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TITLE: BAHRAIN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995




                            BAHRAIN


Bahrain is a monarchy that has been ruled since the late 18th 
century by the Al-Khalifa family, which dominates its society 
and government.  It has no political parties or elected 
representative institutions.  The Constitution confirms the 
Amir as hereditary ruler.  The current Amir, Sheikh Isa Bin 
Sulman Al-Khalifa, governs with the assistance of his younger 
brother, the Prime Minister; his son, the Crown Prince; and an 
appointed Cabinet of Ministers.  In 1975 the Government 
suspended some provisions of the 1973 Constitution, including 
those articles relating to the National Assembly, which the 
Government disbanded in the same year.  The Government faces 
few judicial checks on its actions.  Bahrainis belong to the 
Shi'a and Sunni sects of Islam, with the Shi'a comprising over 
two-thirds of the indigenous population.  Sectarian and ethnic 
divisions exist among the Shi'a.  Despite their minority 
status, the Sunnis predominate because the ruling family is 
Sunni and is supported by the armed forces, the security 
service, and powerful Sunni and Shi'a merchant families.

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for public security. 
Under its auspices, the Public Security Force (police) and the 
extensive Security Service are responsible for maintaining 
internal order.  The Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) defends 
against external military threats.  It does not play any role 
in internal security.

Bahrain has a mixed economy, with government domination of many 
basic industries, including the important oil and aluminum 
industries.  The Government has used its modest oil revenues to 
build an advanced infrastructure in transportation and 
telecommunications.  Bahrain is a regional financial and 
business center.  Tourism is also a significant source of 
income.

There was little change in the human rights situation:  civil 
liberties remained broadly circumscribed.  The main abuses 
included arbitrary and incommunicado detention; involuntary 
exile; the absence of impartial inspection of detention and 
prison facilities; some instances of abuse of detainees; 
restrictions on the right to a fair public trial, especially in 
the Security Court; and restrictions on freedom of speech and 
press, freedom of assembly and association, women's rights, and 
worker rights.  As a practical matter, the people do not have 
the right to change their government.

In early December, a Shi'a imam and approximately 12 of his 
followers were arrested for inciting violence against the 
Government and foreign residents.  Protesters staged large and 
sometimes violent demonstrations in Manama and in several Shi'a 
villages to demand his release.  Three protesters and 1 
policeman were killed in the unrest, and the police detained 
about 500 to 600 persons.  Nearly all the detainees were 
arrested for committing illegal acts such as skirmishing with 
police or vandalism.  Demonstrations continued into January 
1995.  The police arrested several hundred more demonstrators.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

The law prohibits torture.  Little is known about the treatment 
of detainees and prisoners because the authorities restrict 
prison visits.  During interrogations, the police reportedly 
have beaten detainees on the soles of their feet.  Credible 
evidence exists that the authorities at Al-Jaw Security Prison 
used excessive force to restrain or punish a small number of 
prisoners who staged a 10-day hunger strike in April.

Convicted prisoners, including those sentenced for security 
offenses, have regular access to medical care and may receive 
visits from family members, usually once a month.  On at least 
one occasion, a prisoner serving a life sentence for a security 
offense was given a 1-day furlough to visit his family 
following the death of his father.

The Government denies that torture takes place.  However, it 
has not implemented minimal procedural safeguards nor allowed 
inspection of detention facilities by impartial international 
organizations.  The Government has difficulty in rebutting 
allegations of torture because it permits incommunicado 
detention and detention without trial.  The Government is not 
known to have punished any official in 1994 for human rights 
abuses committed either in 1994 or in previous years.

Prison conditions do not appear to pose any threat to the life 
or health of those detained.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

In addition to overseeing the Security Service and police, the 
Ministry of Interior also controls the office of the Public 
Prosecutor, whose officers initially determine whether 
sufficient evidence exists to continue to hold a prisoner in 
"investigatory detention."  The Ministry is responsible for all 
aspects of prison administration.  In the early stages of 
detention, prisoners and their attorneys have no recourse to 
any authority outside the Ministry of Interior.  Under normal 
criminal proceedings, police may detain a suspect for up to 7 
days of questioning before filing charges.

