Foreign Minister:

Mechanisms to Prevent Human Rights Abuses in Place

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister was accurate in his characterization of the situation in the Arab region when he said that the region traverses the most difficult phase in its modern history, due to the state of chaos and the savage and bloody wave of terrorism that is unprecedented in our modern times.

The Minister was also accurate in his analysis of the factors behind the emanation of chaos and turmoil, which he attributed to three factors or challenges: the increasing danger of terrorist groups; foreign interventions and the ambitions of hegemony as well as foreign occupation of Arab territory and its consequential threats and wars.

In his speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations (on 29/9/2014), the Minister noted that the terrorist challenge has become global, thriving in our Arab region with greater savagery and callousness. Not only individuals are targeted, but also entire groups through the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities; displacing them and destroying their cultural and civilizational heritage; depriving them from their religious freedom and properties; attacking entire cities, and declaring war on sovereign countries in their regional and international settings, in disregard of all religious doctrines or intrinsic human nature. Terrorism has thus sought to destroy the centuries-old foundations of coexistence between various groups.

According to the Minister, confronting the inhumane practices of mass murder and public beheadings requires advocacy of the values of tolerance, equality, moderation and respect for cultural diversity, as well as operation along three axes:

First, the security and military axis as terrorist groups have acquired heavy weapons, enabling them to occupy entire cities that they use as safe havens from which they launch their terrorist operations.

Hence, according to the Minister, it became imperative to confront this threat. To this end, Bahrain’s military involvement took place through its air force.

The Minister expressed his country’s welcome of Security Council resolution 2178, which focused on stopping the recruitment of foreign fighters, adding that “we continue to closely monitor frontiers and outlets so as to stop the citizens of the Kingdom from contacting terrorist groups or joining them, to arrest all those who have allegedly been affiliated to them as soon as they return to the country and to prosecute them.”

The second axis is fighting the extremist ideology that is alien to the human nature and the essence and principals of Islam. Hence, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa highlighted the important role of Muslim clerics and scholars and religious institutions in counteracting such misguided thought.

The third axis is to sever what the Minister described as the financial lifeline nourishing such terrorist groups, enabling them to purchase weapons and corrupt consciences.

In this regard, he pointed out that the Kingdom of Bahrain is convening an international conference during the forthcoming November to examine the financing of terrorism, how best to combat it and how to drain its sources. He noted that Bahrain believes that ending the financing of terrorist groups is half the battle of defeating and annihilating them.

In an interview with the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper (1/10/2014), the Foreign Minister said that his country had to be involved in counterterrorism policy, explaining that “If we failed to adopt an effective participatory role in protecting the region, then we would have failed ourselves and our people, as well as undermined our role in the world”. He added that “the issue of ISIS and terrorism is much wider in scope than that of the Syrian crisis. We are looking at the bigger picture and the greater danger that threatens us all”, stressing in a conclusive tone “we will face years of hardship if we fail to fight and be committed to war on terrorism for years”.

Human Rights and the Political Solution

On the issue of politics and human rights in Bahrain, Al-Hayat newspaper asked the Foreign Minister a question “about the accusations levelled against your country by human rights organizations concerning abuses of those rights in dealing with the opposition, as the number of political prisoners currently incarcerated is said to total approximately 2,000. Sometimes we hear that you are communicating, then we see that you are imprisoning. Why is that?”

The Minister answered “It is imperative that we look at this issue from two points of view. First, the issue of human rights is of utmost importance. But there is no country in the world, even here in the US, where some human rights violations have not occurred. The issue is not the fact that violations occur, but relates to how countries deal with human rights and keep matters on the right track. We are very confident that we will succeed in overcoming this phase and have adopted all the mechanisms necessary to prevent human right violations by the country’s security forces. We look forward to what is best. The world bodies are working with us and we are working with the OHCHR, while Amnesty International, with which we have relations, conducts continuous visits to Bahrain, and we have made important strides forward”.

As to the number of prisoners, he asserted that the figure is incorrect, and that there is a small number of political prisoners who received fair trials. However, he added that there are saboteurs “who perpetrated crimes against and terrorized security forces and citizens. We do not consider them to be political prisoners because those who terrorize people in the street cannot be characterized as political prisoners”.

The Foreign Minister expressed optimism regarding the on-going dialogue between the opposition and the government, stressing that no state intervenes in the dialogue, and that what is happening is taking place under the guidance of His Majesty the King. He said that “it is a purely Bahraini matter and, if it is to succeed, it will do so with the help of the Bahrainis alone”, adding that "Common ground has been reached on paper, and the upcoming elections are scheduled for Nov. 22”.