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

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.