In a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, and the Minister of Labour, Jameel Humaidan, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen has requested that the dissolution of the Bahraini Teachers’ Association (BTA) in 2011 be lifted and that its leaders be released from prison.
He said that the dissolution of BTA and the imprisonment of its leaders were in violation of international standards. “All charges against teachers, nurses, doctors and students related to the exercise of freedom of speech and the right to assemble should be dropped,” he said. Van Leeuwen was part of a delegation headed by ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow that visited the Kingdom of Bahrain on 23-24 April.
Van Leeuwen also asked permission to visit BTA President Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Vice President Jalila Al-Salman who were sentenced by a military court to three and ten years’ imprisonment respectively, for their involvement in pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011. The ITUC mission came at a crucial time as the appeal against their sentences will be reviewed by a civil court on 2 May.
The delegation, which also included leaders from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), expressed their concern over the mass dismissals of teachers and healthcare workers, the suspension of their salaries, arbitrary arrests, detentions and, in some instances, allegations of torture. They requested that the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry which call for the reinstatement of suspended teachers and workers, be implemented (Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. They also made a strong plea for establishing an international dialogue to help ensure that core labour standards and professional freedoms be fully respected.
Both the Labour Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister said they would cooperate when the ITUC and the Bahraini Federation of Trade Unions host an international conference later this year to assess the human and trade union rights situation in the country.
EI has launched an appeal to mobilise international solidarity in support of Al-Salman and Abu Dheeb. EI has also called on member organisations whose governments have diplomatic representation in Bahrain to ask their Ministries of Foreign Affairs and embassies to help ensure the judicial authorities respect transparent and fair judicial processes.