Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bahrain's Sectarian Challenge - International Crisis Group

To the Government of Bahrain:

1. End discriminatory practices against the Shiite community by:
(a) ceasing manipulation of Bahrain's demographic makeup through political naturalisation of foreigners and extension of voting rights to citizens of Saudi Arabia;
(b) halting inflammatory rhetoric that casts doubt on Shiite loyalty and labels the political opposition a sectarian movement;
(c) recruiting Shiites into the Bahraini Defence Forces and domestic security forces in order to diversify their makeup;
(d) ending informal and formal practices that prohibit Shiites from living in predominantly Sunni residential areas;
(e) passing a law that clearly defines and renders illegal religious or ethnically based discrimination;
(f) conducting a national population census that reflects Bahrain's complexity, including information on religion, ethnicity, and socio-economic status; and
(g) creating a national forum in which political associations and government officials can discuss challenges facing the country and the best ways to move forward.

2. Deepen the political reform process by:
(a) redrawing electoral districts to reflect demographic and sectarian realities more accurately;
(b) enhancing the elected chamber's legislative authority by either reducing the size of the appointed chamber to twenty or defining its role as exclusively consultative, as outlined in the 2001 National Action Charter;
(c) granting the elected chamber the power to draft and initiate legislation;
(d) rescinding restrictions on formation of political parties and halting harassment and surveillance of non-violent opposition activities; and
(e) ensuring that appointments to high government office are based on merit and appointing persons who are not members of the Al-Khalifa family to key ministerial positions.

3. Promote respect for the rule of law by:
(a) passing legislation protecting freedom of expression and association, in accordance with international standards;
(b) ending politically motivated arrests and freeing political prisoners;
(c) ensuring that all citizens and residents of Bahrain, including members of the ruling family, are held accountable for offences such as exploiting public office for private enrichment; and
(d) enforcing transparency in government financial dealings and the financial holdings and interests of all officials of cabinet rank and above.

4. Expand recent efforts to address the worsening socio-economic and unemployment crisis by:
(a) criminally prosecuting employers who hire expatriate labourers with illegal work visas;
(b) broadening opportunities for technical and professional training;
(c) expediting implementation of labour market reforms outlined by the crown prince's office and the business community;
(d) requiring transparency in public and private commercial business transactions; and
(e) privatising land owned by the royal family and making it available for purchase by citizens either with the help of short-term government subsidies or fairly determined market values.

Link comes via Desert Island Boy.

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