts convicted three traffickers and sentenced them each to five years in prison; it is unclear if these are the only cases to result in convictions during the reporting period, but it suggests that prosecution rates remain low. Overall, prosecution rates declined since the previous reporting period. Moreover, incidents such as “withheld wages, passport retention, and analogous abuses…were not often investigated for trafficking crimes despite exhibiting indicators of the crime.”
Notwithstanding the several positive developments noted by the TIP report, ADHRB echoes the State Department’s concerns that the Bahraini government has failed to make sufficient reforms to the kafala system and existing labor laws – root causes of the country’s trafficking and migrant abuse problems. In December 2016, Alsharq al-Awsat newspaper reported the Bahraini government would officially abolish the kafala system starting in April 2017. However in the government’s report to the United Nations (UN) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in February 2017, it described the “abolition” process as a smaller-scale test program granting approximately 48,000 work permits to foreigners without sponsors. Although this is a step towards alleviating migrant worker abuses, the government has not provided additional information on the program’s launch or progress, and it does constitute full abolition.
ADHRB also notes that the TIP report did not fully address some factors aggravating the problems of human trafficking and migrant labor exploitation in Bahrain, such as expatriate ineligibility for minimum wage. Because employers often withhold migrant workers’ wages or pay them substantially less than what they were promised, this places them at increased risk of debt bondage and forced labor. Just this month nearly a hundred migrant workers, primarily from India and Bangladesh, launched a demonstration to protest months of unpaid wages. Yet the Bahraini government has begun negotiating with major migrant labor source countries to reduce existing safeguards, as in February 2017 when the Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced that Bahrain and India were reviewing a proposal to terminate an arrangement to protect domestic workers from abuses including arbitrary withholding of wages. Though the State Department noted that some workers were subjected to non-payment of wages, it was unable to document the number of cases for the review period and it did not recommend potential government remedies, such as the implementation of a minimum wage for migrant workers.
The US Department of State ultimately recommends the Bahraini authorities “increase their efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, abolish the sponsorship system, implement procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, and extend the flexible work permit program.” It also calls on the government to work toward “expanding and actively enforcing labor law protections for domestic workers, and ensuring trafficking victims are not punished for acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.”
ADHRB encourages the Department of State to continue documenting abuses in Bahrain, as well as to urge the Bahraini authorities to guarantee the rights of migrant workers and victims of human trafficking. We call on the Government of Bahrain to address the concerns raised in the State Department’s TIP report and to implement its recommendations to improve labor conditions and eliminate human trafficking.

Bahraini Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab Sentenced to Two Years in Jai


Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, pauses during a conference at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva June 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, pauses during a conference at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva June 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Dubai: A Bahraini court sentenced rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab to two years in jail on Monday, supporters said, for allegedly making “false or malicious” statements about authorities.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said Rajab had been unable to attend the trial, having been at an interior ministry hospital since his health deteriorated in April. He was detained a year ago.
“This outrageous sentence against someone speaking the truth exhibits the brutality of the Bahraini government and its heinous crimes and that of its kangaroo court,” said Sayed Al-Wadaei, director of advocacy at BIRD.
Authorities at Bahrain‘s information affairs office could not immediately be reached for comment. Bahrain has repeatedly denied systematic rights abuses.
In a January 2015 media interview cited by the prosecution, according to al-Wadaei, Rajab had said Bahrain‘s jails housed political prisoners who were subject to torture.
Rajab was a leading figure in a 2011 pro-democracy uprising that was crushed by the government with the help of fellow Gulf Arab countries.
He was arrested in June last year after posts from his Twitter account suggested security forces had tortured detainees in a Bahraini prison and during a military campaign in Yemen.
US ‘disappointed’
The US State Department said it was “disappointed” by the sentencing and called for Rajab’s release.
“We continue to strongly urge the government of Bahrain to abide by its international obligations and commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression,” the department said in a statement.
Amnesty International called Rajab’s imprisonment “a flagrant violation of human rights and an alarming sign that the Bahraini authorities will go to any length to silence criticism.”
Human Rights First said the ruling was “blatant injustice designed to serve political interests.”
Rajab criticised US President Donald Trump in a New York Times column in May for selling arms to his country and Saudi Arabia, citing their human rights records.
Trump’s White House has approved a $5 billion military sale to Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, that was held up by the previous administration of Barrack Obama last year because of human rights concerns.
Rajab faces further charges related to an earlier New York Times article and tweets from his account critical of the intervention in the Yemen war by a Saudi-led coalition.
The Sunni-ruled kingdom, most of whose population is Shi’ite, says it faces a threat from neighbouring Shi’ite theocracy Iran.
It accuses Iran of radicalising and arming some members of its majority Shi’ite population in an effort to bring about the downfall of the ruling Al Khalifa family. Tehran denies any meddling in Bahrain.




, Index number: MDE 11/6673/2017
Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was arrested on 3 July after her home was raided by masked security officers. Amnesty understands that she is being held at Issa Town detention centre for women, on the outskirts of Manama. She is a prisoner of conscience at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual assault.


ebtisam_al-saegh (1)
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition calls for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh, and for an end to the harassment, intimidation, and threats she has been subjected to.  We express deep concern for Ebtisam Al-Saegh’s safety and wellbeing, and about the continuedharassment, intimidation and violence she has faced at the hands of authorities in Bahrain, that is in direct violation of the country’s commitment to international human rights law.
Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who works for Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR)  reporting on human rights violations and calling for justice for victims of torture in Bahrain, was arrested at the end of May, beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the Bahraini National Security Agency (NSA). The Bahraini authorities have not investigated these claims, putting Ebtisam Al-Saegh at renewed risk for torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual assault.
On 3 July, Ebtisam Al-Saegh was detained following a raid on her home, when masked officers in plainclothes and without presenting a warrant, arrested her. She was later taken to Issa Town Women’s Detention Centre, after an interrogation at an unknown location. Earlier that day Ebtisam Al-Saegh had been tweeting about the ill treatment of women by the NSA.
On 6 July, her home was again raided again by masked men and all the family’s phones were confiscated. They told her daughter that they knew she had been giving out information about her mother who had not cooperated with them.
Ebtisam Al-Saegh has been targeted numerous times in the past, including through interrogation, media harassment, and a travel ban imposed on her and other human rights defenders prior to the 32nd regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Woman Human Rights Defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh, the end to the harassment, intimidation, violence and threats towards her and her family, and for the Bahraini authorities to end their campaign against all human rights defenders.  
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition 


Bahrain: ALERT

ALERT: Human rights defender at risk of in . Release her NOW