However, under the State Security Act of 1974, persons accused 
of subversive or antiregime acts may be detained without trial 
for a period not to exceed 3 years.  Detainees have the right 
to appeal such detentions after a period of 3 months and, if 
the appeal is denied, every 6 months thereafter from the date 
of the original detention.  Under the Act, persons may be 
detained for attempting to exercise the rights of free speech, 
association, or other rights in opposition to the Al-Khalifa 
regime.  Activities that could lead to detention include:  
membership in illegal organizations or those deemed subversive; 
painting antiregime slogans on walls; joining antigovernment 
demonstrations; possessing or circulating antiregime writings; 
preaching sermons with a distinct antiregime political tone; 
and harboring or associating with persons committing such acts.

In April security forces detained 14 Shi'a students following a 
sectarian schoolyard brawl and held them for 2 months without 
charge.  In early December, a Shi'a imam and approximately 12 
of his followers were arrested for inciting violence against 
the Government and foreign residents.  Following their arrest, 
protesters demanding their release staged a series of large, 
sometimes violent, demonstrations in Manama and several Shi'a 
villages.  Throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, the 
protesters attacked two police stations, public security 
vehicles, and two branches of the National Bank of Bahrain.  At 
least three demonstrators and one policeman were killed in the 
clashes.  The police detained approximately 500 to 600 persons, 
nearly all of whom were arrested for committing illegal acts, 
such as skirmishing with police or vandalism.  Demonstrations 
continued in mid-January and the police detained several 
hundred more demonstrators.

The authorities continue to use the revocation of citizenship 
and exile to punish individuals suspected or convicted of 
antiregime activity.  During the 1980's, in the aftermath of 
the Iranian Revolution and an aborted coup attempt by 
pro-Iranian elements, the Government deported without trial a 
significant number of citizens.  In 1994 the Amir granted 
amnesty to 21 of these exiles and their families, allowing them 
to return to Bahrain.

Throughout 1994 the authorities detained individuals at the 
airport who sought to return without the benefit of amnesty, 
and returned them to their point of origin.  The authorities 
also revoked the citizenship of two citizens of Iranian descent 
who were convicted in 1988 of security offenses, and deported 
them to Iran after they completed serving their prison terms.

The authorities maintain that they present prospective 
returnees with the evidence against them and give them the 
choice of standing trial or continuing to reside abroad for a 
specified period of time.  In some cases, the Government 
maintains that individuals have legally forfeited their 
citizenship by their acceptance of foreign citizenship or 
participation in antiregime activities.

However, emigre groups and their local contacts challenge both 
assertions.  They argue that most exiles would prefer to stand 
trial than continue to live abroad, and that the revocation of 
citizenship without due process violates the Constitution.  
According to emigre groups, approximately 100 to 150 Bahrainis 
live in exile.  This figure includes those who are prohibited 
from returning and their family members who voluntarily live 
abroad with them.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

An arrested persson may be tried in an ordinary criminal court 
or, if required by the prosecution, in the Security Court. 
Ordinary civil or criminal trials provide procedural guarantees 
for an open trial, the right to counsel (with legal aid 
available when necessary), and the right to appeal.  However, 
some attorneys and family members involved in politically 
sensitive criminal cases complained that the Government 
interfered with normal court proceedings to influence the 
outcome or to prevent court judgments from being carried out.  
Allegations of corruption in the judicial system have also been 
made from time to time, although corruption does not appear to 
be a pervasive problem.  There are precedents in which the 
Amir, Prime Minister, and other senior government officials 
have lost cases brought by private citizens.  The judgments in 
such cases were carried out.

Security cases are tried directly by the Supreme Court of 
Appeal, which sits as the Security Court.  Procedures in the 
Security Court do not provide appropriate safeguards.  The 
Security Court is exempted from adhering to the procedural 
guarantees of the Penal Code, trials are held in secret, and 
defendants do not have the right to ask for a review of the 
legality of their arrests.  There were no reports of security 
court trials in 1994.  Sentences imposed by the Security Court 
may, at the discretion of the Court or the request of the 
defendant's family, be referred to the Amir for clemency.

