Bahrain’s Day in Geneva

A Review of The Bahrain’s Second UPR

On 21 May 2012, the human rights situation in Bahrain was discussed by the Human Rights Council during the UPR which takes place every four years. The interactive discussion includes all the countries and is as follows:

The concerned government presents a human rights report which covers all human rights fields: women; children; workers; political, economic and civil rights; and other legislative, judicial and executive aspects. The report explains the challenges and the difficulties facing the government in developing human rights. The government also presents in the report future plans and recommendations which could be adopted by the Human Rights Council in order to evaluate the human rights situation in the concerned ?country after four years.

Civil society organisations in the concerned country present their own account of the human rights situation in their country. International human rights organisation can also present their own reports and recommendations to the Human Rights Council.

The UN and its agencies present a similar report which evaluates the human rights situation in the concerned country and their proposals and recommendations.

The concerned government studies these recommendations, responds officially to the Human Rights Council and presents implementation plans and mechanisms.

During the discussion, official representatives such as the Human Rights Minister Salah Ali were present as well as a number of civil society organisations.

Interactive Dialogue

1/ Slovenia commended Bahrain for acceding to the ICRPD and regretted that despite the recommendations made during the first review, reservations to CEDAW have not been removed and the Optional Protocol was not ratified.

2/ Spain commended Bahrain’s efforts in implementing Bassiouni’s recommendations and recommended the signing of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which aims to abolish capital punishment.

3/ Sudan supported the efforts of Bahrain and the positive approach taken since its first UPR. Sudan reiterated that the UPR should not be a forum to put states on trial.

4/ Sweden commended the activities of civil society organisations and their role in enriching discussions regarding human rights. It also criticised the Minister of Human Rights’ restriction on these organisations and recommended that all restrictions on the work of human rights defenders should be removed.

5/ Turkey commended the reforms made so far in the fields of security, judiciary, media and education in line with the BICI report. It mentioned, among others, reforms towards transformations to a complete civilian legal order, institutionalisation of an independent Ombudsman’s Office and establishment of an independent body to review the applications of the victims regarding their allegations of torture.

6/ The United Arab Emirates recommended that Bahrain provides suitable education opportunities for the disabled.

7/ The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland welcomed promises to implement reforms based on BICI’s recommendations. The UK was deeply concerned by reports of human rights violations that continue to occur. It looked to the authorities to ensure that convictions in military courts were reviewed and prisoners detained for exercising freedom of expression released.

8/ The United States of America commended the establishment of the BICI but was concerned that several of the Commission’s most important recommendations had not been implemented. It remained concerned by the failure of the State to effectively investigate and prosecute alleged human rights abusers and the on-going prosecutions of 20 medical professionals.

9/ Uruguay recommended that the Government carry out democratic reforms through national dialogue which includes all Bahraini social segments.

10/Algeria appreciated the availability of protection for foreign workers in Bahrain in accordance with the new Labour Law.

11/ Argentina welcomed the delegation and paid tribute to Bahrain for the creation and implementation of the National Plan of Action related to its commitments under the UPR.

12/ Australia acknowledged Bahrain’s efforts to address reported human rights violations during and following the 2011 unrest and welcomed the setting up of the BICI and the National Commission to this effect. Australia also welcomed the issuing of the Police Code of Conduct, re-trialling prisoners sentenced to death and reinstating dismissed workers. It also recommended that Bahrain carries out political reforms which protect the rights of all citizens.

13/ Austria recommended that the Press Law be amended in order to remove all restrictions on freedom of expression and that the demolished mosques be rebuilt.

14/ Azerbaijan commended the measures taken to combat human trafficking and called upon the Government to continue its coordination with the UN with regards to human rights measures.

15/ Qatar commended Bahrain’s efforts to promote and protect human rights given the recent constitutional amendments aimed at enhancing participation and empowering reforms and the democratic approach.

16/ Belarus urged Bahrain to adhere to presenting its periodic reports with regards to international agreements.

17/ Belgium recommended that Bahrain strive to achieve national reconciliation.

18/ Canada requested information on the processes established, methods used and results achieved with respect to human rights sensitivity training for police officers and security forces.

19/ Chile called for the empowerment of women socially and politically and the issuing of the second part of the Family Law.

20/ China recommended that Bahrain continues its endeavours to improve its capacity in the area of human rights.

21/ Costa Rica called for Bahrain to respect the right of peaceful assembly.

22/ Finland hoped that Bahrain’s local legislations coincide with its international commitments.

23/ Indonesia welcomed the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution. It also appreciated the initiatives undertaken in the area of domestic workers.

24/ Italy welcomed measures taken by the authorities to implement the recommendations in the BICI report which is of great importance for national reconciliation. It also called for the rebuilding of demolished mosques and the abolishing of capital punishment.

25/ Japan recommended that draft press law should not to be unduly restrictive on freedom of expression.

26/ Jordan commended Bahrain’s efforts to establish an Arab court for human rights.

27/ Ireland called for the investigation of torture allegations and bringing those responsible to justice.

28/ Kuwait called Bahrain to continue the implementation of the recommendations of the BICI and putting procedures regarding accountability and compensation into practice.

29/ Lebanon called for the participation of civil society organisations in the national work plan.

30/ Libya called for the inclusion of human rights principles in school curriculums.

31/ Malaysia called Bahrain to take more steps towards promoting human rights awareness through education programs.

32/ Mexico called for a dialogue that includes all national parties and criticised the delay in the issuing of the new Press Law.

33/ The Netherlands called for the adherence to international standards during arrests, showing arrest warrants and allowing independent bodies to scrutinise trials.

34/ Nicaragua acknowledged commitments undertaken by Bahrain at empowering women and questioned the mechanisms of the previous National Dialogue.

