Tag Archives human-rights

Blocking sites gains momentum

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and Pakistan (as well as Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran I suspect) are going frantic over blocking websites they find… uh… offensive to their delicate sensibilities:

“Before shutting down (YouTube), we did try just to block particular URLs or links, and access to 450 links on the Internet were stopped, but the blasphemous content kept appearing so we ordered a total shut down,” he said.

Quite natural isn’t it? They block hundreds of websites, they admit that the adopted measures don’t work, so what do they do? Fuck it, shut down access to the whole global site which is enjoying 2 billion views a day. What the hell, their (and our) people don’t need this shite anyway right? Numerically, we’re about 600 years behind the world (according to the literal numbers on our calendars) so why not change that esoteric figure into an actual condition?

But the YouTube shutdown was in 2007. What, one might ask, do the innovative Pakistani authorities have in their magic turban for this year?

Well Facebook of course!

A Foreign Office spokesman condemned the publication of caricatures of the Muslim prophet on Facebook and urged countries to “address the issue” which he said was an “extremely sensitive and emotional matter for Muslims.”

“Such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world and can not be accepted under the garb of freedom of expression,” the spokesman, Abdul Basit, told a weekly briefing.

cloaked? for heaven’s sake cloaked? Freedom of expression need to be cloaked? Did the guy never hear of the Human Rights declarations at all? Oh I’m sorry, if it comes to attacking our illustrious and great religion our method of confronting that is not negotiation, promoting understanding or simply ignoring the jibes, but no, we have to demonstrate how weak our religion is by summarily banning, outcasting, boycotting or even executing those who “dare” to criticise; thus, confirming the now common precept that Islam is weak.

Stupid. Disgusting. Un-Islamic even.

But wait, there’s more!

After the PTA’s directives against Facebook and YouTube, Pakistani mobile companies blocked all Blackberry services on Wednesday night but restored services used by non-corporate users later on Thursday.

Now I wonder where they got that particular idea from? Oh wait! It’s us! It’s us! We – the great Bahraini Nation – are the pioneers in blocking Blackberry services! Yippeee, we have something to be really proud of!

You know what also worries me about this? The people in the picture. People demonstrating in favour of giving up their god-givin human rights.

I fully expect that Bahrain, already blocking hundreds if not thousands of sites under the precept of protecting us from ourselves, will now take head of the “Pakistani model” and go ahead and block the most important sites on the Internet, because, wait for it… blocking specific URLs didn’t work…

Read the full Reuters report here.

Gute Nacht.

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Pulling out, and it’s about time

I applaud the Indonesian government for doing something concrete to protect their citizens, even resorting to a ban against some Middle Eastern countries form employing them owing to the various abuses they suffered from.

I wonder if other labour exporters will do likewise. And if they do, I think we will be in the centre of an economic implosion that will undoubtedly rival and surpass the one which the world is attempting to climb out of.

Indonesia hits Arab states with worker ban

Indonesia is to repatriate around 1,750 nationals working in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan and place a ban on its citizens working in these countries due to mistreatment, its manpower minister said in remarks published on Tuesday.

“At least 1,750 migrant workers employed in the Middle East will be repatriated and for this purpose the government will send aircraft to the Middle East starting on November 9,” Muhaimin Iskandar was quoted as saying by the Indonesian News Agency (Antara).

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Iskandar said there were numerous instances of workers were not being paid and suffering physical abuse.

“Indonesians in these countries are working in appalling conditions because they are not being treated justly. Many of them become victims of violence and live in conditions below minimum welfare standards,” he said.

“In some of the Middle Eastern countries, the rate of violations by employers against migrant workers is quite high,” he added.

Iskandar said the government plans to strengthen its recruitment procedures for citizens going abroad, including the protection of workers’ rights.

“Improvements will in the first place have to be made in the recruitment and training systems, provision of health services, transportation to airports and eventually in the workers` protection in destination countries to prevent the recurrence of abuses,” he said.
Maktoob

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Code of Ethics to be launched today

After months of negotiations, of retooling and retouching the code, we are finally at the point to launch it officially this afternoon, on this, a very auspicious day in the history of our country; it’s 37th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

So congratulations, my friends, on both occasions which shall remain very dear to me, and I suspect all of us Bahrainis.

The launch will be at the Bahrain Human Rights Society’s premises in Adliya (opposite the Alumni Club) with a press conference at 5pm. If you are an electronic publisher, we would really value your support of your spreading the word about the Code, and attending the conference.

The signing ceremony will take place at a yet to be decided location on the 31st of August, by that time we should have its associated website ready to receive your pledges too.

Congratulations to everyone involved. This is very much for the better of our community.

I should be able to publish the translated Code in English very soon.

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Correcting a wrong

Remember that debacle where the Arab world agreed to “protect our traditional values” by curtailing freedoms of expression especially that of news television channels? You know, the news channels who normally criticise established regimes, specifically Aljazaeera and to some extent Alarabia?

