Tag Archives justice

Corruption Index slips again

CPI comparison table from 2005 - 2007

When the crown prince announced that we must eradicate corruption in our country, he couldn’t have timed it better.

I don’t know whether the thing that prompted both him and the prime minister to reiterate their intention to correct this situation is due to them receiving advance copies of the 2007 CPI Report or they were genuinely alarmed at the depth of corruption uncovered which gave rise to accelerating corruption cases brought against various companies in which the government has a stake in, but I am happy enough to give them the benefit of the doubt in that they did notice the money being bled from public funds and made the required political decision to staunch that flow.

Transparency International logo

Political decision alone is of course not going to resolve this down-ward spiral. What would help is primarily reforming of the judicial system and separate it completely from the executive – practically as well as constitutionally – and remove influence peddling and interference to subvert the course of justice. That is in general as far as corruption cases are concerned, but specifically competent courts and arbitration panels should also be enacted under the same criteria to adjudicate business cases expeditiously. Business cases have been known to go on for years if not decades. This of course gives comfort to corrupt individuals and practices. Who of us don’t remember the various corruption cases through the past few years?

Countries with a significant worsening in perceived levels of corruption in 2007 include Austria, Bahrain, Belize, Bhutan, Jordan, Laos, Macao, Malta, Mauritius, Oman, Papua New Guinea and Thailand.

The most important factor in winning against corruption of course is the presence of social justice and good governance, both of which are somewhat rather lacking, and this latest CPI report is symptomatic of this condition and should act as a clear warning that intrinsic changes must be enacted to bring the country back to a correct and sustainable path in which every Bahraini takes ownership in Bahrain’s future.

This is an alarming situation we are living in. It gave rise to the dangerous down-ward spiral we have entered with corruption; Bahrain – one might say – has become “حارة كل من إيدو إلو” (taking the law into one’s own hands / acting with impunity) – in the great words of Duraid Lahham.

How do we rise above this then?

Establish social justice and good governance. No one, no one, should be above the law. A simple formula that requires quite a lot of sacrifices from the leadership much more than it would from the common man. It means loosening the control strings and believing in Bahrainis. It means learning to genuinely trust each other. It means the eradication of sectarianism in every form it takes. It means the equal distribution of wealth. It means recognising flaws and genuinely fixing them.

Glossing over these issues and just using that tired adage that “we are one family” just won’t cut it any more. Action on the ground is needed, otherwise I can guarantee that the 2008 ranking will be even worse. Even staying still is not an option any more, others will continue to overhaul us as some already have.

How about starting with an honest and complete change of the cabinet rather than just reshuffling it? It is plainly obvious that real new capable persons be either appointed or elected into all of those positions with complete disregard to tribalism and sectarianism should be sought. Positions which should be answerable to parliament to ensure that should financial or administrative corruption be discovered, it is effectively and severely dealt with.

We have good men and women throughout our society who could shoulder these burdens, why not give them a chance to do so?

Once again, reports like this should not be discouraging. They are providing us with mirrors through which we can plainly see ourselves. What we do with that image is completely up to us.


Extradited cleric takes editor to court for defamation

You probably remember Mr. Wagdy Ghoneim, the guy that was thrown out of the States and is now still waiting for being blessed with a Bahraini passport (shock horror!) even though his immensely popular religious show on our Bahrain TV canned; hence, the country no longer requires his services, but he’s not only still around, he has taken Isa Al-Shaiji, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ayam newspaper and the head of the Bahrain Journalists Association to court for defamation!

Needless to say, Wagdy doesn’t have a leg to stand on, but is probably looking for another financial compensation package to help defray the high costs of living in this overly generous country.

We’re all with you Isa and are sure that you will win, even though you are dragged once again in front of the Public Prosecutor for just expressing an opinion, treated like a common criminal just for your and your paper’s word. But persevere my friend, it’s all for a good cause.

As to Wagdy, I think he should take the opportunity given by the Ministry of Labour and apply for free plane tickets back to wherever he came from before the illegal migrant amnesty period ends.

And that, my friends, would be good riddance and none too soon!

Update 29 Aug, ’07: BJA Press Release after the break (in Arabic)


Malkiya Restored

Malkiya saga - riot police protecting the wrong side!