The total number of prisoners of all kinds, excluding those 
arrested in the December riots, is believed to be between 270 
and 300 persons, of whom a small number may be political 
prisoners.  The number of political prisoners is difficult to 
determine because the Government does not release information 
on security cases and restricts visits to prisoners convicted 
of security offenses.  The Government denies that there are any 
political prisoners.  It claims that all individuals detained 
for security offenses, including those arrested in the December 
riots, the attempted coup in 1981, and a 1987 attempt to 
destroy Bahrain's single oil refinery, were properly convicted 
of criminal acts such as espionage, espousing or committing 
violence, or belonging to terrorist organizations.

In accordance with tradition, the Government continued to 
release and grant amnesty to a small number of prisoners, 
including self-declared political prisoners, on major 
holidays.  The Government released 44 prisoners in March, 
including 10 convicted of security offenses in the 1980's; in 
June it released and deported to Iran on the completion of 
their sentences, 2 individuals convicted of security offenses 
in 1988; and in December the Amir pardoned and released another 
6 to 8 convicted criminals.  Government sources have indicated 
that nearly all of the prisoners convicted for nonviolent 
antiregime activity in the 1980's have been released by amnesty 
or upon completion of their sentences.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The law empowers the Ministry of Interior to authorize entry 
into private premises without specific judicial authorization.  
The authorities monitor some domestic and international 
telephone calls and correspondence.  Police informer networks 
are extensive and sophisticated.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

While the Constitution provides for the right "to express and 
propagate opinions," citizens are not generally free to express 
public opposition to the Al-Khalifa regime in speech or 
writing.  The Government does not permit political meetings and 
monitors gatherings that might take on a political tone.  The 
security forces sometimes disperse such meetings.  The 
Government prohibits press criticism of personalities in the 
ruling family and on certain sensitive subjects, such as the 
Hawar Islands dispute with Qatar.

The local press is free to report and comment on international 
issues.  Discussion of local economic and commercial issues is 
also relatively unrestricted.  In practice there are few 
restrictions on the discussion of political and economic issues 
in private settings, provided such discussions do not become 
public.

The Information Ministry exercises sweeping control over all 
local media.  Bahrain's privately owned newspapers routinely 
exercise self-censorship of stories on sensitive topics.  In 
1994 the Government prohibited a local editorial columnist from 
publishing for 1 month following his criticism of government 
policy during the Yemeni civil war.

The Government does not condone unfavorable coverage of its 
domestic policies by the international media and has 
occasionally revoked the press credentials of offending foreign 
journalists.  Since the Ministry also sponsors foreign 
journalists' residence permits, this action can lead to 
deportation.  The Government deported a correspondent of the 
British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in December for covering the 
civil disturbances in a manner unfavorable to the Government.  
In addition, Reuter withdrew its correspondent in April and did 
not replace him after the Ministry of Information indicated 
that his residence permit would not be renewed.  Other 
international news services have frequently complained of 
government restrictions.  Several news services have departed 
Bahrain and established offices elsewhere in the region.

The State owns and operates all radio and television stations.  
The Government does not interfere with radio and television 
broadcasts from neighboring countries and from Egypt, nor does 
it interfere with the English-language news from the British 
Broadcasting Company and Cable News Network.  Many senior 
government officials, ruling family members, and well-to-do 
citizens receive international television broacasts via 
satellite receiving dishes.  The Ministry of Information 
closely controls access to these and the importation or 
installation of them without government approval is illegal.  
In October the Ministry established a 13-channel subscription 
cable network and announced plans to add an additional 7 
channels by the end of the year.

Although there are no formal regulations limiting academic 
freedom, as a practical matter academics try to avoid 
contentious political issues.  In general there is greater 
latitude to discuss politics in an academic setting. 
Nevertheless, strict limits are observed, and research, 
publications, and public discussions critical of the Government 
are highly infrequent.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Despite the Constitution's affirmation of the right of free 
assembly, the Government prohibits public political 
demonstrations and meetings.  Religious gatherings that may 
take on political overtones are strictly controlled.  In 
January and March security forces dispersed Shi'a Muslim 
gatherings commemorating the death of Iranian Grand Ayatollah 
Golpayegani at the Al-Mu'min mosque in Manama and closed the 
mosque temporarily, ostensibly on the grounds that the 
gatherings had become political and confrontational.

