44 countries endorse a statement on Bahrain in Geneva

Bahrain: the Statement Undermines our Efforts

On 28 February 2013, a statement that was initiated by Switzerland, signed and endorsed by 44 countries and read to the Human Rights Council welcomed the visit of the OHCHR delegation to Bahrain. The statement also appreciated the willingness of the Government of Bahrain to allow the members of the delegation access to all the requested places and institutions and the opportunity to meet with all the individuals they wanted. It also welcomed the acceptance of the Government of Bahrain to the proposed vis?t by the Special Rapporteur on Torture scheduled for May 2013. The statement commended the resumption of national dialogue on 10 February 2012, and encouraged all parties to participate in a constructive way. The statement also encouraged the Government of Bahrain to continue to work with all participants in the dialogue in order to work toward building an open, democratic and inclusive society with equal opportunities for all.

It also expressed its concern regarding the continued detention of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders. It also mentioned the unfair trials of political activists and their harsh sentences. The statement also urged the Government of Bahrain to uphold the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and to exercise restraint when reacting to public gatherings. It also asked protesters to act peacefully. Furthermore, the statement?criticised the decisions by the Government of Bahrain to revoke the nationality of 31 citizens, which left several of them stateless, and to dismiss or imprison medical professionals. It also expressed its concern regarding the fact that those who have allegedly committed human rights violations are yet to face prosecution.

Finally, it called upon Bahrain to address these concerns and expedite the implementation of the recommendations received from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. It also urged the Government of Bahrain to enhance its cooperation with the OHCHR and allow for a fully comprehensive collaboration. Furthermore, it called upon the Government of Bahrain to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and assembly and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Government’s Response

On 4 March 2013, Bahrain’s representative in Geneva, Dr. Yusuf Bucheeri, responded by stating that the joint statement given on February 28 2013 had drifted completely, and has no place or link to the interactive dialogue with the annual report of the High Commissioner, and stressed that the joint statement has come out of context in its form and procedural qualities. The Ambassador also stressed that the statement does not reflect the facts of the positive initiatives of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the fiel? of human rights and it detracts from the achievements in this regard. He also said that the Joint Statement detracts much from the efforts made by the Kingdom, and it offended the true picture of the respect for human rights achieved by the continuous development in Bahrain where the provisions of the courts, rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly are fully guaranteed, adding that any legal action taken in connection with violent demonstrations , unauthorized gatherings and actions that thre?tens the security of the people and the country, are taken within the framework of the law and the respect for human rights.

Regarding the issue of the decision to withdraw nationalities, Mr. Bucheeri has confirmed that this was in accordance with the conditions approved by the Bahraini law and public international law, adding that the process of a person in a “stateless” position is not in itself illegal if there is valid evidence of threatening national security and it should be noted that some of these people have filed to challenge the decision of their nationality being withdrawn, and that the possibility of such appeals ar? considered for all before the court. He stated that he did not see any benefit or real added value in making such a joint statement, and that it is important to set a positive climate that is conducive to the process of implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and to the fruition of the dialogue initiative. He also touched on the forthcoming visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights this year in response to an invitation by the Government of Bahrain in order to witness what progress has been achieved in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Human Rights Minister Dr. Salah Ali met the Swiss representative and stated that this statement does not serve the mutual relat?ons between the two countries, has no positive outcomes and that its timing was unsuitable. He also added that currently, the Kingdom of Bahrain is engaging in national dialogue sessions and does not want to ruin the positive atmosphere in the country by such statements which serve no one and could send the wrong message and fuel violence.

Remarks and Pointers

  • It is obvious that the Government of Bahrain has taken positive steps but the international human rights community still believes that they are slow and insufficient to address their issues of concern.
  • The high number of countries that signed the statement, which included the USA and Britain, indicates the growing pressure exerted on Bahrain to address the crisis. The content of the statement has also been repeated by human rights organizations. The lack of reforms and the continuation of violations will result in international condemnation and could lead to more international pressure.
  • The success of the national dialogue and the achievement of national reconciliation will definitely reduce foreign pressure and hopefully violations will be reduced as well.
  • International human rights organizations that view the statement as a reflection of their own position and influence believe that Bahrain still has an opportunity to develop its human rights situation by taking procedures on the ground in order to reduce the sources of concern.