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04MANAMA845 2004-06-05 15:32:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Manama
Cable title:  

LETTER FROM AMBASSADOR TO JUSTICE O'CONNOR

Tags:   PREL BA MEPI 
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1. Following is the text of a letter the Ambassador sent
directly to Justice O'Connor.

Begin text:

June 5, 2004

Dear Justice O,Connor:

As I prepare to leave Manama to serve as Counselor for
Political-Military Affairs in Baghdad, I wanted to update you
on judicial reform in Bahrain. You once told me that you did
not want the Arab Judicial Forum (AJF) to be another
&one-off event.8 I can say with pleasure that judicial
reform in Bahrain has hit the ground running.

Thanks to the AJF,s ability to identify judicial reform
needs, MEPI approved funding for ABA,s judicial reform
program. ABA,s resident legal expert John Hermina has been
in Bahrain since January 2004. John works directly with
Justice Minister Al Arrayed and together they have begun
major changes at the Justice Ministry.

In January, John Hermina accompanied a group of Bahraini
prosecutors to France and the United States for training.
Shortly after his return, the Ministry of Justice contracted
the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) to train
judges in commercial law. The Justice Minister was telling
me the other day that 17 judges attended the latest seminar
on Islamic Banking and Money Laundering. Sessions have been
fully attended, vibrant and interactive. John is now working
with BIBF to develop a full continuing education curriculum.

To increase transparency, the Ministry of Justice placed last
February its very first public announcement for the
recruitment of 20 new judges. Our contacts in the legal
community told us that this bold move is confirmation that
the Minister is serious about reform and more positive
changes are coming.

In an unprecedented move, the Justice Minister sacked in
March six Shari,a Court judges who were known for accepting
bribes and coercing sex from female litigants. I recall
Minister Al Arrayed telling me that reforming Shari,a courts
was off limits. Women activists have publicly lauded this
move.

In April Minister Al Arrayed and John Hermina started to
tackle alternative dispute resolution by establishing an
Office of Mediation. Based on criteria established by the
Ministry, the Court Clerk now is able to give a case a
mediation date in lieu of a court date. In May the Justice
Ministry completed a survey to assess the current conditions
of its IT systems so it can install new software for a case
management system.

Minister Al Arrayed assures me that he will sustain the
momentum. In fact he and John Hermina traveled to Cairo last
week to tour Egypt,s Judicial Institute. The Minister was
able to observe first-hand Egypt,s judicial training program
for new judges and spent time interviewing new judges.

All these recent changes were only possible due to your
willingness to get involved with judicial reform in the
Middle East and the Arab Judicial Forum. Your efforts were
well spent.

Sincerely,

/s/

Ronald E. Neumann
Ambassador
NEUMANN