Human Rights and Political Conflicts
Improving Bahrain’s human rights record is beneficial
to all citizens and is an advantage to all social, political and
human rights groups as well as civil society organisations. Such
developments should be welcomed whether they come about as a result
of the introduction of new legislations, the set up of the human
rights infrastructure that would qualify and build the capabilities
of human rights work-related institutions, such as the police force,
Judiciary and Public Prosecutor; or as a way of compensat?ng the
victims of violations and making those responsible accountable.
Such efforts should be appreciated and not politicised or used as
a tool for condemning and defaming others.
Appreciating these efforts to develop the human rights situation
reflects the maturity of the political and civil groups in the society.
It also contributes in creating a suitable environment for further
development and prevention of the reoccurrence of violations.
There are some who believe that by committing to its international
human rights obligations, admitting its mistakes, conducting reforms
and implementing recommendations, the Government is showing its
weakness. They believe that it is best to continue on the wrong
path and transform the country into a police state in order to show
the strength of the Government.
This is irrational as the Government should be the representative
of all groups in the society and should observe that one of its
main tasks is to protect the rights of its citizens and achieve
justice and prosperity. Failing to fulfil its paternal role will
only escalate the crisis and harm the society. (Consequently the
government would descend from its high status and become just a
mere party in the conflict, same as the rest of the opposition groups).
Others believe that the success of the Government ?n this field
would not benefit the opposition, especially as certain opposition
groups would like to see the Government make further mistakes so
that it would be forced to make concessions. This could account
for why most opposition groups refused to take part in implementing
both the recommendations of the Periodic Review and Bassiouni’s
report. (It also explains the lack of recognition and appreciation
of the government’s achievements in this regard.)
This way of thinking from both sides (Pro-government and opposition)
is harmful to human rights and Bahraini civil society.
For example, according to the statement issued by the OHCHR,
which sent a delegation to Bahrain last December, it will conduct
many training programs for building capabilities. Many of these
programs are directed at civil society organisations and political
opposition groups. But will the latter participate in this?
Before that, in September 2012, the Government accepted the Geneva
recommendations which require the participation of civil society
organisations. These organisations, especially those who attended
the Geneva meetings, can participate in the implementation of these
recommendations. In fact, this is their stated role in the Universal
Periodic Review which regards them as the Government’s fundamental
partner and gives them the right to participate in the preparation
of the report.
The Government’s acceptance of the Geneva recommendations and
the OHCHR programs represents a success for human rights organisations,
the Government, as well as the opposition which demands the development
of human rights.
If we look at the matter from a purely human rights point of
view, this is a positive result. But if the outlook is political
then we will witness an exchange of accusations such as what took
place in Geneva between conflicting parties of the Bahraini civil
society, which has reflected badly on the image of the Bahraini
civil society human rights delegations.
All groups claim that they support human rights and now the Government
is saying that it is willing to implement the recommendations and
has committed itself before the Human Rights Council. Therefore,
cooperation with all parties is needed away from political agendas.
Theoretically, no one is against the implementation of Bassiouni’s
or Geneva’s recommendations especially activists and organisations
which refer to themselves as supporters of human rights. Instead
of disagreements and accusations, there is an opportunity for cooperation
in order to accomplish these commitments, observe the Government
closely, draft responses and evaluate the achievements and shortcomings
away from political positions. If this does not take place, human
rights in Bahrain will be the biggest loser.
The Government should welcome and encourage the participation
of civil society organisations, allow them to play a real role and
be open to criticism. Seeing as international organisations allow
Bahraini civil society organisations to participate in meetings
in Geneva, express their opinions and listen to their comments and
reports, then the Bahraini Government should also be willing to
do the same.
The Government’s acceptance of these recommendations is a positive
step and was appreciated internationally by countries, the OHCHR,
as well as well known human rights organisations. Of course, there
are always those who doubt the Government’s intentions, ability
or will to implement its commitments. However, by making such commitments,
it seems that there is a serious will; however the implementation
remains the main issue. This is the responsibility of the concerned
State apparatus as well as civil socie?y organisations. A plan and
mechanism are needed as well as a committee for implementing the
recommendations. Moreover, the Government must play a pivotal role
in this in order to implement the recommendations seriously and
solve any issue as soon as it arises.