The recent Amnesty International (AI) report on Bahrain, which was released following a visit between 1-8 April 2011, has drawn in many criticism from different quarters. The impartiality, professionalism, methods of gathering information and the outcome of the report have all been strongly criticized.
The BHRM interviewed Dr. Said Boumedouha and asked him the following questions:
AI has been criticized for not being neutral and for lack of professionalism regarding the recent events in Bahrain. AI´s recent report was criticized by the Bahraini media for not incorporating the official information and views provided to you. What is your comment?
During the last visit to Bahrain, we tried to meet as many people as possible from anti and pro government groups. The report reflects and summarises in a very objective manner what has been happening in Bahrain since early March. In the section on human rights violations during the March protests you will see that AI’s report refers to violations committed by all sides. We met more than 70 pro–government persons, including university lecturers, students, medical doctors, journalists, Asian workers and women. In fact we were constantly receiving calls from people who wanted to meet us, but unfortunately we were only there for seven days and we were also collecting testimonies from the families of detainees. It was clear that someone was giving our telephone numbers to people who were calling us constantly and there was no problem with that, except that we had little time to meet every one. We also visited the Shi’a villages to collect testimonies. So you can imagine how difficult it was to try to meet everyone who wanted to meet us. It is surprising that both the government and certain pro-government human rights activists are attacking AI for meeting only one side. This is simply not true and they know it. They know very well the people we met because we met them in the hotel and the Pakistani Club. Are they denying that we meet those people?
AI´s report has in general concentrated on violations committed by State institutions. Why AI and other human rights organization do not document violations committed by non–state actors in Bahrain?
As mentioned, the latest report refers to human rights violations committed by all sides during the protests, including attacks on Asian migrant workers and violence used by all sides, including pro and anti–government elements. But the report focuses more on the current situation with hundreds of people detained and who are likely to be tried before special courts, as well as the dismissal of more than 800 people for participating in anti-government protests. Why are the doctors and medical staff being arrested and dismissed from their work? Why are females doctors being arrested? What crimes did they commit?
Many countries request seeing reports of human rights organizations to comment on them before their release. Did you do the same with regards to this report considering that the Minister of Social Development had requested to see the report, according to her published statements?
We did not send the last report to the government for comments. When we published recent reports we sent copies to government officials and asked for comments or observations they may have. If we received any responses we would definitely reflect such responses in our publications. If the government has comments on the latest report then they can send such comments in writing to AI and the organization will reflect these comments. Actually, when we were in Bahrain and during our meetings with officials we emphasised how important it is for them to send us in writing any observations they may have on any document or press release related to Bahrain.