In July and September, security forces used tear gas to break 
up large, Shi'a-led demonstrations at the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Affairs.  After each of these incidents, suspected 
leaders and active participants were briefly detained for 
questioning, usually on grounds of participating in or inciting 
violence.  All were later released without charge.

The Government prohibits political organizations.  Some 
professional societies and social and sports clubs have 
traditionally served as fora for discreet political discussion, 
but these are restricted by law from engaging in political 
activity.  Only the Bar Association has been granted an 
exemption to the regulation requiring all associations to state 
in their constitutions that they will refrain from political 
activity.  The Bar Association successfully argued that a 
lawyer's professional duties may require certain "political" 
actions, such as interpreting legislation or participating in a 
politically sensitive trial.  Since the Gulf War the Government 
has been more tolerant of informal discussion of some political 
issues, but organized discussions and meetings are still 
actively discouraged.  The Government requires permits for most 
public gatherings, and does not routinely grant permission.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The population is overwhelmingly Muslim, and Islam is the state 
religion.  However, Christians and other non-Muslims, including 
Jews, Hindus, and Baha'is, are free to practice their religion 
and maintain their own places of worship.  Bibles and other 
Christian publications are displayed and sold openly in local 
bookshops, which also sell Islamic and other religious 
literature.  Religious tracts of all Islamic sects, cassettes 
of sermons delivered by Muslim preachers from other countries, 
and publications of other religions are readily available.  The 
Government discourages proselytizing by non-Muslims and 
prohibits anti-Islamic writings.  However, it does not 
interfere with conversions from Islam to other religions.

Both Sunni and Shi'a sects are subject to governmental control 
and monitoring, but the Government does not interfere with 
routine religious activities.  Public religious events, most 
notably annual commemorative marches by the Shi'a, are 
permitted but are closely watched by the police.  There are no 
restrictions on the number of citizens permitted to make 
pilgrimages to Shi'a shrines and holy sites in Iran and Iraq.  
However, in the past, the Government strongly discouraged 
religious study in and pilgrimages to Iran.  Although the 
Government continues to monitor travel to Iran and scrutinizes 
carefully those who choose to pursue religious study there, 
Bahraini travel to Iran for pilgrimages, business trips, 
tourism, and family visits is increasingly common.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens are free to move within the country and change their 
place of residence or work.  However, the Government may deny 
issuance of passports on political grounds.  Under the 1963 
Citizenship Law, the Government may reject applications to 
obtain or renew passports for "reasonable cause," but the 
applicant has the right to appeal such decisions before the 
High Civil Court.  The Government has also issued "temporary 
passports" to individuals whose travel it wishes to control or 
whose claim to citizenship is questionable.  At least 3 to 5 
percent of the indigenous population, mostly Shi'a Muslims of 
Iranian origin, do not have passports and cannot readily obtain 
them, although they may be issued travel documents as residents 
(see Section 5).  Noncitizen residents may also obtain 
"laissez-passers" or temporary passports.  These documents are 
valid for 2 years and may be reissued at Bahraini embassies 
overseas.  "Laissez passer" holders are required to obtain 
visas to reenter Bahrain.

In 1994 the Government continued to allow the repatriation of 
certain persons who have lived in exile (see Section 1.d.).

The Government does not usually accept refugees.  However, it 
does not repatriate those refugees who arrive in Bahrain.  The 
Government has granted some Iranian emigres permission to 
remain in Bahrain, but has not granted them citizenship.  
During the Yemeni civil war in 1994, the Government accepted 
approximately 10 Yemeni casualties for medical treatment.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have the right or ability peacefully to change 
their government or their political system, and the Government 
strictly controls all political activity.  Since the 
dissolution of the National Assembly in 1975, there have been 
no formal democratic political institutions, political parties, 
or opposition organizations.  The Prime Minister appoints all 
members of the Cabinet.  About one-third of the Cabinet 
ministers are Shi'a, although they do not hold security-related 
offices.  All other government positions are appointed by the 
relevant ministries.  The ordinary citizen may attempt to 
influence government decisions through submission of written 
petitions and informal contact with senior officials.