That was in February earlier this year, and only Lebanon objected to such a scheme while Qatar expressed some reservations. The rest of the crowd just nodded along and carried on in their slumber. But as you might expect, there were some criticisms against such a move from all corners of the world. It seems that pressure has borne fruit; in today’s paper, I was really happy to read this:

جددت البحرين وقطر والإمارات تحفظهم خلال اجتماع وزراء الإعلام العرب اليوم (الخميس) على وثيقة البث الفضائي بدعوى إن بنودها تفرض قيودا على حرية التعبير في العالم العربي وعلى عمل الفضائيات.

وذكرت تقارير صحافية إن اجتماع وزراء الإعلام العرب الذي عقد في العاصمة المصرية القاهرة اليوم فشل بالخروج بآلية محددة لتنفيذ وثيقة تنظيم البث الفضائي والإذاعي التي أقروها قبل نحو 4 شهور وسط خلافات عربية حول بنودها.

وكان وزراء الإعلام العرب قد وافقوا باستثناء قطر في فبراير/ شباط الماضي على وثيقة تنظيم البث الفضائي في المنطقة العربية والتي جوبهت بحملة احتجاجات شديدة من قبل منظمات صحفية عربية ودولية.

وقال مشاركون ان مصر والجزائر ابديتا استغرابهما من التحفظات القطرية والإماراتية وان الاجتماع لم ينجح في النهاية بالخروج بآلية محددة لتنفيذ الوثيقة.

واكتفى وزراء الإعلام العرب في ختام اجتماعهم بالدعوى الى إعداد قاموس لصياغة المصطلحات التي يتم تداولها في وسائل الإعلام العربية.

Alwasat – 20 June, ’08

This report now states that in their latest meeting, more “reservations” were expressed by the Emirates and Bahrain! Man oh man. Yes, you read it right: “Bahrain” expressed reservations, meaning that, well, we’re not having it any more. This happened amongst different expressions of bafflement by Algeria and Egypt (Saudi was probably absent?).

So to save some face before they bury such an inept concept, they agreed on the creation of a lexicon in which unified definitions of words and concepts is to be adopted by broadcasters. Well, I guess most (but not all) news editors will file this in their rubbish bins on receipt, but at least it makes someone happy that they have saved face. What I would have preferred is just giving the proponents of such an idiotic “code” the bird and leaving the room at the very start, but that’s just being rude and politics and norms should be respected I guess.

Well done Bahrain. I fully expect – that should the new minister carries on like this – our Press Freedom Index for 2008 will be appreciably better. Well done again.

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Bahrain in the news

Two pieces of international news are hitting our screens regarding Bahrain that deserve a mention: The first is that Bahrain has been elected once again to the Human Rights Council – congratulations! The other is that it has slipped 9 places in this year’s Global Peace Index – commiserations.

The first, though welcome news, needs to be followed up immediately by the government and parliament with concrete steps and actions in order to institute the required changes in our laws and legislation to rise to the level of Bahrain’s legal international commitments. Some of those require changes to our constitution, election laws, and instituting new laws to criminalise discrimination in all its forms. If and when these things happen, Bahrain will become a peace of Heaven for everyone who lives in it, and should make it proud to occupy such an exalted seat.

The worrying part in this is not about Bahrain, but the council itself. I’m not sure if the metrics used to elect members to the HRC conducive to the propagation of human rights globally as some of those elected are clearly not worthy of even being considered to that illustrious panel, one which has been presumably been created to ensure that human rights abuses do not go unpunished. I am quite certain that many will raise their eyebrows when they hear that countries like Pakistan and Gabon, amongst others, have been elected to it. I might even go as far as suggesting the renaming of the Human Rights Council to a currently more appropriate Human Rights Abusers Council.

global peace index 2008 mapThe second piece of news worth noting is that Bahrain has regressed once again in the world’s perception by 9 whole places, while our compatriots in the Gulf did not fair as badly. Even Saudi’s descent has not been as far as that experienced by Bahrain.

The criteria that the report uses is quite exhaustive, but although a lot of it is subjective, the basis on which it was drawn is solid; hence, this report and its ramifications should be taken seriously and steps must be enacted in order for us to overcome the outlined shortcomings.

Maybe the pending creation of a national human rights organisation at the parliament is one way to go, another is to have the political will and courage to effect anti-discrimination measures – rather than categorically denying their evident existence. Instituting a national reconciliation program to finally put the past behind us will also be much welcome and will go a long way at ameliorating the national conscience.

If these things are considered and enacted, I am fairly certain that all of these detrimental reports will be just another part of our collective history, one we can proudly look back on, because we will have proven to ourselves first and the world too that we can learn from our mistakes and have the courage and determination to rise above them.

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Welcome home Fouad!

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Saudi blogger Fouad Al-FarhanSaudi Jeans reports that Fouad Al-Farhan has been released from custody after a 137 days incarceration, held without any charges.