It took two years of continuous struggle and hard work and only a few seconds for the Malkiya beachfront situation to be resolved. The king – yes, himself – intervened and ordered the illegal fish-traps removed. The traps of course were installed to prevent people from “trespassing” in the sea in front of a hardly used estate, and were erected in the first place to compensate for the huge loss of face suffered by the owner of said estate – Shaikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the king’s cousin – when he was ordered two years ago to remove a separation wall he again illegally built.

The papers have branded the removal of the fish traps a win for Bahrain. I don’t. I regard it more as the full highlighting of the complete disregard that some hold the laws, and an affirmation that laws in this country are applied selectively; more-over, the state itself provides the resources for some people to continue to trample all over these laws.

Why else are there riot police stations within the contravening estate hurling abuse at people and officials without and preventing an official work party from removing the traps? Are those “peace keepers” beholden to the transgressor in any way? Are they in his employ, or are they – as they should – in the employ of the Kingdom of Bahrain sworn to serve its people and protect it from harm?

Malkiya fish traps story in pictures

Why is it that after a week of the responsible authority issuing its order to remove the traps from the area their order goes unheeded and it takes the king to intervene in such a trivial matter?

They say that justice should not only be applied, but seen to be applied. Both situations – as evidenced by this debacle – are very far removed from our shores.

I wonder what trick would be employed next to prevent people from “trespassing” on what should be public property, my guess is that it won’t be too long for the press and people to be made busy once again with another brouhaha that would divert the country’s attention from more pressing issues.

UPDATE 070822: Municipal Councillor Yousif Al-Boori is a liar. Neither Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad communicated with him in regards to the Malkiya fish traps, nor did the King intervene and Shaikh Khalid bin Mohammed, the fish traps owner, was the epitome of cooperation in getting them removed and did not hinder their removal. All this morning’s papers are saying so!

إلى ذلك، نفت الهيئة العامة لحماية الثروة البحرية والبيئة والحياة الفطرية تصريحات البوري الذي ادعى فيها أن رئيس الهيئة سمو الشيخ عبدالله بن حمد آل خليفة قام بالاتصال به شخصياً، موضّحةً أن مدير مكتب رئيس الهيئة هو الذي اتصل، مبلّغاً اهتمام سموه بإزالة جميع الحظور «المخالفة» بالمملكة بحسب البرنامج المتفق عليه.
الوسط – ٢٢ أغسطس ٢٠٠٧

So there!


Campaign launched to bring Henderson to justice

Please help in bringing the Butcher of Bahrain to justice!

A campaign spearheaded by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has been started to bring the former head of the security apparatus in Bahrain – Mr. Ian Henderson, to justice. The intention is to try to get the campaign to gain momentum throughout the world, not just Bahrain, by sending letters of objections to the Bahraini government and the UN expressing solidarity with the idea to bring Mr. Henderson – dubbed The Butcher of Bahrain – to justice as part of our much needed national reconciliation.

Should you wish to participate (please do!) either copy the button on the right and past it on your blog or get any of a selection of banners from the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights website.


Perfect employees to Bahraini broadcasters

You know how it is always difficult to get good broadcast or studio engineers? Well, okay, you might not, but take my word for it. Anyway, I think both Bahrain TV and Orbit should knock on the public prosecutor’s doors offering him a new and novel way in correctional activities. Let them serve their sentence in their own studios rather than prison!

Apprehended studio technicians and their kits - Al-Wasat Newspaper

You see, someone ratted a couple of guys to the Ministry of Information – that bastion of copyright protection – telling the ministry that an illicit operation exists in Bahrain which deciphers satellite channels and retransmit them to customers in their neighbourhood for BD5 subscription a month. Their operation has become so successful apparently that they started similar operations in Hamad Town and Muharraq too.

Now look at the equipment in the picture; this is professional kit! TBCs, frame synchronisers, amplifiers, etc which don’t come cheap and are sophisticated. I very much doubt if Bahrain TV or Orbit can actually compete with this operation and the beautiful racks of equipment you see here.

So the Good News™ in this story is this: these guys get BD50 a month and they are running such a sophisticated operation from their apartment; therefore, Bahrain TV and Orbit can use them as consultants too to reduce their overheads appreciably in both staff and equipment while hopefully upping their game as far as programming in their bouquets with the tremendous amount of monies they will save by emulating them and following their advice.