The Government established a 30-member Consultative Council, or 
Majlis Al-Shura, in 1992.  The Majlis held its second session 
from October 1993 to May 1994, and began its third session in 
October.  The members of the Majlis are evenly divided between 
Sunni and Shi'a and were appointed by the Amir to represent the 
major constituent groups, including business, labor, the 
professions, and the religious communities.  There are no 
members of the ruling Al-Khalifa family in the Majlis.  The 
Chairman is a Shi'a who formerly was Minister of Transport and 
Communications.

Although the Majlis has no formal legislative power, it may 
draft legislation for the Cabinet and Prime Minister to approve 
and is empowered to summon and question Cabinet ministers.  
According to the Speaker, the Government responded positively 
to about 85 percent of the Majlis's recommendations by 
incorporating them into legislation or by taking other 
appropriate actions.  However, since all Majlis meetings are 
closed, little information is available to verify this claim.

In the autumn and winter, 14 prominent religious and secular 
figures circulated a petition calling for the return of the 
National Assembly or elections for a new assembly.  The 
petition reportedly has 20,000 signatures but at year's end had 
not been formally presented to the Government.  The Government 
is aware of the petition but has not responded to the 
petition's demands or taken any legal action against the 
drafters.  However, the authorities dismissed a senior employee 
of the Ministry of Public Works, Power and Water from his job 
after he disobeyed instructions not to circulate the petition 
on ministry grounds during workhours.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no local human rights organizations.  Because of the 
restrictions on freedom of association and expression, any 
independent, domestically based investigation or public 
criticism of the Government's human rights policies would face 
major obstacles.  A number of groups based abroad claim to 
report on human rights violations, including the Committee for 
the Defense of Human Rights in Bahrain in Damascus, the Bahrain 
Freedom Movement in London, and the Bahrain Human Rights 
Organization (formerly the Committee for the Defense of 
Political Prisoners in Bahrain) in Copenhagen.  These groups 
are composed of small numbers of emigres and often receive 
funding from governments hostile to the Al-Khalifa regime.

The Government has consistently characterized as baseless 
charges of torture and denial of access to detainees, but it 
has not taken practical steps to refute such charges.  The 
Government maintains that it is "not opposed" to visits in good 
faith by "bona fide human rights organizations," and it has 
engaged in dialog with the International Committee of the Red 
Cross (ICRC) and Amnesty International (AI).  However, by the 
end of 1994, there were no substantive visits by ICRC or AI 
representatives, despite tentative "invitations" extended by 
the Government.  In practice, international human rights 
organizations have found that operating in Bahrain is difficult.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

Women encounter various forms of discrimination.  Islamic law, 
or Shari'a, governs some of the social and legal rights of men 
and women.  Specific rights vary according to the Shi'a or 
Sunni interpretation of Islamic law.

While both Shi'a and Sunni women have the right to initiate a 
divorce, religious courts may refuse the request.  Occasionally 
Shi'a women seeking divorce must travel outside of Bahrain, as 
the Ja'afari sect courts in Bahrain are said to lack a 
religious scholar of sufficient rank to issue rulings in 
controversial cases.  Women of either sect may own and inherit 
property and may represent themselves in all public and legal 
matters.  In the absence of a direct male heir, Shi'a women may 
inherit all property; by contrast, Sunni women--in the absence 
of a direct male heir--inherit only a portion, with the balance 
divided among male relatives of the deceased.

In the event of divorce, the courts routinely grant Shi'a and 
Sunni women custody of daughters under the age of 9 and sons 
under age 7, although custody usually is awarded to the father 
once the children reach those ages.  In all circumstances 
except mental incapacitation, the father, regardless of 
custody, retains the right to make certain legal decisions for 
his children, such as guardianship of any property belonging to 
the child until the child reaches legal age.  A non-Bahraini 
woman automatically loses custody of her children if she 
divorces their Bahraini father.

