Correcting Human Rights Wrongs

During political crisis many human rights violations occur and we as human rights activists are primarily concerned with these abuses. On the other hand, political mistakes represent debatable theoretical approaches whereas violating human rights is condemned by human rights institutions and Bahraini national laws.

Clear violations have taken place by both sides during recent events in Bahrain namely; the opposition and the authorities. What is important now is to admit this fact and take the necessary steps to correct the situation. However, revising and correcting past mistakes will be a difficult task if the situation on the ground continues to be tense. It is in the interest of Bahrain for every party to assess its position and learn from past mistakes instead of concentrating on highlighting their opponent’s faults. The Government has admitted that regrettable violations took place on many occasions, including the deaths of a number of citizens in custody, which resulted in the referral of some employees from the Ministry of Interior to the Military Court for investigation.

Recent human rights violations include: The unfair dismissal of workers for their participation in the political protests and their absence from work. The number of dismissed workers has reached nearly two thousands. The Bahrain Workers’ Union and the International Labour Organization condemned this as an unjustified and arbitrary action which contradicts national laws and Bahrain’s international commitments. The Minister of Labour admitted that mistakes took place due to the rush in dismissing hundreds of workers in the private sector, and demanded their immediate re-instatement.

The cessation of many overseas scholarships was a wrong decision, which has negatively affected Bahrain’s reputation and was condemned by many human rights organizations. Even if the students had really violated the terms of the scholarship by participating in demonstrations, it is still difficult to justify the decision from a human rights perspective. The Minister of Education requested the restoration of some scholarships and we hope this takes place immediately and applies to all.

The destruction of religious institutions. Even if these buildings were erected without permission, the timing and manner of demolishing them was unacceptable. Moreover, this was seen by the international community as targeting religious freedoms and places of worship, whilst Bahrain has always been well known for its religious tolerance.

There are other violations regarding detention, ill-treatment and media discourse. Human rights defenders are hoping that these violations will be addressed and that the Government will take necessary measures to prevent their recurrence.

On 18 June 2011 and in a commendable step, the Ministry of Social Development admitted that it is taking allegations of human rights violations very seriously, and added that necessary measures were being taken to investigate them.

With regards to the Bahraini opposition, some of its members also committed some violations including:

  • Running over security men, taking some of them hostage and attacking foreign workers, which resulted in some deaths.
  • Inciting hatred and justifying violence by some preachers.
  • Fabricating stories of human rights violations.
  • Assaulting public and private properties including a number of schools and universities, blocking roads and hindering the work of the Sulaimaniya Hospital.

We hope that we can start a new phase of respecting human rights, whilst learning from past mistakes, putting into place new mechanisms, and implementing related legislations in order to prevent the recurrence of similar violations.