Three people were arrested in connection with material published on an Internet website. A human rights activist appeared before a court on charges that seemed to be politically motivated. Security forces used excessive force to disperse demonstrators in the capital al-Manama.

Key developments

The government proposed a new counter-terrorism law to the National Assembly (parliament) in April under which anyone convicted of committing or planning terrorist acts would face the death penalty. Human rights activists and some members of parliament criticized the proposed law as an attempt to restrict freedoms excessively. The law was approved by the parliament in December and was due to be referred to the Shura (Consultative) Council and then ratified by the King in 2006. In July, parliament approved a new law to regulate political associations. This requires associations to be approved by the Minister of Justice who can also apply to the Supreme Court to have them dissolved or cease their activities. Human rights and other groups criticized the new law as overly restrictive and called on King Hamad bin 'Issa Al Khalifa to cancel it. He had not done so by the end of 2005.

Human rights activists and some members of the parliament continued to urge the government to press for the release of six Bahraini nationals detained by the US military at Guantánamo Bay. Three of them were returned to Bahrain in November and released.

Political arrests

Three men were arrested in February in connection with comments published on their Internet website discussion forum ( which were alleged to be critical of the government and offensive to the royal family. 'Ali 'Abdul Imam, Mohammad al-Mousawi and Hussain Yousef were detained for 15 days on the orders of the Public Prosecution. The charges against them included "inciting hatred, defamation and spreading false information". The three went on hunger strike during their detention at al-Hoora police station in al-Manama. They were released on 14 March. At the end of the year it was not clear whether they were still awaiting trial.

Human rights defenders

Ghada Jamsheer, a leading human rights defender, appeared in court in June. She faced charges of insulting the judiciary; defamation and slander of a family court judge; and slander of the husband of a victim of domestic violence. The first charge arose from petitions and articles issued between October 2002 and June 2003 by the Women's Petition Committee, of which Ghada Jamsheer is the director. The group was formed in October 2002 to campaign for the reform of personal status courts and the codification of family laws. Ghada Jamsheer denied all the charges, most of which were dropped or dismissed by the courts. However, the charge of slandering a judge remained pending at the end of the year.

Lawyers acting for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) filed a court case against the Ministry of Labour in January. The action contested the Minister of Labour's decision to order the closure of the Centre in September 2004 for an alleged breach of the 1989 Societies Law. The application was rejected by the High Civil Court in January. The lawyers acting for the Centre then reportedly referred the case to the Administrative Court in April, where it was believed to remain pending at the end of the year.

Excessive force

In June, the security forces were reported to have used excessive force when dispersing peaceful demonstrators calling for more job opportunities who had gathered outside the Royal Court in Rifa'a in al-Manama. Many of the demonstrators were beaten and some required hospital treatment. About 30 were arrested but released the same day without charge. In July, a further demonstration against unemployment resulted in more than 30 people being severely beaten by the security forces; some required hospital treatment. Those assaulted included 'Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab, human rights activists belonging to the BCHR.

UN Committee against Torture

In May the UN Committee against Torture considered Bahrain's report on its implementation of the UN Convention against Torture. The Committee regretted the government's five-year delay in submitting the report, but noted that several positive developments had occurred in Bahrain since 2001. However, the Committee expressed concern about the continuing "lack of a comprehensive definition of torture" in Bahraini law; the "provision of blanket amnesty to all alleged perpetrators of torture and other crimes by Decree 56 of 2002"; and the "lack of redress available to victims of torture". It urged the government to adopt legislation to prevent and punish violence against women, including domestic violence, and to amend Decree 56 to "ensure there is no impunity for officials who have perpetrated or acquiesced in torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment".

Death penalty

Two Bangladeshi nationals, Jasmine Anwar Hussain and Mohammad Hilaluddin, had their death sentences upheld on appeal in December. At the end of the year it was unclear whether the case would be referred to the Court of Cassation. They had been sentenced to death for murder in November 2004.

AI country visits

In January AI held a conference in al-Manama on violence against women in the Gulf region.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.