Why is ‘Sorry’ such a difficult word?

I’m not sure why this is the case, and am not sure why is it so difficult to understand that in order to move forward as a society some truths must be recognised and reparations made.

Iman Shwaiter at the Truth and Reconciliation workshop at Waad

Iman Shwaiter crying in memory of her husband (Hashim Al-Alawi) who was kidnapped, tortured and killed by Bahraini security forces in the 90s this was during a workshop on Truth and Reconciliation by 11 political societies, human rights organisations and activists in Wa’ad’s premises on 23 June ’07

Sayid Alawi Sayid Hassan at the Truth and Reconciliation workshop at Waad

Sayid Alawi Sayid Hassan with his nephew Mohammed Al-Nasheet (left) assisting him to speak of his suffering at the hands of State Security’s apprehension, imprisonment and torture.

It is an inescapable fact that every single on of us Bahrainis knows of the torture stories which were prevalent in the 70s through the 90s. Every one of us probably has a relative who suffered at the hands of torturers resulting in either deep psychological scarring or in more than 40 cases, death.

We also recognise that some violence perpetrated by citizens resulted in unfortunate ends, be that causing the death of individuals or damage done to property.

In either case, why shouldn’t an independent commission be convened to open those festering wounds, clean them up and restitch them again so that they can heal properly and we can move forward with our lives? In almost all cases a word of recognition and apology is all that is required. Even if monetary reparation is to be done to the people who suffered, that compensation should be paid in order to invest in a better future.

These feelings are one major source of strife in Bahrain and I am surprised that they are not ameliorated by the inaction of proper programs to relieve that pain.

Yes, some would argue, as has already been done, that the National Charter and the General Amnesty Law are enough. I contend that they are not as they came from one side only. They most definitely provide the basic framework from which redress and reconciliation could be started; however, truth should be sought and facts broadcast in order to recognise the depth of the problem and work toward resolving them.

We have ample examples in the world which we can emulate. South Africa is the most successful attempt at proper truth and reconciliation and so is the Moroccan commission to a large extent. We should learn from them and not just hide our head in the sand by stating that those are “foreign experiments” that we should simply ignore. If we accept that attitude, we might as well forget about all the planned reforms as they all depend on foreign experience to ensure their success!

So come on, for the sake of Bahrain, let us just get this much needed commission inaugurated and give them all the tools that they require to out truths and seek reparations in order to insure a better, fuller and more cohesive Bahrain.



Defamation case thrown out by High Court

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The High Court dismissed a defamation case brought by the president of the Arabian Gulf University Dr Rafia Ghubash against journalist Hisham Al-Zayani.

I wish to offer my congratulations to Mr. Al-Zayani for winning the case, even though the decision has taken over 2 years to be determined. This rare victory for the written word should be guardedly welcomed as the current Press and Publications Law still allows for the imprisonment of journalists and it is high time that it is changed.


Supercop Escapades, part 1

The benevolent Don Quixote

and we thought that parliamentary work, and being elected, is simple. Hah! No way José! Look at what is expected of you:

You get calls at all hours of the night, even when a concerned citizen spies a drunk public sector worker and expects you to take care of the situation, as you should. So into that brandspankynewlexis you get – with a Don Quixote refrain playing at the back of your mind and race – not stopping at those frivolous red lights, you’re an MP, a representative of the people now – to get to the scene of the crime and have a proper foot-stomping-fist-banging-lung-gutting fit and demand – as is your complete and full right – that the accused submit a blood sample for analysis to determine the quantity he has purportedly imbibed and thus, determine there and then, as a judge, jury and executioner that he be thrown out and as a head of a committee tasked with finding out the transgressions of that public sector, you can now allay any self-guilt and not suffer any insomnia for executing your job as best you could.

Bahraini MP and supercop Mohammed Yousif Yaqoob Al-Mozil - photo credit: Al-Waqt newspaper

Of course, there is that little thing in that book called the constitution which somehow talks about the separation of powers and that this sort of thing might be better done by the judicial authorities, but hey, you’re Don Quixote, not that stupid Sanchez! So it doesn’t apply to you.

