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Cablegate: Bahrain: Interim Report On Human Trafficking

DE RUEHMK #0652/01 3200952
R 160952Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 112489

1. (SBU) Following is Embassy Manama's submission for the required interim report on human trafficking, and addresses the specific areas of focus outlined in reftel paragraph 6B. ----------------------------- Investigation and Prosecution -----------------------------

2.(SBU) Bahrain's last prosecution under the 2008 anti-trafficking law resulted in the conviction of a Thai national in December 2008. While the GOB has not brought any new prosecutions under that law, it appears to be pursuing trafficking-related offenses with prosecution under other chapters of the criminal code. On November 12, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa told visiting G/TIP Ambassador CdeBaca that the government had prosecuted 280 cases this year which could be categorized as "trafficking-related." These included murder, pimping, and forced prostitution offenses. The Minister added that 170 companies had been prosecuted during the year for labor violations relating mostly to conditions of work. These violations included failure to pay salaries, transportation of workers in open trucks, and health and safety offenses.

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3.(SBU) Ambassador CdeBaca noted that there appeared to be a disconnect in the GOB interpretation of trafficking. The Justice Minister's comments indicated that the GOB believes there must be movement of a person from one place to another in order to apply anti-trafficking laws. This is not consistent with the USG interpretation that a person can move and work legally, only to fall prey to coercion later on that would qualify for prosecution under trafficking statutes. Ambassador CdeBaca told the Minister he would provide examples of U.S. case law for the GOB to examine, and suggested a videoconference to bring together U.S. experts and Ministry and Public Prosecution officials. --------------------- Victim Identification ---------------------

4.(SBU) There does not appear to be a formalized procedure for identifying potential trafficking victims. Currently, police refer suspected victims (nearly always women) on an ad hoc basis to either the government-run Dar al-Iman shelter or to the Migrant Workers Protection Society. Dar al-Iman is open to any female - citizen or expatriate - threatened by violence. It provides pro bono legal assistance to residents who may stay for an initial period of three months, which may be extended upon review. --------------------------------------------- --- Crimes Committed as a Result of Being Trafficked --------------------------------------------- ---

5.(SBU) In the one application of Bahrain's anti-trafficking law, the victims were not prosecuted for crimes related to having been trafficked. Both GOB and NGO contacts confirmed that the women were referred to protective services and asked to be returned home. More commonly, potential trafficking victims are often prosecuted for prostitution or immigration violations and quickly deported. ------------------ Other Developments ------------------

6.(SBU) On August 1, the government implemented reforms designed to enable labor mobility for expatriate workers. Both the Minister of Labor and the CEO of the Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) told Ambassador CdeBaca that they had encountered stiff resistance from the business community and would continue to press ahead. While both acknowledged that the system needed fine tuning, they reaffirmed the GOB's commitment to allow expatriate workers to change jobs without first obtaining permission from their employer. The upper house of parliament rejected a measure that sought to limit labor mobility. The proposal called for expatriate workers to remain with their employer for one year or the length of the contract (whichever were shorter) before being allowed to change jobs. The upper house also rejected a proposal that would have imposed a BD 500 fine (USD 1335) on runaway domestics. The lower house of parliament has passed, and the upper house is considering, draft legislation that would revise 160 chapters of the 1976 Labor Law. Most significantly, the MANAMA 00000652 002 OF 002 proposal would include domestic servants in the law, giving them the same legal protections now afforded to other expatriate workers - including labor mobility as administered by the LMRA.

7.(SBU) In October, a Bahraini man was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing an Indonesian housemaid who worked in his home. He killed the woman in September 2008 after, he claimed, she insulted him and his mother. The man lost his appeal in November and the case is now final. In a separate case, a Bahraini man was convicted in April of murdering his Ethiopian housemaid when she resisted his sexual advances. He received a life sentence and his appeal continues. ERELI

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