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Wed 20 Feb 2008 12:49 PM

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Bahrain human rights record slammed

Gulf state fails to comply with eleven separate commitments to expatriate and women's rights - study.

Bahrain failed to comply with human rights goals and initiatives, breaching eleven separate commitments with regards to the protection of its citizens and expatriate workers, a study to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has found.

The Gulf state, plagued by a wave of demonstrations and social unrest in recent months, fell short of multiple commitments to improve freedom of expression, justice for victims of crimes, sexual discrimination laws, conditions for migrant workers and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations, Bahrain's Gulf News Daily reported on Wednesday.

The study, compiled by human rights activists and cited by the newspaper, reveals that the Gulf state also failed to make significant progress toward securing independence of the judiciary or in respect to human rights in the fight against terrorism, racial and religious discrimination, poverty and the denial of basic economic rights.

Authored by The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), the now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR), the study accuses the Bahraini government of using excessive force against civilian protestors and alleges that perpetrators of criminal abuse are not properly investigated.

The study also highlighted failures on the behalf of the government to address the rights of females working in the Gulf state.

“The FIDH, BHRS and BCHR feel that special attention should be given to the plight of female migrant domestic workers, who work as domestic helpers and are not protected by the country's Labour Law,” the study found, according to Bahrain’s daily.

“Problems faced by them include long working hours, low salaries, late payment of salaries, poor and repressive living conditions and psychological, physical and sexual abuse,” the study found, stating that “extreme cases have seen women being trafficked into prostitution.”

Bahrain has been embroiled in a controversial debate regarding minimum wages and labour conditions for expatriate workers, particularly from India.

India responded to human rights related complaints from its citizens working in the Gulf state by imposing a minimum wage of 100 Bahraini dinars ($265.60), up from the previous amount of 57 dinars.

The largest labour exporting country in the region has threatened to cut of its worker supply to the entire Gulf unless its minimum wage requirements are met and has refused work visas to Indians seeking employment in Bahrain unless they secure contracts for at least that amount.

Bahrain has also been wracked by a spate of high-profile protests and demonstrations in recent months as rival Sunni and Shi’ite factions march in the streets.

Accusations of server and unpunished brutality on behalf of Bahrain’s police force in quelling the protests prompted the government to hold discussions concerning the use of chemical weapons against demonstrators earlier this month.

Major Humood Saad, Bahrain’s military courts director, defended the use of methods of crowd control containing chemical weapons, such as tear gas, saying riot police would be forced to employ potentially lethal alternatives if the use of chemicals was outlawed.

“We don't want to use anything more lethal or stronger than what we use at the moment, but if the law bans us from using chemical substances, then we will have to use something else,” Saad told parliament during the session.

Saad was heavily criticised for his stance by other MPs who labeled the use of chemicals against citizens as “inhumane.”

Bahrain is due to submit an official government report on its human rights progress to the HRC in Geneva on Monday.

The FIDH, BHRS and the BCHR have made clear their plans to send their own findings along for consideration also.

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