How to Respond to International Questions & Criticism
Criticism is still being levelled against Bahrain by international
human rights bodies and by some states at the Human Rights Council
Several queries are directed to the Government about specific
human rights issues. Thus, many problems arise in this regard:
First: Organizations complain about
the lack or tardiness of responses.
Second: Responses may be insufficient
and do not properly or completely answer the specific questions
Third: It has become clear that there
is a problem regarding the persuasiveness of official replies to
the questions posed by international human rights bodies. Irrespective
of the strength of the official responses, international organisations
and institutions may still be inclined to doubt their credibility,
due to lack of trust.
In Some cases, the organizations say that official answers amount
to mere ‘justifications’ of Government behaviour rather than ‘addressing’
the specific human rights issues.
For this the reason, some may have wrongly understood that the
Government of Bahrain is either unwilling or evading to answer the
questions posed, which is untrue in most cases. Even in cases where
the government has strong arguments, they are not presented or submitted.
1/ In official responses a difference is noted between the official
position and that of international human rights organisations, in
terms of the legal reference and characterization. When a certain
case is viewed as relating to freedom of expression by the organisations,
the official position sees it as an issue of contempt and incitement.
What human rights activists regard as an exercise of the freedom
of assembly is officially characterized as chaos and lawlessness.
Rights Council (UNHRC)
Hence, we have two different cultures, drawing upon two sources
of legal references, a national reference and an international reference,
that follow different sets of standards.
The two references should have been aligned, at least through
Bahrain’s acceptance of the international law referentiality in
certain specific issues related to the agreements signed or accessed
to by Bahrain.
Confusion occurs when official responses are based on Bahraini
national laws, which do not, necessarily, take into account the
international laws, conventions and treaties ratified by Bahrain,
nor the relevant international standards.
2/ Official information, responses and data, generally address
a local populist audience. However, the official discourse addressing
international human rights organisations should have used the human
rights language, taking into account that it is addressing a different,
non - local mentality which has a distinct cultural and legal reference.
Accordingly, the official human rights discourse must be developed,
bearing in mind that it should differ from the domestic discourse.
The international political ?and human rights community should be
addressed in its own language and according to human rights standards.
3/ Use of generalities and digressions, is a characteristic of
Arab discourse in general. The international human rights community,
has very specific questions and inquires concerning very specific
issues, thus answers must be direct to the point and avoid generalities.
4/ Shortage of evidence and fact-based information: In many cases,
the authorities may have evidence which cannot be disclosed for
security reasons, special circumstances or for legal considerations
(e.g. in cases that are still pending adjudication) and hence insufficient
information is submitted by the authorities. However, mutual agreement
can be reached with these human rights organizations on the understanding
that the information provided by the authorities, first of all,
is not final and secondly, is not meant for publication, due to
legal reasons. Providing information and timely responses can help
to reduce the trust gap between the two sides. On the other hand,
providing incomplete information, or information that does not cover
the findings or show evidence, subjects the official responses to
criticism and distortion.
5/ Repeatedly making unfulfilled promises (e.g. we shall issue
an information law regulating the freedom of the press, we shall
consider allowing the Special Rapporteurs to visit Bahrain, we shall
issue a new law for civil societies).
Thus, we conclude that if the official human rights discourse
is to be convincing and professional, it has to be supported by
evidence proving that the actions, procedures and verdicts taken
in specific human rights cases, are in line with international laws
and the conventions ratified by Bahrain. It does not help to simply
invoke national laws alone, unless these laws are in conformity
with international standards and agreements. Therefore, official
authorities have to demonstrate, through their response? and discourse,
that they have not violated these international laws and standards.