Reactions to Human Rights Watch Report on Bahrain

It is difficult to give a complete account of the many reactions to the report issued by HRW. However, in order to portray a general picture with regards to the local repercussions of the report, and highlight the extent of free dialogue and the nature of the human rights political movement in Bahrain, we have chosen a selection of views, which reflect the different spectrum in Bahrain. We also believe that all current debates are positive and beneficial for the political and human rights situation in the country in the long run.

Interior Minister Requests that Allegations be Investigated

The Government is eager more than anyone else to achieve justice for this country and its people and also rejects the use of torture in principle. Systematic torture does not take place in Bahrain and any action which involves mistreating any citizen or resident will not be ignored. The Government is also keen that all procedures are made clear, sound and complete. The Ministry of Interior dealt with HRW with transparency and met its representatives, which is and indicative of a genuine desire to cooperate. However, the Organization rushed to publish its report which had been prepared before these interviews. Hence, we were not given the opportunity to respond to the cases mentioned in the report rendering it incomplete in terms of procedure as it did not include our responses to the allegations. Despite this, I have requested that all procedures be revised and that the allegations in the report be verified. Ultimately, there are no confrontations or disagreements between HRW and Bahrain. We agree with the Organization if the objective is to improve the human rights situation.

Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Interior Minister. 15 February 2010

Foreign Ministry Promises to Deal with Violations Seriously

The Government was transparent and fully cooperative with HRW in the preparation of its report, allowing them access to official records and organizing meetings with Government and Public Prosecutor officials. However, the report was issued before the Kingdom of Bahrain was able to provide the necessary information and included some issues that require extra attention. As a result of this, the Government will look into the report’s allegations and conclusions. This is so that Bahrain can continue to perform its duties in accordance with human rights international standards. If these allegations prove to be true, and have violated the law and international agreements, they will be referred to the concerned authorities in order to take the necessary actions. The Kingdom of Bahrain openly condemns any mistreatment of any individual under detention and will take these kinds of violations seriously. This is in order to continue applying international standards in the Kingdom and to protect human rights as a basic principal for the rule of law.

Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Foreign Minister. 9 February 2010

Our Human Rights File

Despite the comments and criticisms regarding human rights, be it from HRW or any other organization, the human rights situation in Bahrain is advanced in comparison to many countries in the region. What remains is for the relevant government authorities to adequately monitor the shortcomings and put into place realistic solutions. Filling these gaps will fail if a policy is adopted to doubt the credibility and impartiality of such human rights organizations. What is needed is to welcome these organizations in Bahrain and benefit from their expertise as an ideal means of solving the outstanding problems. The reform project of His Royal Majesty is able to contain and solve these files.

Adil Marzooq, Al Bilad, 9 February 2010

We have Nothing to Hide

“We are not against impartial reports or visits by human rights organizations”, the Minister of Interior Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa stressed in Al Ayam on 6 April 2009. He added that he invites human rights organizations to visit Bahrain, which indicates that he has nothing to hide from international human rights organizations: “we only want them to be objective, impartial and professional when preparing their reports about Bahrain and this is what we wished HRW had adhered to”.

An editorial, Al Ayam newspaper 9 February 2010.

There is nothing called ‘torture’

The Bahraini Government allowed the American organization HRW to hold a press conference where numerous allegations were put forward against Bahrain with the participation of some Bahrainis who claimed to defend human rights. This affirms the Government’s confidence in its policies and its spotless human rights record. If Bahrain is a police state, would it have allowed such a conference to be held in its territory? There is nothing called torture; we are suffering from the excessive use of absolute freedom, whether it be in publishing, criticism or even the freedom to lie and deceive, as these are practiced in our country without any restrictions.

An editorial, Akhbar Al Khaleej, 9 February 2010

The Report should be Investigated

The [Lawyers’] Society believes that the issues raised in the HRW report regarding torture allegations are real. These issues were previously discussed with the Public Prosecutors and officials in the Minister of Interior and government apparatus. Therefore, these bodies should cease these practices and stop distorting Bahrain’s image.

Hameed Al Mulla, Vice President of the Lawyers Association. Al Wasat, 14 February 2010

The Report and its Repercussions

Allegations of torture cannot be responded to with articles full of doubt and hostility. Rather, they should be met with an objective response from the concerned parties, especially as these parties have refrained from responding to HRW for four months. It is important to respond to the report with supporting evidence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be praised for its diplomatic and responsible response when it promised to look into the allegations. Allegations of torture taint any state or political system, and whoever loves Bahrain and cares about its reputation should strive to respect and promote human rights culture in the country.