Women may obtain passports and travel abroad without the 
permission of a male head of the household.  Women are free to 
work outside the home, drive cars without escorts, and wear the 
clothing of their choice.  Many women wear Western dress 
outside the home.

Women constitute over 20 percent of the work force.  The 
Government has encouraged the hiring of women, enacted special 
laws to promote female entry into the work force, and is a 
leading employer of women.  The Labor Law does not discriminate 
against women; however, some women's groups complain about 
informal discrimination in the workplace, including inequality 
of wages and denial of opportunity for advancement.  Except for 
a few exempted professions, such as nursing, women are 
prohibited from working at night.  Generally, women work 
outside the home during the years between secondary school or 
university and marriage.  Women make up the majority of 
students at universities.  There are women's organizations 
which seek to improve the status of women under both civil and 
Islamic law.

Increasingly, women have expressed the view that, despite 
growing female participation in the work force, women are not 
significantly advancing their rights and that much of their 
lack of progress is due to the influence of Islamic religious 
traditionalists, especially in the government-run school system 
and in the Shari'a courts.  Other women, however, desire a 
return to more traditional religious values and support calls 
for a return to Islamic patterns of social behavior.

Violence against women is known to occur, but knowledge of 
incidents is usually kept within the family.  There is 
virtually no public discussion of the issue.  No government 
policies explicitly address violence against women.  Women's 
groups and health care professionals state that spouse abuse is 
relatively common.  There are very few known instances of 
Bahraini women seeking legal redress for violence, and 
anecdotal evidence suggests that the courts are not receptive 
to such cases.

Foreign women working as domestic servants sometimes report 
assault and sexual abuse to local embassies and the police, but 
most victims are too intimidated to sue their employers.  Those 
who do sue appear to be received sympathetically in the courts.

     Children

The Government has often stated its commitment to the 
protection of children's human rights and welfare within the 
country's social and religious framework.  The Government 
honors this commitment through enforcement of its civil and 
criminal laws and an extensive social welfare network.

The status of children is shaped by tradition and religion to a 
greater extent than by civil law.  Public discussion of child 
abuse is rare, and the preference of the authorities has always 
been to leave such matters within the purview of the family or 
religious groups.  The authorities actively enforce the laws 
against prostitution, including child prostitution and 
procuring.  They deal harshly with violators.  In some cases, 
the authorities reportedly return children arrested for 
prostitution and other crimes to their families rather than 
prosecute them, especially for first offenses.  The regular 
courts hear juvenile cases.  Some legal experts have called on 
the Government to establish a juvenile court, but other 
citizens insist that the protection of children is a religious, 
not a secular, function and oppose greater government 
involvement.  Independent and quasi-governmental organizations 
play an active part in protecting children by providing 
counseling, legal assistance and advice, and, in some cases, 
shelter and financial support to distressed children and 
families.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

A group of 3,000 to 5,000 mostly Iranian-origin Shi'a, commonly 
known as "bidoon" (those without), enjoy less than full 
citizenship.  Many are second- or third-generation residents 
whose ancestors emigrated from Iran.  Although they no longer 
claim Iranian citizenship, the law does not grant them Bahraini 
citizenship.  Without citizenship, they are officially unable 
to buy land, start businesses, or obtain government loans, 
although in practice many do.  The Government maintains that 
many of those who claim to be "bidoon" are actually citizens of 
Iran or other Gulf states who have voluntarily chosen not to 
renew their foreign passports.

Those bidoon and Bahrainis who speak Farsi, rather than Arabic, 
as their first language, also face significant social and 
economic obstacles, including difficulty finding employment.

     Religious Minorities

Although there are notable exceptions, the Sunni Muslim 
minority enjoys a favored status in Bahrain in comparison with 
the Shi'a Muslim majority.  Sunnis generally receive preference 
for employment in sensitive government positions and in the 
managerial ranks of the civil service.

