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Oil company whistleblower dismissed for denouncing corruption, communicating with media, says BCHR

(BCHR/IFEX) - BCHR is alarmed to learn that Abbas Al-Omran, a unionist and labour rights defender, was dismissed by his employer, the Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco), which is engaged in the oil industry and under the control of the local oil and gas authorities. The BCHR believes that the dismissal is linked to Al-Omran's communications with the local media, blowing the whistle on corruption in the company.

Al-Omran, a design engineer by profession, waged a media campaign, using the local press and local popular electronic forums, to expose corruption in Bapco. He further circulated press releases, news and other relevant documents to his fellow employees. In September 2008, Al-Omran was officially banned from using the company's e-mail to communicate with his superiors or colleagues. Use of external e-mail providers is barred and controlled by the Bapco authorities.

Prior to his dismissal, Al-Omran received official threats ordering him to stop communicating with the media. He did not comply with the order. As a result of his efforts to combat corruption inside Bapco, Al-Omran has faced various forms of harassment, having been denied equal opportunities and financial allowances, in contrast to his colleagues at the company.

"It is a strange attitude by Bapco Management, previously known for its openness and support for union work," BCHR President Nabeel Rajab said. "Mr Al-Omran is a well known human and labour rights activist, and treating him in this manner is not acceptable," he further elaborated.

This is not the first time that unionists and labour rights activists have been banned from accessing a means of communication. Jamal Ateeq and Najeya Abdulghaffar of the Bahrain Postal Union board of directors, as well as other members of the union, were suspended from their positions, harassed and threatened for using media and speaking to the public about their rights and violations committed by their employer.

"Preventing Mr. Al-Omran from expressing himself violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and confirms that the authorities are systematically targeting all forms of expression in Bahrain," Rajab stated. "We deplore Bapco's decision to expel Mr Al-Omran in reprisal for expressing his views and demand that the decision be reconsidered, resulting in his reappointment. We call for an end to the silencing of activists."

The BCHR expressed concerns about the actions of the oil and gas authorities, apparently aimed at silencing and intimidating unionists and rights activists who communicate with the public using media and electronic means.

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