Qasim Hussain, Al-Wasat 15 February 2010

A Question to the Ministry of Interior

There have been a significant amount of complaints from detainees, their lawyers and their families regarding torture, allegations of inhumane and degrading treatment during their arrest and subsequent introgations by law enforcement officials in order to obtain confessions by force, whether these investigations were criminal or security related. Is this true?

MP Jawad Fairuz, Al Wasat, 14 February 2010

More Important than the Report

The credibility of the Ministry of Interior concerns us more than the credibility of any local or international report, as it indicates that we are on the right track regarding our National Charter. It is also indicative of our adherence to the principles and values which respect the dignity and rights of individuals as stated in our Constitution. Credibility cannot be achieved with the Ministry of Interior’s mere denial of the accusations filed against it, for these accusations will not cease so long as the Ministry continues to only deny them. Credibility is in need of a mechanism which verifies allegations, so if one of its members commits a crime or violation (torture, misuse of power) then the rules of procedure of this security institution would deter him. There is a problem in the mechanism and rules, for the investigation can sometimes be conducted without the presence of lawyers, and visits by monitors are restricted. Most importantly, the citizens do not know the outcome of any internal investigations. The transparency of the Ministry and its rules of procedure in dealing with public opinion should speak for itself.

Sawsan Al Shair, Al Watan 16 February 2010

Controversial Title

Whoever reads the title of the report would think that unspeakable torture is taking place in Bahrain, whilst surprisingly, the actual report reveals that the alleged torture is neither extensive nor continuous. What do you expect of a report that depends in its information on figures who call for violence, vandalism, exploiting children and dragging them to illegal demonstrations, burning tires and using Molotov cocktails?

Al Waqt, 11 February 2010, Faisal Fuladh, Secretary General of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society

The Government’s Response is Late

Members of HRW met with the Public Prosecutor; the ministries of Justice, the Interior and Foreign Affairs. In October 2009, they spoke with the Public Prosecutor and representatives of both Justice and Interior ministries in order to obtain a response to torture allegations. HRW did not receive any response, and contacted them again in December 2009, but it only received a response from the Inspector General of the Ministry of Interior who said in his statement that he had passed its message on to the human rights committee in the Ministry. The Ministry of Interior submitted its response to HRW’s letter one day before the press conference in which the report was publicized, and the Ministry of Justice’s response came on the same day of the conference. The said ministries should not have ignored all these enquiries. HRW was in Bahrain 10 days before the press conference, and had meetings regarding foreign workers in Bahrain, whereas the report on torture had already been completed one full month earlier.

Abdullah Al Drazi, Al Wasat 17 February 2010

The Government’s Positive Response

It was good enough that the Bahraini Government allowed the publication of HRW’s report in Bahrain although it knew that the report in general would not be in its favour. Perhaps the only mistake made by the Government was failing to respond to the many questions posed by the international human rights organization at the right time. Assuming that the report is generally accurate, it did not confirm the existence of systematic torture in Bahrain. Rather, according to the former Secretary General of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, Abdulla Al Drazi, the report describes individual cases which the Minister of Interior is easily able to discover and punish the perpetrators. We demand that the Government does not turn blind eye to the report- despite its shortcomings- and investigations should start immediately on these allegations.

Ahmad Zaman, Al Bilad 24 February 2010

Unalarming Report

The report of HRW should not alarm us if the allegations it contains are unfounded. In fact, the response to this report should be transparent and accompanied with evidence. Furthermore, the security forces should publicize any individual breaches in order to promote transparency and credibility.

Radi Al Mosawee, Al Waqt, 10 February 2010

We Do Not Target Bahrain’s Reputation

In light of current developments of human rights in Bahrain, we should always aim for the best and aim to uncover the shortcomings and setbacks to the public and political leadership in order to avoid their reoccurrence and find appropriate solutions. Everyone should understand that we do not aim to taint the reputation of Bahrain locally and internationally, and will not accept any distorted information which harms Bahrain. The state should discuss all allegations included in the report objectively in order to protect the reform project.

Abdulnabi Al-Ekri President of Transparency Society, Al Wasat 22 February 2010

Bahrain has not Returned to Square One

Despite that some reports indicate some setbacks in the human rights situation, Bahrain has still achieved tangible progress in this area. Bahrain has not returned to square one and will not do so as long as there are praiseworthy official positions such as the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the Ministry of Interior, which has responded positively to the report. Our future aspirations include that the State revises issues and verifies the allegations contained in the report, and attempt to find suitable solutions.

Abdallah Al Drazi Former Secretary General, Bahrain Human Rights Society. Al Wasat 22 February 2010