Shi'as are not allowed to hold significant posts in the defense 
and internal security forces.  However, they occupy most of the 
senior positions in the major government-owned industries and 
are disproportionately represented in the educational sphere as 
secondary school teachers, professors, and university 
administrators.  In general, lower paid workers in the private 
sector tend to be Shi'a because of the larger proportion in 
that group--and the much larger absolute number--who are poorly 
educated.  Social and municipal services in most Shi'a 
neighborhoods, particularly in rural villages, are inferior to 
those in Sunni urban communities.  In an effort to remedy 
social discrimination, improve living conditions for the Shi'a, 
and encourage integration, the Government has built numerous 
subsidized housing complexes open to all citizens on the basis 
of financial need.

     People with Disabilities

The law protects the rights of people with disabilities, and a 
variety of governmental, quasi-governmental, and religious 
institutions are mandated to support and protect disabled 
persons.  The Regional (Arabian Gulf) Center for the Treatment 
of the Blind is headquartered in Bahrain, and a similar center 
for the education of deaf children was established in 1994.

Society tends to view people with disabilities as special cases 
in need of protection rather than as fully functioning members 
of society.  Nonetheless, the law requires the Government to 
provide vocational training for disabled persons wishing to 
work.  The Labor Law of 1976 also requires that any employer 
employing over 100 employees engage at least 2 percent of its 
employees from the Government's list of disabled workers.  The 
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs works actively to place 
people with disabilities in public sector jobs, such as in the 
public telephone exchanges.  The Government's housing 
regulations require that access be provided to disabled 
persons.  Most large public buildings (including the Ministries 
of Foreign Affairs and Defense, the University, and schools) 
are equipped with ramps and other aids which make them 
accessible to disabled persons.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution recognizes the right of workers to organize, 
but trade unions do not exist, and the Government does not 
encourage their establishment.  However, labor regulations 
allow the formation of elected workers' committees in the 
larger Bahraini companies.  Worker representation is based on a 
system of Joint Labor-Management Consultative Councils (JCC's) 
established by ministerial decree.  In 1994 four new JCC's were 
established in the private sector, including one in a major 
hotel.  Twelve preexisting JCC's cover the major state-owned 
industries.  The JCC's are composed of equal numbers of 
appointed management representatives and worker representatives 
elected from and by company employees.

The elected labor representatives of the JCC's select the 11 
members of the General Committee of Bahraini Workers (GCBW), 
established in 1983 by law, which oversees and coordinates the 
work of the JCC's.  The Committee also hears complaints from 
Bahraini and foreign workers and assists them in bringing their 
complaints to the attention of the Ministry of Labor or the 
courts.  The JCC-GCBW system represents close to 70 percent of 
the island's indigenous industrial workers, although both 
government and labor representatives readily admit that 
nonindustrial workers and expatriates are underrepresented by 
the system.  Expatriate workers, who comprise 67 percent of the 
work force, may participate in JCC elections.  No expatriate 
worker, however, currently sits on the board of the GCBW.

The Labor Law neither prohibits nor guarantees the right to 
strike.  The 1974 Security Law forbids strikes that are 
perceived to be detrimental to the "existing relationship" 
between employers and employees or to the economic health of 
the state.  No major strikes took place in 1994, but 
small-scale walkouts and other job actions have occurred, often 
with favorable results for the workers.

The GCBW represents workers at the International Labor 
Organization and in the Arab Labor Organization, but does not 
belong to any international trade union organizations.  A 
Bahraini Ministry of Labor official currently chairs the 
governing body of the Arab Labor Organization.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

As in the case of strikes, the Labor Law neither prohibits nor 
guarantees the right to organize and bargain collectively.  The 
GCBW represents workers' interests in tripartite negotiations 
with management and government representatives.  While the 
JCC's are empowered to discuss labor disputes, organize 
workers' services, and discuss wages, working conditions, and 
productivity, the workers have no independent, recognized 
vehicle to represent their interests in these or other labor 
issues.  JCC's make suggestions to management on some working 
conditions and limited aspects of wage issues, but management 
must agree before a proposal can be put in force.

Minimum wage rates are established by Council of Ministers' 
decree.  Increases in wages above the minimum, which are 
subject to discussion in the JCC's, are set by management, with 
government salaries for comparable work often serving as an 
informal guide.  Private businesses generally follow the 
Government-JCC lead in establishing their wage rates.

