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

How should we understand the causes of
concern for human rights organizations?

The relations between Bahrain and human rights organizations can be described as very tense especially during these recent months. This is due to the restrictions and new procedures that the Bahraini authority has imposed on the visits of representatives of these organizations to Bahrain. The Bahraini Government believes that the statements and reports of these organizations show bias and an unjustified level of hostility towards it. And although it is true that the Government was strongly criticised by bo?h official institutions and international organizations, the King’s decision to establish Bassiouni’s fact finding committee, accept its findings and commit to implementing its recommendations was also appreciated by many international parties and contributed to improving Bahrain’s image. However, these steps once again drew attention towards the level of the Government’s commitment to implementing all of Bassiouni’s recommendations.

The descending of a great number of human rights organizations on Bahrain after Bassiouni’s report and their increased criticisms shocked the Bahraini authorities and drove them to resort to special procedures in order to stop what they saw as breaches by these organizations. Human rights organizations were also surprised as they expected that they would be more than welcome especially after Bahrain’s adoption of Bassiouni’s recommendations. But in fact the Bahraini authorities became more suspicious of ?isitors and monitors and these organizations found themselves forced to get information from other sources which may have some political motives.

It should be noted that human rights play a major part in international politics today. The role and impact of international organizations on public opinion, decision makers, parliaments and the UN has become greater.

Organizations such as Amnesty and HRW enjoy a great deal of credibility in the international arena due to their high professional level, to the extent that their reports have become an important reference for western Governments and parliaments and a crucial guide on how to deal with human rights issues all over the world. An example of such importance is that both the British Foreign Office and the House of Commons often quote and use excerpts from these organization’s publications in their annual and periodic reports. The important status enjoyed by the international human rights organisations has led almost all countries to follow the path of cooperation with them and to provide them with information that would help in forming a more complete picture of any situation. Human rights organisations’ criticism of the human rights situation in Bahrain reflects a concern towards specific issue?. These issues require effort and should become a priority in government policy. This can be achieved by cooperating with international organisations including the OHCHR and not confronting or ignoring them.

The real reason behind the concerns of international bodies is the lack of any information on a tangible Bahraini effort towards tackling the raised issues. The international reports have also been dealt with carelessly by the Bahraini Government and not appreciated. This attitude can be attributed to the fact that the Bahraini Government feels that these reports seem to be unjustifiably hostile towards it. This led the Government to place restrictions on its cooperation with international human rights or?anisations including the imposition of restrictions on delegation visits to Bahrain.

The following are the cases which represent a major concern to international bodies which necessitate that the Government clarify its position by issuing a detailed statement supported by legal evidence in line with international standards:

The trials regarding 21 detainees accused of conspiring to overthrow the regime who in the eyes of international organisations are prisoners of conscience due to the lack of criminalising evidence.

The case regarding the medical professionals which continues despite the fact that half of them have been found to be innocent recently.

The issue regarding holding those accused of torture and the ill treatment of detainees accountable and bringing them to justice. Also the nature of the legal, institutional and administrative procedures in place to prevent impunity. It is also important to note that there is a general impression that violations are still occurring during confrontations with protesters. The Public Prosecutor accused 15 security men of torture related charges and there are ongoing cases of the same sort.

The restrictions that some human rights activists are facing. International human right organisations believe that they have been targeted and that the Government has hitherto failed to present any criminal evidence to convict them.

The issue relating to compensating the victims of the recent events. The Government of Bahrain on 26 June 2012, stated that it would compensate the families of 17 individuals who were killed during the unrest of last year with 2.6 million dollars.

The lack of government policies that incorporate all Bahraini diverse social segments in government institutions.

The delay in the reconstruction of religious sites which were demolished last year.

The lack of progress in the issue of national reconciliation.

The independence, impartiality and balance of the official media and guaranteeing that it accommodates all sides.

These are the main issues which concern international human rights organisations and will remain the focal points of tension until they are resolved. Efforts should not be wasted on trivial matters and should be directed towards finding an internal settlement to the most pressing issues within the framework of international human rights standards.