Bahrain crackdown decried at Embassy visit

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Bahrain crackdown decried at Embassy visit

Representatives of the TUC, the ITF, NASUWT and Unison meet with Bahrain's Ambassador to the UK in London on Thursday to register a joint protest over the treatment of workers and demonstrators in the Gulf state.

The delegation raised the matter of the thousands of people sacked and the hundreds facing trial or sentenced for supporting the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain.

Over 2,600 workers have been dismissed, and hundreds more have been suspended. Some have been offered their jobs back, but on inferior terms and under conditions such as agreeing not to join a trade union - many of whose leaders are facing criminal charges, often on spurious 'security' grounds.

The delegation to the embassy was made up of: Stuart Howard, ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) assistant general secretary; Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers) deputy general secretary; Nick Sigler, Unison head of international relations and Ben Moxham, TUC (Trades Union Congress) international policy officer.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: 'Trade unionists and workers in Bahrain are being punished for peacefully calling for democracy and reform in the country earlier this year.

'On behalf of our sister organisation, the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), and indeed every Bahraini, we are asking the government to decisively lift the threat of prosecution from all those threatened with it, and allow Bahrain's workers to return to their workplaces free from fear.'

Stuart Howard, ITF assistant general secretary, added: 'The cases of the health workers imprisoned for doing their jobs shocked the world. Alongside them can be set the similarly endangered teachers, journalists, port workers and transport workers of Gulf Air and DHL.

'There have been some encouraging responses to our joint protests - including the suspension of many of the trials - but we want to persuade the government to go the whole distance and remove the threat of unfair punishment hanging over many innocent workers and trade unionists.'

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT deputy general secretary and executive committee member of Education International, stated: 'I raised one case out of hundreds: that of Jalila Al-Salman, a leader of the Bahrain Teachers' Association who has been arrested, beaten and recently sentenced by a military tribunal to three years in jail. We have looked at her case in detail and are convinced that she is being punished for doing nothing more than exercising her legitimate trade union rights.

"The Bahrain authorities have a clear choice: respect the human rights of those like Jalila, and bring to justice those responsible, or further ruin Bahrain's already damaged international reputation."

Yesterday's embassy visit has been sparked by the ongoing persecution of those in Bahrain who attended or supported the calls for political and social reform there earlier this year. Alongside the crackdown by the Bahrain (and Saudi) army and police there was a wave of sackings and intimidation and numerous cases of individual and group persecution. International protests have resulted in statements from the Bahrain royal family that these should be rescinded, and an apparent suspension of trials of trade unionists - but the reinstatements have largely not taken place, and those summonsed to the civil or security courts are living under the threat that the trials could begin again at any time.

For the latest report on the trials, by Dr Kate Webb, please see www.itfglobal.org/news-online/index.cfm/newsdetail/6688

See also: Bahrain: the ITUC Reaffirms Its Solidarity with the Union under Media Attack

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