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

Political Polarization Hinders Human Rights

The politicization of human rights has been an ongoing problem in Bahrain since the establishment of the political societies in 2005. We have discussed the reasons behind this problem in previous editions, which were attributed to the involvement of some human rights activists in politics. Also, human rights organizations in Bahrain are inexperienced and underestimate the danger of mixing politics with human rights. We also pointed out that the tense political climate encourages political societies to use human rights as a political tool. The sharp political polarization affects the professionalism, impartiality and credibility of these organizations.

The recent political events in Bahrain have deepened the problems of local human rights organizations to the extent that they hindered their activities. The sharp polarization has pushed human rights activists to openly get involved in politics, and exerted their efforts in the political conflict instead of concentrating on human rights to the extent that some organizations have totally disappeared from the scene.

Polarization has hindered the activities of human rights organizations. As the street conflict escalated, polarization was unbearable and it prevented people from thinking in a rational manner. The sharp polarization has politicized human rights both inside and outside the country. The statements of human rights organizations, which aim to guide the Government and society, were used as a tool against the Government in order to achieve political goals.

In the midst of the tense political atmosphere, the reports and statements of human rights organizations were seen as inseparable from politics and from those who were using them for their own political purposes. In other words, the reports were used as political tools instead of serving the human rights cause. Any criticism directed at the Government’s behaviour was used as a tool by the opposition. Consequently, human rights organizations became entangled in the crisis. On the other hand, any criticism directed at the opposition results in human rights organizations being accused with cooperating with the regime and covering its violations, or even accusing them of being government agents.

Getting involved in human rights activities outside the political context in Bahrain is a difficult task. Objectivity, impartiality and professionalism of human rights organizations are always under scrutiny because in practice no party was willing to accept the independence of such organizations . Thus, in such tense circumstances, civil society organizations opted to remain inactive. That is why we only hear the voices of only a few societies at a time hundreds operate in Bahrain. We believe that most Bahraini civil society organizations were wrong in remaining silent because there is a greater need for their activities in times of crisis.

The other option for these organizations was to continue to work regardless of the situation, accusations and criticisms and regardless of whether anyone takes advantage of their work. The international human rights instruments have provided different methodologies on how to deal with such circumstances by using specific measures, mechanisms and procedures.