Following the BICI Report: Need to Restructure NIHR
Before discussing the future role of the National Institution
of Human Rights (NIHR), we should draw the attention to the following
First, NIHR is currently unable to
perform its role or achieve the objectives outlined by the Royal
Decree issued on 10 November 2009. The nature of NIHR’s establishment,
the background of its members and the challenges surrounding its
establishment, made it very difficult for NIHR to develop as an
effective organization, especially with the resignation of a number
of its members.
Second, due to administrative and leadership
incompetence and lack of motivation (factors which are mostly beyond
the control of NIHR), its performance was below the expectations
of the Bahraini Government and the public, as well as human rights
The question is what can Bahrain do to embark upon a genuine
national institution established in accordance with the Paris Principles
and also removed from the pressure of both the Executive Authority
and the divided Bahraini street?
The answer in brief to this is the re-structuring of NIHR, which
means making radical changes to its administration, staff members,
responsibilities and mandate. This can only be achieved by reviewing
1/ The independence of NIHR
If Bahrain really intends to build an effective and credible
national human rights institution, it should strive to change perceptions
of NIHR. No national institution can serve Bahrain if it is perceived
as following Government instructions and if its members feel powerless
and unable to take any real initiatives to deal with issues, especially
in times of crisis.
Despite being established by the Government, NIHR is not an apparatus
of the Government and only its complete independence can ensure
that it remains so in the eyes of the public and human rights experts.
The more independent NIHR is, the more reliable it will become in
developing human rights and Bahraini human resources in this field.
Those who wish to see NIHR as part of the Executive Authority are
in fact wishing for its failure; such an institution should not
exist in the first place because it is useless to the Government,
society and human rights cause in Bahrain.
A strong and credible national institution is what Bahrain really
needs in its political and human rights development, and an effective
institution is one that is free from Government restrictions and
the influence of political parties.
2/Administrative and executive re-structuring in accordance
with the Paris Principles
A close reading of the Council of Ministers statement of 22 November
2011 suggests that the Government intends to re-structure NIHR.
By presenting a bill to Parliament regarding NIHR, the Council of
Ministers aims to grant NIHR legal, financial and administrative
independence, which would guarantee its freedom, impartiality and
independence in accordance with the Paris Principles. Moreover,
NIHR will be given more power such as the right to be provided with
any information or documents it requires, and the Government is
obliged to cooperate with it. When Bahrain adheres to these standards
and principles, it will then be ready for a credible human rights
institution that benefits its present and future.
How can the Paris Principles be applied effectively to our current
human right situation and to NIHR?
2/ To guarantee the independence of NIHR, there are two aspects
that must be considered:
Executive independence is crucial so
that NIHR can independently administer its own affairs far from
the interference of any authority, government, individuals or institutions.
A national institution will not be completely independent if there
is no law that compels Government bodies to cooperate with it .
This should be included in the establishing law of NIHR.
Administrative independence, especially
regarding the procedures for appointing members. Problems of NIHR
include the lack of coherence among its members, lack of competency
and weakness in its leadership and other administrative aspects.
The future NIHR should not only comply with the Paris Principles,
but its members should also be given immunity with regards to their
Appointing NIHR’s new members is a crucial matter for its future
success, and several issues should be taken into consideration such
as competency, professionalism and qualifications. New members should
represent a broad range of civil society organizations including
unions, human rights organizations, organizations concerned with
women and children, academics and journalists.
It is worth mentioning that a number of members of NIHR come
from the public sector and have not left their first jobs. Generally
the Paris Principles prefer the inclusion of MPs and government
officials within the framework of the NIHR, but only in the capacity
of Monitors and Advisors.
3/ Accountability and executing assigned missions
NIHR can play an important role in spreading human rights education,
promoting the respect of human rights, especially in the executive
apparatus, and monitoring adherence to legal and human rights rules,
as well as defending and protecting human rights in Bahrain from
It is possible to assess the success of NIHR through its achievements
in this regard. When NIHR is finally independent and not subject
to any official party except its direct responsibility before the
King (as the case is now) and perhaps the Parliament in the future,
accountability for its work should then be extended to the public.
NIHR should prove to the public through its achievements that it
is competent, credible and transparent. It can do so by revising
its activities periodically and ensuring that they are in line with
its objectives. It should also issue reports and publish them in
the media so that the public can participate in assessing its activities,
achievements and transparency.