There are two export processing zones, but labor law and 
practice are the same in these zones as in the rest of the 
country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is legally prohibited, and the Labor 
Ministry is charged with enforcing the law.  The Ministry 
enforces the labor laws with periodic inspections and routinely 
fines violators.  New provisions to the Labor Law passed in 
November 1993 stiffened the maximum fines and mandated 
imprisonment for certain violations.  The press often performs 
an ombudsman function on labor problems, reporting instances in 
which private sector employers compelled foreign workers from 
developing nations to perform work not specified in their 
contracts and other abuses, as well as Ministry of Labor 
responses.  The press regularly reports the results of labor 
cases brought before the courts.  In September Bahraini courts 
awarded three Filipino domestic workers back pay and damages in 
cases against their employers.

Once a complaint has been lodged by a worker, the Labor 
Ministry opens an investigation and often takes remedial 
action.  Although the Ministry takes such cases seriously, 
abuses undoubtedly go unreported, particularly those involving 
domestic workers and others working illegally in Bahrain.  The 
Labor Law stipulates that any Bahraini found guilty of 
illegally sponsoring foreign workers may be sentenced to 6 
months in prison for each worker.  However, the Government's 
efforts to deport illegally sponsored workers make these 
domestic workers reluctant to bring cases of abuse to the 
courts.  The intense fear of deportation almost certainly 
allows some sponsoring employers to impose abusive conditions, 
which approach coerced or bonded labor, on their employees.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal age for employment is 14.  Juveniles between 
the age of 14 and 16 may not be employed in hazardous 
conditions or at night and may not work over 6 hours per day or 
on a piecework basis.  Ministry of Labor inspectors effectively 
enforce child labor laws in the industrial sector; child labor 
outside that sector is less well monitored but is not believed 
to be significant outside family-operated businesses.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wage scales, set by government decree, exist for public 
sector employees and generally afford a decent standard of 
living for workers and their families.  The current minimum 
wage for the public sector is $237 (91 dinars) a month.  Wages 
in the private sector are determined on a contract basis.  For 
foreign workers, employers consider benefits such as paid 
annual trips home and housing and education bonuses part of the 
salary.

The Labor Law, enforced by the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs, mandates acceptable conditions of work for all adult 
workers, including adequate standards regarding hours of work 
(maximum 48 hours per week) and occupational safety and 
health.  Complaints brought before the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Affairs that cannot be settled through arbitration must, 
by law, be referred to the labor court within 15 days.  In 
practice, most employers prefer to settle such disputes through 
arbitration, particularly since the court and Labor Law are 
generally considered to favor the employee, and the rulings in 
such cases are often published in the local press.  Under the 
Labor Law, workers have the right to remove themselves from 
dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their employment.

The Labor Law stipulates significant fines and jail sentences 
for private sector employers who fail to pay legal wages.  This 
law applies equally to employers of Bahrainis and expatriates 
and is intended to reduce abuses against foreign workers who in 
the past have sometimes been denied legal salaries.  The law 
provides equal protection to Bahraini and foreign workers, but 
all foreign workers still require sponsorship by Bahrainis or 
Bahrain-based institutions and companies.  Subject to sanctions 
for wrongful dismissal, sponsors are able to cancel the 
residence permit of any person under their sponsorship and 
thereby block them from obtaining entry or residence visas from 
another sponsor.

The local press has reported instances of foreign workers 
denied full wages, days off, vacations, or other guaranteed 
conditions of employment, as well as the court rulings or 
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs actions taken in 
response.  Nonetheless, government attempts to address 
individual abuses in these and other cases are often hampered 
by the workers' unwillingness to make formal complaints.

The Labor Law favors Bahrainis and Arab expatriates over other 
foreign workers in hiring and firing.  Because employers 
include housing and other allowances in their salary scales, 
expatriate workers legally may be paid lower wages than their 
Bahraini counterparts, although they sometimes receive the same 
or greater total compensation because of home leave and holiday 
pay allowances.  Women are entitled to 60 days of paid 
maternity leave, nursing periods during the day, and up to 1 
year of unpaid maternity leave.  However women are generally 
paid less than men.
(###)

[end of document]

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