Bahrain Monitor - A Monthly Newsletter on the Human Rights Situation in Bahrain

Problematic Relations with International Organizations

Hasan Moosa Shafaei

Hasan Moosa Shafaei

There is a common feeling among human rights organizations and some western countries that they are being ignored by the Bahraini Government. This has had negative political effects on their mutual relations and has distorted the image of the Bahraini Government in the media. The activities of these organizations and their continued condemnation have also increased political pressure on Bahrain and its allies.

The Government has always stated that its policy of improving its relations with international organizations has been to no avail. It also added that it had facilitated visits of human rights activists to Bahrain and furnished them with all the information needed. Yet, the Government received no positive response and the positive steps it took for dealing with the aftermath of the recent events were not appreciated. Also – according to the Government- these organizations do not include the Government’s pint of view in their reports and intentionally continued to criticise the government despite the cooperation it had shown.

In other words, the Bahraini Government believes that all its efforts to improve its relations with international human rights organizations are wasted, pointless and should be reconsidered.

Hence, the Government has resorted to a new strategy in dealing with human rights organizations which includes placing new procedures regarding their travel arrangements, ignoring their inquiries and delaying their applications for visits. The reasons for this could be the following:

The monitoring of violations, issuing of statements and criticizing the Government have not only continued but have actually increased.

The Government feels that the coverage of the events in Bahrain by these organizations is exaggerated and imbalanced. The lack of cooperation between both sides has led these organizations to depend on the opposition’s sources for information. This attitude has resulted in increasing political pressure on Bahrain and its allies who cannot ignore the political and media influence of these organizations.

The continued tension between both sides as well as the prevention of international organisations from accessing information will not serve the Government or provide a balanced picture of the situation. Therefore, revising this policy is very essential.

There are two aspects to the relationship between international human rights organizations and the Bahraini Government which should be noted:

Behaviour

This relates to the attitude of both sides. For if a positive and constructive attitude is maintained, mutual trust will grow and tension will decrease.

From the point of view of international organizations, there is a lack of trust in the Government for the following reasons:

1/ The Government of Bahrain made many promises and commitments with regard to its future policies and programs, but its implementation is limited,
slow and lacks transparency. Human rights organizations say that after many experiences with the Bahraini Government, it cannot trust the seriousness of its promises. Thus, focus should be directed towards what has been achieved on the ground and not to the issues which could be achieved in the future. Also, it is important that the Government does not make promises that it is unable to keep.

2/ International Human Rights Organizations complain that some officials have denied certain issues such as ill treatment, the number of detainees, the excessive use of force and the slow pace of the implementation of Bassiouni’s recommendations. This left an impression among international bodies that denial has become an official policy; even though the Government has recently admitted the occurrence of human rights violations in many cases and has taken procedures to prevent them.

3/ Human rights organizations complain that their letters of inquiry have been purposely ignored, delayed or not taken seriously. This is seen by them as a form of disrespect for their work, staff and institutions.

4/ International organizations also state that the Government accuses them of exaggeration, but in reality, it is the Government who exaggerates its achievements and paints a rosy picture of human rights in Bahrain.

Breaches

In any country, including the West, the continuation of human rights violations causes a considerable amount of tension in relations with international organizations. The situation only eases after a notable improvement in the performance of the related government and its efforts to prevent further breaches. On one hand, the Government claims that international human rights organizations only see the negatives. But on the other hand, international organisations state that while they appreciate the human rights achievements, they are more interested in decreasing the number of violations by exe?ting more pressure in order to improve the situation.

International human rights organizations complain that:

1/ The Government of Bahrain did not allow both local public opinion and human rights organisations to participate in the steps that have taken place. According to these organizations the Government did not ask for their opinion with regards to its human rights policies and the development of legislations. Moreover, the Government does not follow their recommendations, allow their participation in Government workshops or allow them to develop the Bahraini civil society.

2/ The pace of the development is very slow especially regarding the implementation of Bassiouni’s recommendations. This has been admitted by the Government and was noticed by official western delegations who visited Bahrain recently.

3/ These organizations believe that the Government has its own understanding of some human rights issues which contradict international standards.

Such complaints required that Bahrain engage in a real and transparent dialogue with the representatives of international human rights organizations to discuss controversial and fundamental issues in order to restore trust between the two parties, serve human rights in Bahrain, promote credibility and improve Bahrain’s image obroad.