Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, announced on September 22 a campaign to combat corruption and bring corrupt high officials to justice. A wide-ranging investigation into the country’s major government-owned companies resulted in the criminal prosecution of a number of high executives in Bahrain’s Aluminum Company (ALBA) and Gulf Air.
The Bahrain government announced on September 25 that the National Democratic Institute (NDI) will resume its work in Bahrain under the supervision of Bahrain’s governmental Institute for Political Development (BIPD) with a series of training programs for parliamentarians. NDI’s operations in Bahrain were suspended and its representative was ordered out of Bahrain in May 2006, several months before parliamentary elections.
Two ministers left office in September under pressure from parliament. Minister of Health Nada Haffad was removed from office September 25 following a parliamentary probe into deteriorating health services and alleged mismanagement. Haffad, Bahrain’s first female minister, had announced that she would resign if the parliament continued to abuse its investigatory powers for political gains. Information minister Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar was also removed from office on September 25; he was facing a parliamentary investigation for allowing an allegedly provocative dance performance at a cultural festival. He was also facing criticism from the business community for measures banning alcohol and entertainment in hotels.
The opposition al-Wefaq parliamentary bloc submitted on September 19 draft amendments to the controversial Public Gatherings Law. The current law stipulates that permission of the Ministry of Interior is to be obtained three days before a public gathering and that rallies may not take place within 500 meters of a school or a health center. The Law provides for a jail sentence of up to six months for violations. Al-Wefaq’s amendments seek to reduce the notice period to 24 hours, remove geographical restrictions, and reduce the jail sentence to one month.
Eleven Bahraini human rights organizations, opposition groups, and representatives from the International Center for Transitional Justice met in a conference September 24-27 to discuss a proposed Truth and Reconciliation Committee to address government human rights violations from the 1970s to the 1990s. The Committee’s launch date was set for December 10, 2007, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.