|visit of HRW to Bahrain
The Relationship with International Human Rights Organizations
should not be Jeopardised
The visit of HRW to Bahrain in February and its report on 28th
which contained harsh criticisms of the human rights situation sparked
the question of how useful it is to continue the relationship with
international human rights organizations.
In comparison to other organisations such as Amnesty International,
HRW’s reports are the harshest. The relation with these organizations
has always been tense and the disagreements from the Government’s
point of view can be summarised as follows:
- When the Government allows human rights organizations to
visit Bahrain and meet officials, it does not see a positive
result that comes out of their cooperation.
- From the Government’s point of view there is no indication
of any appreciation for its clear efforts.
- According to the Government, international human rights
reports still depend on one-sided information (the opposition/local
human rights organizations); despite the fact that these organizations
are exposed to different point of views with regards to human
rights issues. Hence, officials, MPs and journalists are always
pessimistic about the benefit of such relations because in their
eyes the ultimate result of their reports will always be the
Some state: we should learn from our past mistakes and prohibit
rights organization from visiting Bahrain.
We in BHRM believe that the previous Government policy of boycotting
these organizations has badly affected Bahrain’s efforts to find
a solution to the crisis. Criticisms of the Government have actually
increased due to the fact that it withheld information and hence
forced these organisations to rely on limited sources. In addition
to this, ignoring these organisations has made the Government look
like a criminal trying to hide his crime and this has caused a great
deal of embarrassment for the Bahraini Government and its allies,
such as the UK.
Furthermore, it is not a good idea to boycott these organizations
because currently Bahrain is under the spotlight and experiencing
a lot of pressure from the international community. The key to easing
international pressure is by cooperating with these organizations
and providing them with the truth.
The call to sever relations with HRW for example because of its
criticism of the violations in Bahrain is, more or less, a call
to sever relations with the USA and the entire EU including the
UK, as well as the UN and its agencies such as the Human Rights
Council. The concern of all these bodies is similar to those of
the HRW especially regarding holding those who were involved in
the violations accountable and the detention of political activists.
The only difference is that HRW raised these issues in a direct,
sarcastic and personalised manner.
But why would international organizations never point out any
of what the Government view as positive reform steps? The answer
to this question is that these organizations are mainly concerned
with violations and the ways to eliminate them. They only ignore
Government efforts when they do not respond to their basic concerns
or when these organizations have a deep problem of trust with a
country. Trust is a vital factor and Bahrain should strive to gain
the trust of these organizations. Trust cannot be achieved through
the use of negative language and the accusation of having secret
agendas, or through the use of promises that cannot be fulfilled
on the ground. Some believe that Bahrain has been specifically targeted
more than any other country and ask why HRW does not criticise Israel
or America? In fact, there are many harsh statements and reports
criticising human rights in those countries. Most countries do not
like international human rights reports but deal with them differently.
And those who undermine these organisations tend to have more pressure
exerted on them.
The Bahraini Government has the right to respond to any mistakes
included in the reports of international human rights organisations.
But what is most important is the way in which this response is
presented. It should be backed up with convincing evidence and documents
which leaves no room for doubt.
The media also has the right to express its concerns regarding
the reports of these organisations but they should explain their
issues clearly and not rely on accusations and generalisations.
Human Rights reports and statements contain detailed and clear points
and anyone who wishes to respond to these points should do so logically
Bahrain has been on this path before and gained nothing out of
it and even if human rights reports are negative, calling for a
boycott of human rights organisations will only make the situation
worse. These organisations will continue to issue their reports
and their impact will remain the same, if not worse.
Allowing Human Rights Organisation frequent entries to Bahrain
will help them understand the situation better. In time, and with
more reforms, objectivity will be reflected more clearly in their
reports. However, it should be noted that positive changes can only
take place over time and after the achievement of real development
on the ground.
It is important to realise that human rights organisations are
the most important source of credible information on human rights
all over the world. They also have a great impact on the positions
of states and parliaments around the world and are able to exert
pressure and influence the international public opinion through
their contacts. It is therefore wise to cooperate with them and
avoid international isolation which could lead to the adoption of
International measures that could include more pressure?and defamation.