Bahrain: Take action in support of Ghada Jamsheer and defenders of human and women’s rights

WLUML has received an urgent request from The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) calling for support for women’s rights campaigner Ms. Ghada Jamsheer.
WLUML strongly urges you to take action in support of women’s rights campaigner Ms. Ghada Jamsheer. Ms. Jamsheer is the head of the Committee of Women’s Petition (CWP), a network of Bahraini women activists campaigning for the codification of Bahrain’s family laws and the reform of Shari’a Family Courts.

Ms. Jamsheer faces three trials for publicly criticizing family court judges and, if convicted, faces up to 15 years in prison. The trials are scheduled for 15 and 19 June and 2 July 2005.

It is therefore vital that you respond immediately to this urgent call for action.

There are many recent cases where the authorities have used restrictive laws, such as the Penal Code 1976 and Law on the Press 2002, to suppress public criticism by bringing human rights activists and journalists before the courts.

Ms. Jamsheer is accused of slander, calling family court judges in Bahrain “corrupt, biased, and unqualified” and calling a specific judge “rude and unfair.” She is also being criminally prosecuted by the ex-husband of a divorced woman whose case was adopted by the CWP.

The criminal charges against Ms. Jamsheer are an effort by the authorities to put pressure on activists and NGOs to cease or reduce their activities. The taking of such legal action is a reversal of the political and constitutional reforms currently taking place in Bahrain, and is an attempt to prevent the establishment of political, social and civil rights for Bahraini women.

We urge you to act to ensure that Ms. Jamsheer, NGOs and activists can continue to make their positive contribution to the promotion and protection of women’s rights and human rights, and to the overall development of Bahraini society.

It is WLUML’s view that this is one more example of a global trend to control progressive groups and voices.

In solidarity,

Women Living Under Muslim Laws
International Coordination Office
Bahrain: A women's rights activist faces trial and imprisonment

3/06/2005: The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned about three criminal charges made against women's rights campaigner Ms. Ghada Yusuf Jamsheer, accusing her of foul language, abusing a shari'ah family court and a former shari'a judge. (The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights)

According to restrictive laws, Ms. Jamsheer could face a sentence of up to 15 years imprisonment. She will face three trials in June and July 2005. BCHR appeals to national and international organizations to intervene urgently and to do whatever neccesary.

Ms. Jamsheer has been campaigning for reforming the General Prosecution and shari'ah family Courts. There are many recent cases where the authorities used restrictive laws, such as the Penal Code of 1976 and Law on the press of 2002, to bring activists and journalists before the courts. BCHR states that another of their concerns is that the General Prosecution and the judiciary in Bahrain are far from independent.

Hence, BCHR considers the criminal charges against Ms. Jamsheer as related to freedom of expression and peaceful activities, and an effort by the authorities to keep pressure on Ms. Jamsheer to cease her activities. The BCHR Appeals to drop all charges against Ms. Jamsheer, to decrease pressure on activists concerning women rights and to amend laws which hinder activism and criminalize the practice of basic rights.

Ghada Yusif Jamsheer is a Bahraini business woman, aged 38, lives in Muharraq. She is the president of Women's Petition Committee (WPC) which has been debating complaints and cases violating the rights and dignity of women in the shari'a family courts, and calling for urgent need to appoint qualified shari'a Court Judges. She is also the president of the Bahrain Social Partnership for Combating Violence Against Women which is under the supervision of Amnesty International.

For the last four years, Ms. Jamsheer has continuously organized protests and vigils in support of reforms of shari'a family jurisdiction in Bahrain. A call by Ms. Jamsheer to dismiss the General Prosecutor Sheikh A. Rahman Bin Jabr Al Khalifa, who was the head of the abolished State Security Court, could be the real reason behind the current cases. The call was declared in a statement issued when Women's Petition Committee (WPC) members and supporters gathered outside the Justice Ministry in a show of solidarity against discrimination.

The First Case

The General Prosecution has forwarded Case 8610/2005 to the higher penal Court and allocated a hearing commencing 4 June 2005. The trial has been rescheduled for 1 July 2005. The General Prosecution charged Ms. Jamsheer for committing criminal acts during the period commencing from October 2002 to June 2003 as follows:
  1. She has criticized publicly the shari'a judges in Bahrain as "Corrupted, Personalized and Un-Qualified" through a publication distributed to the Public;
  2. She has criticized a judge of the higher shari'a Court, named Jassim Mutlaq Al Thawadi, for his rudeness and not being fair during practicing his duties;
  3. She abused the above mentioned shari'a Judge, during his practices of his task, by using abusive language as per records of documentation.
Accordingly, the General Prosecution decided that Ms. Jamsheer has committed a crime which is should be penalized according to articles No 2/76, 3-1/92, 107/item 1, 216, 222/1, 365/1, 3-1/366 of the Penal Code and article 70/B from Law decree No 47 for the year 2002 on Press and Publishing.

The Second Case

Case No. 1793/2005 was raised against Ghada Jamsheer by one of the shari'a Judges for abusive language with reference made to articles No 2/92 and 2/1/365 of the Penal Law in front of the Primary Penal fifth Court. A session for litigation has been appointed for the forthcoming date 15th June 2005.

The Third Case

Case No. 3938/2044 which was raised against Ghada Jamsheer through the General Prosecution by an ex-husband of a divorced woman whose case was adopted by the Women's Petition Committee (WPC) headed by Ms. Jamsheer. Criminal charges were based on articles No 2/92 and 2/1/365 of the Penal Law. Litigation date will be on 19th of June 2005 in front of Primary First Penal Court.

Furthermore, an older case which was raised by eight of shari'a court judges against a group of journalists and activists including Ghada Jamsheer is still pending.

Bahrain: Trial of women's activist 'unfair'

9/06/2005: Women's Petition Committee members have condemned a series of cases filed against their leader Ghada Jamsheer for allegedly defaming three Sharia judges. (Gulf Daily News)

A statement said that the actions taken against her are unjust and aimed at silencing activities which promote the rights of women, children and families in Bahrain.

The committee stated that she was working to expose failures in the court system, which governs family issues and should not be victimised for doing so.

Ms Jamsheer said in court that she was being victimised by the Public Prosecution because she called for its head Shaikh Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa to resign.

The judge adjourned the first hearing until July 2 to allow both sides to gather evidence, but Ms Jamsheer's team of lawyers are trying to get the case transferred to a lower court.

The charges against her have also been condemned by Human Rights Watch and the Arab Programme for Human Rights Activists, both of which called for them to be dropped.

Ms Jamsheer heads the Women's Petition Committee, a network of activists demanding the codification of Bahrain's family laws and the reform of its family courts.

In April 2003, the organisation collected 1,700 signatures on a petition demanding legislative and judicial reform of these courts.

For the past four years, Ms Jamsheer has organised protests, vigils and a hunger strike in an effort to draw attention to the suffering of women in the existing family court system.

Two separate Sharia family courts exist for Sunni and Shia Muslims in Bahrain. These courts hear personal status cases, including marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance cases. There are no written personal status laws in Bahrain.