Who looks at that book anyway, it’s only good for being used as a doorstop or propping up an unbalanced table or something like that


Al-Dana owner convicted of involuntary manslaughter

Convicted criminal Abdulla Mubarak Al-Kobaisi - picture credit Al-Wasat Newspaper

المحكمة فقالت في حيثيات حكمها: «ننوه إلى أن بشاعة وفظاعة ما أثاره المتهمان من جرم واستهانتهما واستخفافهما بأقدار ومصائر الناس، وما سببه من حزن وألم خيّم على مملكتنا الحبيبة، وبقاع عدة في الأرض، لا يدع لهذه المحكمة المجال لإعمال أي قسط من الرأفة، وهو ما تقضي معه المحكمة بالحد الأقصى لعقوبة الجريمة الأشد، وهي القتل الخطأ بظروفه المشددة، وفق ما ورد بأحكام المادة 243 من قانون العقوبات».
الوسط – ٢٤ مايو ٢٠٠٧

The Court notes the horror and brutality of the crime perpetrated by the two defendants and their complete disregard and contempt for the fate and destiny of the people and what they caused in grief and bereavement within and without our beloved kingdom which does not allow this Court any leeway for clemency and necessitates the application of the maximum penalty for the crime – which is the causing of wrongful death under duress, according to article 243 of the Penal Code.

I’m not sure that this is enough. The criminal is out on only BD10,000 bail which is a minuscule amount considering the committed crime, and of course he will have the legal right to appeal the verdict. There are; however, civil proceedings brought against him by the survivors and the families of of he dead which I hope will ensure that this sort of gross negligence will not happen again in the future.

What is to be learnt from this experience though?

For one thing, don’t cut safety corners just for the sake of making the country appear that it is bringing in investment. That – as this case has proven – is rather short sighted and futile.

Another thing is the culpability of the government agencies who readily gave the Al-Dana operators the various licenses without any regard to ensure the safety of the vessel and physically follow-up to ensure that safety standards were respected and that its sailors are sufficiently capable of running the boat before final approvals are given.

The departments and ministries involved in the licensing and over-seeing this venture should at least be censured so that internal processes get overhauled to ensure that no shortcut is readily utilised to potentially cause loss or disruption of life in the future.

Why the rulings did not censure the government departments involved is probably due to the workings of the Court system and how the law actually works, it was probably not within its mandate to do so. Therefore it is vitally important that the parliament does its job by creating its own investigative committee to now investigate the shortcomings of those departments and put in legislation or any other over-sight tools to ensure that lessons learnt are put in place and enacted.

The government itself of course should have mounted its own investigation into these shortcomings immediately this disaster happened; if it had, then it should be transparent about it and let us know what steps have been taken and if it has removed those responsible for this negligence on the government’s part from their positions or whatever other remedial actions it has taken.

Once again I offer my heart felt condolences to the bereaved and I understand how they must feel that this ruling will not bring their loved ones back, nor will it suffice to ameliorate their pain felt since the disaster and for the rest of their own lives. I urge them to continue with a class-action law suit against both the owners of the dhow-of-death as well as the government for its culpability in this affair by their gross negligence and flouting of laws and safety standards.


Case Deferred

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We went to the court this morning with a number of people already present and offered their support. But due to the main judge’s family bereavement, for which I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali on the passing of his mother, the case has been administratively deferred to be heard on May 8th.

I would also like to sincerely thank everyone who was present and all of those who called, emailed and texted their support as well.

In particular I would like to thank the lead advocate Ms. Fatima Al-Hawaj and the legal team offered by the Bahrain Human Rights Society to assist Ms. Al-Hawaj in the case, Lawyers Nawaf Al-Sayed and Lo’ay Qarouni; Tawfiq Al-Rayyash, Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the head of the Bahrain Journalists Union Mohammed Fadhel, journalists Mohammed Al-Sawwad from Al-Waqt (who was involved very recently in a similar case), Mohammed Aslam of the GDN, Mohammed Abbas of Reuters, Sandeep Singh Grewal from the Bahrain Tribune and Adel Al-Shaikh from Al-Wasat.

I would also like to sincerely thank my family who have always stood by me. My wife Frances, my brother Jamal and sister Maha as well as my children. I am sure that if my other siblings were in Bahrain they would have not hesitated an instant by being present to offer their support.

The legal team have asked for the case’s documents for their review and preparation, and we await the new court’s date to present our case before the High Criminal Court.