Exploratory Mission by the OHCHR in Bahrain
Between the 1st and 6th of December 2012, an OHCHC delegation
visited Bahrain by invitation from the Bahraini Government. According
to the OHCHR, the visit was aimed at ‘exploring avenues for OHCHR’s
engagement with Bahrain with regard to the protection and promotion
of human rights’.
During its visit, the delegation was received by the highest
authorities of the Government, including the Prime Minister and
the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Interior, Justice,
Information, Labour, Education and Health. It met representatives
of other institutions, including the chief of the National Police,
the head of the National Security Agency and its newly established
ombudsman, as well as members of Parliament and of Shura Council
The visit reflected an improvement in the relationship between
the OHCHR and the Bahraini Government which was tense and lacked
trust during the past period. Hopefully, the Bahraini Government
will exert more efforts in order to develop human rights, provide
answers to the international human rights organizations’ questions,
gain the trust of the international community and work with OHCHR
seriously and transparently.
Discussions also were held with the High Coordination Committee
for Human Rights, chaired by the Minister for Human Rights, the
National human rights institutions, the United Nations Country Team,
and representatives of the diplomatic corps.
According to its statement, the delegation also met human rights
and other civil society activists, representatives of political
parties, the private sector, workers unions, as well as families
of detainees and other victims of human rights violations, including
some of the 31 persons who had their nationality revoked. Moreover,
it visited the Jaw prison and met the 13 prisoners whom it had visited
in December 2011, as well as several other prisoners it had sought
to meet. It also visited the Hoora detent?on centre.
The delegation hoped that this visit would be an opportunity
to explore with the Government and other Bahraini interlocutors,
including civil society organisations, the potential for developing
cooperation that would lead to tangible results for the people of
The delegation was also briefed about the reforms undertaken
to strengthen legal and national institutions critical to the promotion
and protection of human rights in Bahrain, and in particular the
steps thus far taken to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain
Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and the Universal Periodic
The delegation also stated that it received multiple requests
for capacity building activities from a wide range of interlocutors.
It discussed the High Commissioner’s concerns, as outlined in her
statement of 22 November, relating to the need for an effective
accountability process for the human rights violations of the past
and the importance of civil society participation in any effort
aimed at furthering the protection and promotion of human rights
in the Kingdom.
The delegation also noted in its statement that the Foreign Minister
highlighted the importance of cooperating with the High Commissioner’s
office. He also confirmed the Government›s consideration to ratify
the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OP-CAT),
and its invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Torture in February.
He extended an official invitation to the High Commissioner for
Human Rights to visit the country at a mutually convenient date.
The statement concluded by stating that the mission will report
its findings and observations to the High Commissioner Navanethem
Pillay who will consider the level, scope and terms of the cooperation
that the OHCHR will propose for discussion to the Government of
With regards to the desired cooperation of the Government and
civil society organizations with OHCHR, the latter has a lot of
expertise and abilities in many fields and is very active in many
countries. Bahraini official and civil bodies should determine their
priorities and present them to the OHCHR which should include the
1/ providing support to human rights and civil societies in the
field of training, rehabilitation, documentations and monitoring.
This is in order to strengthen their abilities to produce professional
work in the future.
2/ Enhancing the capabilities of the National Institution for
Human Rights by providing it with ideas, expertise and training
so that it can perform its required role in accordance with the
Paris Principles. This will gives it international and local credibility
and improve its performance in developing human rights in the country.
3/ A number of Government security and judicial apparatus need
the expertise and technical supports of the OHCHR in order to further
improve their abilities, understand how to confront problems and
adhere to international standards with regards to protecting and
promoting human rights.