Areas of UK-Bahrain Cooperation
in the Human Rights Dossier

The historical relationship between Bahrain and the United Kingdom is not the only reason why the government of Bahrain sought technical support from its historical ally, in modernizing its human rights institutions and related aspects.

Undoubtedly, the historical relationship does play a role in promoting trust.

But the historical relationship has also resulted in a better British understanding of the reality of the Gulf region and its people, culture and how to conduct reforms in that region.

These days, Gulf nations view the United States as a reckless friend who has no grasp of history or culture, but rather seeks to impose its views in a manner that leads to chaos rather than reform and modernization.

The Minister Humaidan with the British Minister for Civil Society

That is precisely the reason why the government of Bahrain has accepted British aid as well as assistance from some European countries; but refrained from accepting such assistance from the United States, fearing that the latter’s approach could lead to catastrophic consequences.

No wonder, then, that since the events of February 2011, the United Kingdom has had a special role and presence in Bahrain’s human rights developments, especially after the release of Bassiouni’s report, and the Bahraini government’s pledge to implement its recommendations which require many years of reforming existing institutions and creating new ones.

During his visit to the United Kingdom last October, His Majesty the King of Bahrain and the Prime Minister, Theresa May, have discussed the subject of reforms in Bahrain, as well as other topics. His Majesty the King, HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, as well as Downing Street’s spokesman and the UK Foreign Office, all stressed on the 200-year historical relations binding the two countries with emphasis on the mutual trust that exists between the two countries, as well as the appreciation of the British reform’s methodology which enhances and consolidates the power of the state, while safeguarding the rights of its citizens.

Hence, the United Kingdom has engaged in expanded projects in cooperation with the Government of Bahrain, to bring about fundamental changes in the policing system and assist in the establishment of a number of human rights protection institutions, such as the Office of the Ombudsman, the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission (PDRC), the National Institution of Human Rights (NIHR) and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

According to the British Foreign Office, which oversees, coordinates and finances technical support to Bahrain, the ultimate goal is to “support Bahrain’s revival as a stable and reformative state with good Human Rights record” and that the ultimate objective of the British programs is “strengthening the rule of law, social reconciliation and good governance”. As for the planned programs in collaboration with the Government of Bahrain, they include:

Capacity-building support to the Ombudsman’s Office through Northern Ireland Cooperation Overseas (NI-CO) to increase accountability;

UK-based training to the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission through Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP);

Supporting local NGOs and youth societies to promote freedom of expression through the Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution;

Reforming the youth justice system through Northern Ireland Cooperation Overseas (NI-CO).

Supporting justice reform through improvements in the court administration system through National School of Government International (NSGI).

Improving the effectiveness of the Reform and Rehabilitation system in Bahrain through Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO).

Improving NGO governance structures and increasing civil society engagement in policy making and legislation-drafting through the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

Extensive Visits & Cooperation

It was noticeable, recently, that mutual visits between the two countries have become more frequent in the pursuit of extending technical cooperation between the two countries and broadening the scope of reforms to include other fields.

Bahraini Attorney General with his British counterpart Ms. Saunders

On the tenth of last October, Labour and Social Development Minister, Mr. Jameel Humaidan, met a British delegation consisting of three experts in the field of organization and assessment of the work of civil society organizations and NGOs, in cooperation with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, to get acquainted with the British experience in charitable voluntary work, NGOs and social welfare.

A week later, on October 18th precisely, the Minister of Labour Mr. Humaidan, visited UK at the head of a delegation of representatives of non-profit organizations, and members of the volunteer work Development Centre (under establishment). The visit, in accordance with the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the two countries in November 2012, was aimed at viewing and benefiting from the British experience in NGO and voluntary work, as well as exploring areas of technical and supervisory support for civil society organizations, strengthening cooperation in the care, rehabilitation and reintegration of delinquent children into the society, getting acquainted with the laws and regulations adopted in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, and the programs for children protection from violence and abuse and care for children exposed to crimes of misuse of the internet and social networking.

For his part, the Minister, Humaidan, stressed the importance of cooperation in the development of regulations and legislation related to social protection. Cooperation has also been agreed with the British National Crime Agency (NCA) to promote ways for Bahrain to take advantage of the advanced programs developed by the NCA for protecting children from exposure to exploitation, abuse, crime and delinquency.

The Bahraini minister and his accompanying delegation visited the British Charity Commission and met with both its director and its international program director. They were briefed on the Charity Commission’s vision, responsibilities and work mechanisms, and its role in the oversight of NGO activity. They were also briefed on the laws regulating the work of NGOs, the commission’s oversight of the movement of their funds to ensure they contribute effectively to achieving national and development goals and ?social partnership, as well as the inspection procedures and analysis of financial reports.

The Minister, Humaidan, said that his Ministry has been cooperating with the British Charity Commission for years, as it is a prestigious organisation “with an accumulated experience in providing technical and consultation services, training NGOs’ staff, as well as risk management and analysis of financial statements. It also provides all kinds of support to protect NGOs from everything that may undermine the security and safety of society”

Before their return, the Minister Humaidan and his accompanying delegation met the British Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, who outlined the British experience in the development and support of civil society, NGOs as well as charitable and social organizations. Mr. Wilson also explained the Ministry’s strategy to build an effective participatory relationship between the government and civil society. The British Minister also discussed the programs for developing and building the capacities and personal characteristics of young volunteers, aiming at allowing them to gain life experiences and technical skills as well as enabling them to use such skills in the development of their communities. The visit also explored programs and initiatives aimed at developing and encouraging voluntary work.

During last October, also, and as part of the major UK-Bahrain cooperation project, the Attorney General, Dr. Ali Bin Fadhul Al Buainain, and Ms. Alison Saunders, the British Director of Public Prosecutions, signed a memorandum of understanding regulating aspects of cooperation in the exchange of judicial assistance, expertise and capacity development.

Dr. Al Buainain affirmed the activation of the provisions set forth in the international conventions and treaties to which Bahrain has accessed, including all aspects of judicial cooperation, in combatting crimes, terrorism, corruption and human trafficking, in addition to the exchange of information required by criminal proceedings and execution of judicial assistance requests while taking into account the international human rights principles set forth in national legislation. Other aspects of cooperation include the exchange of expertise, research and studies, and consultation on important and pressing issues in both public prosecutions.”

For her part, Alison Saunders, UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said that “independent prosecutors acting fairly in the interest of justice are essential to an effective system of justice, in which the public have confidence. I am pleased to offer the Crown Prosecution Services Support to the Attorney General of Bahrain in his continuing drive to strengthen criminal justice in Bahrain”.