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

A Joint Solution to Both the
Political and Human Rights Files

Any observer to the Bahraini scene would not fail to notice how its political and human rights files are so intertwined, not only in the minds of the local political stakeholders, but also as perceived by the international political circles and human rights organizations. The conclusion is that the two files are inextricably linked and reflect each other.

Under political stability and with the existence of a political process and ongoing reforms, it is important to emphasise the dire need for a complete separation between political and human rights issues particularly in relation to the activities of the local civil society organisations, on the one hand,and the political societies on the other. Without such distinction neither the work of human rights organisations nor that of the political societies would develop, as each has its own separate tools, targets, discourse and professionals. Those who want to take part in political activities they can do so through the relevant societies, while existing laws allow those who want to pursue human rights work to either join already existing institutions or apply for the establishment of new human rights organisations. We have been stressing this point well before our country has been rocked by its latest political crisis. This same view is also shared by almost all international human rights organizations.

The events that have taken place in Bahrain three years ago have blurred the dividing line between political and human rights issues in the eyes of both the local and international observers. The human rights issues have become part and parcel of the political ones and vice versa. Today we cannot isolate the activities and declared positions of the human rights organisations, including the High Commission for Human Rights, from the policies adopted by governments within the international community towards Bahrain in general and not just towards its human rights file in particular.

That is why we notice that the political demands and those associated with human rights are intertwined. This was clearly illustrated by the fact that the political issues have featured substantially in both Bassiouni’s report and the recommendations issued by the human rights council in June 2012, within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review. Furthermore, Bahraini officials tend to update the international human rights circles on the latest developments in the political arena because they are aware of how these developments affect the human rights situation. For example, a statement issued by the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the meeting that took place between the Minister and Navi Pillay in January 2014, indicated that the Minister updated the High Commissioner on the latest political and human rights developments including the Crown Prince’s meeting with the parties participating in National Consensus Dialogue, and that he reviewed the new phase of the dialogue affirming that it would be characterized by credibility and conducted with a responsibility that puts the national interests above all other considerations.

On the other hand, political discussions between Bahrain and other states are not just confined to the political crisis, but they also touch on the human rights issues, and this is always reflected in the statements these States usually issue after meeting with Bahraini officials.

It is also noticeable that human rights have become a major issue in the political scene and as such they have their considerable impact on Bahrain itself:

Bahrain’s political relations within the international community have suffered because of the human rights issues, so has its reputation and its media image.

We have noticed that many countries coordinate their human rights policies and conduct them in a way as if they are political in nature. An example of that is the coordination between the US and the EU where certain countries adopt and others endorse initiatives and criticism aimed at Bahrain.

There is a prevalent conviction among many countries and international human rights institutions that the problem in Bahrain is political in essence, and that the human rights violations were a consequence of the conflict and the political instability. That explains the reference to a political solution in most of the reports and statements issued by international circles.

To stress how pivotal the political issue is, Western countries tend to meet with international human rights organisations to coordinate and trade information and to determine how to deal with the Bahraini file.

So we conclude that the entanglement between the political and human rights files means that no solution to the political crisis can be reached, through the process of national dialogue, without confronting the most sensitive aspects of the human rights file. We believe that any progress in the national dialogue would benefit the human rights front, and that any setback in the process would have its negative impact on the human rights situation and on the international’s community’s responses. The world is watching Bahrain’s human rights situation with political eyes, willing for the dialogue to succeed and the basic problem to be solved.