35/ Norway asked for a time frame for the implementation of Bassiouni’s recommendations and continuing the reforms.

36/ Pakistan commended Bahrain’s efforts and expressed its support for national dialogue.

37/ Palestine commended Bahrain’s efforts in establishing a compensation fund for the victims.

38/ The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia commended Bahrain’s efforts in implementing Bassiouni’s recommendations.

Official Response

Members of the official delegation in Geneva responded to the questions, recommendations and criticisms made by the countries with regards to the human rights file:

The Minister of State for Human Rights, Dr. Salah Ali stated that his country has no prisoners of conscious: ‘Bahrain has no political prisoners or prisoners of conscious and if this was the case I would be the first to defend them until they are released. However, there are criminal cases waiting for decisions by the Judiciary. We have all the trust in the Judiciary even if they are found to be innocent.’ He also denied the accusations regarding the use of excessive force by security forces. He also added that a gradual mechanism was adopted in order to protect civil rights.

With regards to the torture allegations, Dr Saleh stated that national laws prohibit and criminalise the use of torture and that no one is above the law. He continued ‘if you hear about any torture cases these have already been investigated by the judicial authority.’ He also stated that Bahrain has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Red Cross which confirms Bahrain’s adherence to international standards in dealing with prisoners. The representative of the public persecutor discussed the torture? cases and stated that it received 142 complaints and listened to 120 individuals. He added that 60 officers and members of the police force were questioned and nine cases were referred to the court. He stated also that the Public Persecutor has already started investigations on torture and fatal beating allegations - these investigations are ongoing. With regards to preventing foreign journalists and the representatives of human rights organisations from entering the country, the Minister stated: ‘there are no restrictions on journalists and organisations. The number of journalists who have entered the country is 397 which proves that there are no such restrictions’. However, a number of journalists had failed to adhere to Bahrain’s laws and regulations and added: ‘we welcome all those who respect the laws of the country’.

With regards to freedom of press, Dr. Salah Ali stated that a bill regarding journalism and media is already being discussed by the legislative authority in line with international standards. He also highlighted that this Act has been amended through the suspension of the imprisonment of journalists. He added that ‘its only a matter of time that this Act will become a national law which guarantees the protection of the rights of journalists’.

With regards to incorporating all social segments in the Ministry of Interior he said that ‘the Ministry is promoting the role of community police by allowing all sects in Bahrain to work in the field without any restriction’.

With regards to the demolition of religious places the Minister stated that Bahrain is proud to have places of worships that belong to all religions. He also highlighted that the number of Muslim places of worship is more than 2,000 and those demolished were 12, five of which have already been reconstructed and the work on the rest is still continuing.

The Under Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights, Sa’eed Al Fayhani also stated that ‘Bahrain is about to join the Convention for the Protection of all Person from Enforced Disappearance and is currently is taking legal procedures for this. Bahrain is also adopting a gradual policy and is open to all other international agreements; however, at the same time, it also takes into consideration its constitutional regulations. He also added that ‘Bahrain is in contact with special rapporteur, responds to their inquires, cooperates with OHCHR and conducts mutual visits and meetings with the Council’.

Nawaf Al Maawda of the Authority of Media Affairs responded to all questions regarding freedom of expression and the Press law and stated that Bahrain is in the process of issuing a comprehensive law which covers visual and aural media. He also pointed to its efforts to establish a supreme media council to scrutinise the media and prevent sectarian incitement.

MP Dalal Al Zayed commented on issues regarding granting the Bahraini nationality to the children of Bahraini women married to non Bahrainis stating that ‘ due to the absence of a law that regulates this issue, Bahrain has taken some measures which can provide help and facilitation to this group’. She also stated that the Government has established a joint committee specialised in looking into the possibility of granting the nationality to the children of Bahraini women, -many of which have already been granted the nationality. She also added that the new Child law states that ‘the children of Bahraini women enjoy all rights like other Bahraini citizens especially with regards to government services’.

With respects to national dialogue, Al Zayed stated that ‘many constitutional amendments were made in order to increase legislative and regulatory powers. Most important of these is the law which states that the elected Council should be the only body with all regulatory powers, and has the power to question ministers in the Council public meetings’.

With regards to the issue of foreign workers, the delegation pointed to many government procedures which prevent and combat human trafficking. He also pointed to the right of workers to move freely through a new Bahraini law. Also, she highlighted that the State is in the process of issuing a national legislation regarding domestic workers.

Troika, recommendations and the Government’s response

At the end of the interactive dialogue and listening to the response of the official delegation, the Human Rights Council selected the following group of Rapporteurs (troika) to facilitate the review of Bahrain: Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and Spain. This is in order to put forward recommendations for the Government of Bahrain for the next four years. On 25 May, the Human Rights Council issued 176 recommendations for Bahrain, most of which derive from the recommendations of the states which discussed Bahrain’s file.

With regard to the official response, Dr. Salah stated that the recommendations are positive and that some require studying and an implementation plan. He also said that these recommendations will be studied with an open mind and a feeling of national responsibility by the concerned authorities and with the participation of all relevant parties. He continued stating that his country is going to respond as soon as possible.

The Government of Bahrain has established a committee in order to respond to the recommendations of the Human Rights Council headed by the Minister of State for Human Rights and with presence of government’s representatives.

On 18 June 2012, the follow up committee stated that it will complete its work next August before the allocated time in September by the Human Rights Council. On 3 July 2012, the President of the Committee said that the first draft of the proposed answer has been completed and been referred to the Prime Minister’s office. He also added that the Government completely supports the work on the implementations of most of the recommendations, stressing that the response to all recommendations will be positive and interactive, especially seeing as most of them have already been implemented on the ground or in the process of being implemented.