Bahrain: Appointment of Shari'a Judges as political gifts for religious groups

Committee of Women’s Petition
The Committee of Women’s Petition (CWP) demands that the Sharia Court System, Ministry of Justice and the government prove their real intentions behind the reform of the current justice system, especially as procedure and rulings have steadily worsened.
The Committee asks for the implementation of His Majesty the King’s vision towards the overall reform of the political, economic, social and legal systems in the Kingdom, and to implement the United Nations recommendations for the necessity of creating and practising Family Law.
However, the CWP noticed that the situation and rulings of the Sharia Courts has deteriorated and worsened. Spatially, since seven Sharia judges were dismissed from the practice because they were unqualified. Moreover, the situation of Execution Courts became worse. Also, the government backed away from pressing for issuing of Family Law which was supposed to be passed during the first parliamentary period.

1. Justice

The government did not appoint Shari'a Judges (Sunni and Shi'ite) based on their competency, nor professional career, but on the Judge’s personal or family support for the government. This led to the domination of families in the Shari'a Court System.

Al Mubarak family represented by brothers; Judge Hameed Al Mubarak and Judge Ali Al Mubarak. Al Asfoor family represented by Judge Naser Al Asfoor, nephew of Judges Hameed & Judge Ali Al Mubarak and son of Ahmed Khalaf Al Asfoor (member of Superior Court Council, Ex Shari'a Judge & member of Higher Council for Islamic affairs).

The pro-government Al Madani family, represented by his son Judge Mohamed Taher Al Madani (who is also a member of Higher Council for Islamic affairs); Judge Salah Al Sitri, Judge A.Nabi Abbas Al Jidhafsi, Judge Zakaria Al Sadadi.

All of the judges were appointed, based on their loyalty for the government and not for competency or the benefit of women and family.

In the Sunni Shari'a Court System, judges were either ordinary staff (became Judges) or appointed because of the influence of their political groups.

Judge Yasser Al Mahmeed (member and creator of Al Asala Islamic Association) who has participated in a political seminar in Al Doy Majlis in Muhrraq town on 9th of September 2006. Judge Abdullah Faris Al Khalifa and Judge Faisal Al Ghareer were appointed due to their association with Salafi extremist group. Judge Hamad Fadahle Al Dosri was appointed for being a member of Al Ekhwan group (brotherhood) while Judge Abdul Rahman Derar Al Shaer is a member of Shura Association that is headed by Abdul Rahman Abdul Salanm, the General Director of Higher Consultative Council.

The Sunni Higher Sharia Court consists of 3 Judges, meets 3 times a week for couple of hours and looks into a maximim of 4 cases. Judge Adnan Al Gattan, also president of Hajj Panel, Head of Al Sanabil Orphans Panel, Imam of Al Fateh Mosque, and Shari'a editor for marriages contracts. He devotes the majority of his time for solving Hajj issues and has no time and rarely shows up in the Court to follow up his primary role as a judge on the Higher Shari'a Court. Judge Essa Bu Bushait who is in his 80s, spends all his time and effort conducting marriage contracts instead of looking into court cases. The government should retire him instead of appointing him to sensitive position in Higher Shari'a Court.

After this presentation, does the Ministry of Justice really support the King’s reform programme for the development of Bahraini society? And how can a society develop with Judges appointed by political motives which is against the Bahrain Constitution and Legal System Legislation.

2. Ministry of Justice under the Role of Mohammed Ali Al Sitri

The nephew of the late Shari'a Court Judge Salman Al Madani, a loyal to Al Madani Group has spend and wasted huge funds on internal design of his office instead of spending this funds on improvement of technical support of the justice system. The CWP did not find any improvement in the justice system. The minster failed his previous role to administer the Ministry of Agriculture and Municipality. He did not withdraw marriage license booklet from judges, has not implemented the "Grant Scheme for Children and Divorced Women", and has not improved the execution court. All that he did was to subscribe the Ministry of Justice to huge numbers of Al Methaq Newspaper which is owned by his brother Mohammed Hassan Al Sitri.

The CWP acknowledges that this Minister will not facilitate the development of women to reach her full potential.

3. Family Law

Religious groups and the government are to be blamed for not passing the family law. The government could have passed the family law if it wanted to. The government is using family law card to blackmail religious groups against women rights.

Is it fair and just to deprive more than half of Bahrain’s population (women) from legal protection, despite United Nations recommendations to Bahrain to issue Family Law.

The government with the support of pro-government MPs passed the harshest laws, including Political Association Law, Lawful Gathering Law and finally passed the Terrorism Law in a space of 15 minutes in the Appointed Consultative Council.

4. Sharia Judges and Woman

The CWP noted that Shari'a Court Rulings are falling back compared to the beginning of the CWP push for improvement of Shari'a Courts. Judges who were dismissed were replaced with new ones belonging to the same school of ideology, following same path benefiting men over women due to lack of a Family Law, no accountability for judge’s ruling and different Islamic ideology schools being used as the basis for rulings. Fair ruling is falling back because Shari'a judges were appointed as political gifts to religious pro-government groups who are against women rights. Men are favoured and women suffer - women continuously lose custody of their children for false and punitive reasons, such as working in a mixed workplace, husbands collaborating with the vice squad to falsely accuse the wife or due to nationality of the husband. Child support rulings provide very small amounts and Shari'a judges make it very difficult for women to get divorce.

The CWP raises the request to the government to suspend the Minister of Judges from his position and repair and upgrade Shari'a Courts and issue the Family Law.

People should be granted the right to choose between Shari'a or Civil courts based on people’s rights and beliefs, according to the UN Charter of Human Rights.

In conclusion we state, "Judges are appointed based on their political criteria."

Committee of Women’s Petition
1st November 2006 - Kingdom of Bahrain