Towards A National Human Rights Action Plan in Bahrain
We believe that the time has come to introduce a comprehensive
national human rights plan, especially as the National Institution
for Human Rights (NIHR) has already been established, and could
participate and carry most reform burdens. The objective of this
plan is to create an ethical and practical framework, as well as
being a guide for civil society and decision-makers. It can also
act as an open book for citizens, through which they will be aware
of their rights and obligations.
The push to formulate such a plan is due to the initial existence
of a political will and the fact that Bahrain in the past ten years
of political and human rights reform has achieved much in various
government organs. Therefore, there is at present a solid foundation
which can be built upon as soon as scattered legislations related
to the judicial system, politics, labour, women, child, civil society
as well as the development in public freedoms and the democratic
process itself are brought together as a complete and connected
single plan. This will provide a clear and general picture of Bahrain
today and will easily shape the future image of the country as well
as facilitating the fulfilment of the basic needs of Bahrain society.
It is well known that the 1993 Vienna Declaration announced by the
World Conference on Human Rights demanded that all countries prepare
a national plan of action for human rights. Many countries responded
well to this declaration as they found it to be beneficial for them,
as well as being useful in assessing the adherence of countries
to human rights through specific measures in different fields. Adherence
to human rights cannot be measured by a government’s verbal glorification,
rather by implementing them on the ground and in accordance to specific
measures which are agreed upon internationally. Because the issue
of human rights has become an integral part of national polices
and is at the heart of international relations, it is necessary
for them to remain a constant and stable element in state polices
and their economic and development programmes. Human rights have
become an important aspect of political, economic, social, and cultural
The proposed plan should:
- Stress the adoption of legislative, institutional and judicial
measures to guarantee the expansion of public freedoms and promote
democratic rule. It should also include a clear emphasis on
the necessity of amending any law which does not agree with
the minimum international standards.
- Protect achievements in the field of freedom of expression,
in addition to expanding them.
- Empower civil society and building its capabilities, as
well as making it active in the democratic process.
- The Executive Authority should be open and transparent so
that citizens can understand its policies and programmes, and
it should make sufficient information available to them. The
aim is to allow citizens to assess its performance and hold
it accountable through the mechanisms of Parliament and the
- Promote Parliament’s role in supervision and legislating.
- Take necessary measures to guarantee the independence and
the integrity of the Judicial Authority.
- The Government should train all civil servants, including
the police and security forces on human rights and the importance
of adhering to its principles. Also, to introduce strict measures
in order to hold the police accountable when they violate human
- Take strict measures in combating corruption and educate
society and civil servants in the dangers of corruption on the
- Introduce preventative measures to prevent human rights
violations from taking place, especially in detention centres
and prisons, by informing detainees of their rights, avoiding
detention and solitary confinement and allowing them contact
with the outside world through lawyers, family visits and doctors.
Also, to introduce a humane basis for the questioning process,
such as refraining from mental or physical pressure and threatening
detainees. In addition, to guarantee detainees the right to
object the legitimacy of their detention, and allow them to
stand before a judge so they can be tried within a plausible
period of time. Otherwise, they should be released. Furthermore,
measures should also include the existence of an independent
system to inspect detention centres regularly and without previous
notice. There should also be a clear mechanism to investigate
torture allegations, guaranteeing a quick and integral investigation
whenever there are plausible reasons, and providing all the
necessary information and facilitation to guarantee a proper
- If torture is proven, disciplinary measures should be taken
against those responsible, they should be put on trial and the
victims should be compensated by the Government.
- These are some elements of the plan, some of which already
exist, which make us hope that the plan will be put forward
as soon as possible.