We don’t know the details of his release and what he had to give up or sign for the authorities to finally let him go, I suspect we will hear his stories quite soon – I hope.

In any case, I am very happy indeed for his release.

Welcome home Fouad!

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UN HRC UPR absent NGOs

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Damn! Working at the UN must be a version of a wet dream to those acronym aficionados, don’t you think!

Anyway, Bahrain came out with flying colours in the first ever Universal Periodic Review (that’s the UPR part) in Geneva’s HQ of the United Nations (yes you guessed it) at their newly created Human Rights Council (HRC) but in the absence of seven Bahraini human rights non-governmental organisations because – it seems – that they were sidewinded – but good – and been stupid for not securing their positions before going on their jolly to Switzerland.

Well, we can expect those not allowed into the party to complain rather vociferously, as is their right of course, about the mangled procedures of the HRC which one hopes will get fixed soon. The HRC decided that the only way they will listen to Human Rights organisations from a country is for those organisations to gain approval from — wait for it wait for it — their country!

Absolufantastictlybrill!

If you had a chance to follow the live broadcast of the session yesterday, you would have noticed the heaped praise put on our beloved country from our dear neighbours and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world, all of whom are paragons of human rights defenders of course; while a couple of decrepit imperialists (shyly) complained about alleged abuses this country suffers from.

Okay okay. I won’t go on about it. Suffice it to say that I am proud that the government has taken this first step in transparency and put out a report which would have sent several hundred to prison had they even thought of its contents only a few years ago. They have also recognised that they have to make amends, voluntarily, to some regulations, laws and legislation to be in tune with international conventions the kingdom has signed and even agreed to remove some reservations it has previously expressed. Bahrain also promised to create a national human rights commission, agreed to diligently work at the problem of human trafficking, allows human rights organisations delegates to visit the country and even strengthen civil society organisations.

Applause. To be sure. But let not that noise swamp the cries of women still fighting for equal rights, for a proper family and personal status law and for abused and battered guest workers and maids or the terrified nightmare screams of the forgotten victims of torture still seeking redress.

We’ve got work to do as a country, and hope that the points identified by the government’s own report does not get entombed in a bottom drawer somewhere but be diligently converted into actionable plans to better this great society.

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Detainees abuse

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Since December 17th, 2007, the unfortunate day in which Ali Jassim Mohammed died after a demonstration commemorating an unofficial Martyr’s Day, protests have not stopped in Bahrain. These protests resulted in further detentions, some of which have lasted for more than four months.

Those detained allege gross abuse of their human rights and have received support from national and international human rights organisations who demanded their release and for the authorities to stop abusing prisoners. Some prisoners’ health has deteriorated appreciably since incarceration, some say again due to ill treatment. One of those detained apparently lies in hospital at the moment due to kidney-related complications. Repeated calls for the government to allow doctors to see and examine the prisoners to see to their health and ascertain whether they have actually been subjected to torture has been resolutely refused by the ministry then, but only allowed months after the demands were made, observers suggest that doctors cannot determine whether detainees have been abused because all evidence of those allegations would have now disappeared.

This situation does not help us at all. Especially the fact that the accused’s long periods of detention on the premise of “continuing investigations”, a situation which seems to promote indefinite detentions without charging the accused with any criminal activities. This is unacceptable. A limit to how many hours or days a person could be detained should be set in law, and if prosecutors cannot or do not show concrete evidence of wrong-doing, that person must be presumed innocent and released from custody.

Allegations of torture destroy a country’s credibility, especially one which has been advertising itself rather vigorously as one that is embarking on reforms and trying very hard to attract international investment, both of which will simply not take place unless a clear and transparent effort is immediately made to investigate these allegations and put the perpetrators of this alleged torture – if found to be true – on public trial.

I firmly believe that criminals must be made to bear the consequences of their crimes. If a person turns violent and burns a police jeep, damages private property, or kills an innocent soul, that person must be made accountable for his crimes. Therefore, if those detained are independently judged to have committed the crime of burning a jeep and stealing weapons and ammunitions from that jeep, then they most definitely should serve time in prison, they cannot and should not be let go. But if the prosecution service cannot find evidence of them perpetrating that crime then of course they should be released.

Special consideration must be given to those who fall ill during incarceration; regardless of crime committed, as it is simply of human decency to make medical attention available to that person. Let alone one who has simply been accused of criminal activity without solid evidence being presented.

Therefore, I highly encourage our chief reformer, our crown prince Shaikh Salman, to add Judicial Reforms to his already brimming plate of reforms. I think that without people trusting the judicial system before anything else, no real reform can take place in this country.

I urge him to look into this situation; especially as people have now started to believe that those detained were not incarcerated for them being involved in the burning of the jeep, but were simply due to their political beliefs.

It might interest you to know that one of those detained, and whose health is very much in jeopardy at the moment, had been a blogger. His blog – in Arabic – is available at http://bahraineyes.blogspot.com/.

I hope that common sense will prevail.

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