In the Arab region, the situation for the leaders of the Bahrain Teachers Association and dismissed teachers has remained very concerning.
The appeal court procedure of BTA leaders, Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, condemned respectively to ten and three years imprisonment by a military court in September 2011 started on December 2011 and has been postponed consecutively on 19 February, 2 April, 2 May, 25 June, 4 July, 6 August, 9 September and 12 September in order to deny justice and delay the verdict the longest possible. The final court appeal hearing is scheduled for 21 October. In this context, EI launched a new urgent action appeal and submitted a letter to Bahraini authorities urging them to comply with international human rights standards and release the BTA leaders without delay. Mahdi Abu Dheeb, President of the BTA, was denied release on bail throughout the appeal court procedure, despite international pressure and Mahdi’s deteriorating health condition. In February 2012, he started a hunger strike, putting his fragile health at risk.
EI submitted a request to ICRC in Bahrain to visit Mahdi Abu Dheeb in Jaw prison. EI General Secretary took part in a joint trade union mission to Bahrain with ITUC 23-25 April and met with Bahraini authorities, the Deputy Premier of the king, as well as BTA and GFBTU members. Among the issues discussed was the implementation of the BICI recommendations and a strong recommendation from EI to adopt new Labor legislation allowing the unionisation of teachers. The international pressure exerted so far by EI and its member organisations has resulted in the presence of international human rights organisations and several western diplomatic representations in Bahrain in almost all appeal hearings of BTA leaders. BTA believes that the regular presence of diplomats, civil society organisations and media at the court hearing affecting BTA leaders has made a difference.
EI presented a complaint to the ILO and a submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review process of Bahrain. In January, at the request of EI, the ILO Director General addressed a correspondence to the Government of Bahrain, “in relation to the dismissals, repression, arrest and detention of trade union leaders”. EI collected additional evidence of torture of teacher unionists in detention and transmitted the allegation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. EI also submitted a protest letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. EI launched several urgent action appeals. Various teacher unions contacted their Ministry of Foreign Affairs and appeals were sent to the authorities of Bahrain to ensure that civil liberties are respected.
On 21 October 2012, an appeal court upheld the guilty verdict against the Bahraini Teachers’ Association (BTA) leaders, Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, but reduced their prison sentences to five years and six months respectively
Jalila al-Salman, acting Chair of the BTA (in lieu of Mahdi Abu Dheeb), was transferred to the Women Prison of Isa Town on 7 November. She was finally released from prison on 25 November November after serving the 6 months prison term upheld on 21 October. Mahdi Abu Dheeb is still serving 5 years in the Jaw prison.
The dates of the BTA leaders’ last appeal to the Bahraini Court of Cassation have not yet been set. EI has contacted the International Centre of Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) to arrange for lawyers to observe this appeal.
In February 2013, Jalila Al-Salman received a letter of job termination a few days after speaking publicly about human rights violations in Bahrain in a meeting in Washington. The letter from the Ministry of Education states that al-Salman was fired, effective 22 October 2012 – the date of the “final verdict” of her criminal case, although her case is in themidst of an appeal with Bahraini Court of Cassation. Her termination is based on the 2010 Civil Service Law, which states that an employee may be fired “for an offense involving moral turpitude or dishonesty.”
EI member organisations were asked to contact their respective Government and the diplomatic representation of Bahrain in their country, requesting them to engage with the Bahraini authorities to release Mahdi Abu Dheeb and reinstate Jalila Al Salman.
A supplement to the complaint n°2882 against the Government of Bahrain, focusing on recent developments, has been submitted to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.