Reconciliation and Transitional Justice are Essential for Bahrain
Bahrain Human Rights Monitor met several human rights activists
and experts during a conference held in Cairo in April 2012, which
was entitled ‘Bahrain: From Crisis to Stability’. During the conference
the political, social, legal and human rights aspects of the events
in Bahrain were discussed. Moreover the conference addressed the
challenges, background for some of the problems, alleviation of
the crisis and the role of both human rights organizations and the
Government. The meeting and discussions revealed that the different
parties shared several ideas and findings.
Bassiouni’s report: first step for settling the crisis
To what extent can Bassiouni’s report become a reference
point for solving the existing political and human rights problem
a political analyst and media expert, stated: this report
is a result of the King of Bahrain’s initiative and was not imposed
on Bahrainis from abroad. This indicates that the King is willing
to find a solution to the long standing crisis and fulfil the demands
of its people. The outcome of the report is very important issue is the implemintation of the recommendation of the
report. Implementation mechanisms were introduced and the King committed
himself to implementing these recommendations. Therefore, the opposition
should realise the importance of the report and its positive objectives
and should regard it as a reference point in solving the human rights
The investigations that took place in Bahrain by
Bassiouni’s Committee and the involvement of the international community
gave the impression of international interference, what do you think
of this? Is there any relationship between these investigations
and international law?
Dr. Mosaed Abdulati an expert of international
law: the establishment of Bassiouni’s Committee and its investigations
are in line with international law which is part of the International
Bill of Human Rights. We commended the courageous step taken by
the King of Bahrain to establish this committee, appoint an international
expert in international criminal law to lead it and was granted
the mandate to do its work which in fact is unprecedented in the
Arab world. I believe that all the concerned parties in Bahrain
are invited to take advantage of this opportunity in order to achieve
reconciliation which is in the best interest of the general public.
Where are we heading if the implementation of the
Bassiouni’s recommendations is completed?
Dr. Bassiouni Hamada, a lecturer in
the Faculty of Information at Cairo University: Bassiouni’s report
laid the foundation for a period of transitional justice and stressed
the principles of citizenship, the rule of law, diversity and the
importance of building a modern state by allowing more freedom and
public participation in decision making. The report is not only
dealing with the violations but also presented a picture for the
future of Bahrain.
How much have the steps taken by the Bahrain Government
regarding the implementation of the recommendation contributed to
promoting the principle of transitional justice?
Samir Moosa, a researcher and a lawyer in the
Palestinian Conscience Foundation: Bassiouni’s report was
supposed to be the first step towards the process of transitional
justice which can only be achieved with the agreement of all Bahraini
parties. The positive steps taken by the Government of Bahrain do
not relate to the strategy of transitional justice but is a mere
response to Bassiouni’s recommendations. For example, the established
compensation fund is very much related to the principle of transition
of justice, although the approach here is different.
The role of human rights organizations
How can we evaluate the influence of the international
community which includes governments and civil society organizations
with regards to the events in Bahrain?
Dr. Emad Awad,
a lecturer of political science in Cairo University: since
the beginning of the recent crisis in February 2011, the events
in Bahrain have been put under the spotlight due to its strategic
geo politics . The policy of the US -especially in the aftermath
of the Arab spring – is based on helping friendly regimes in order
to make some reforms and political changes which resulted in conflicting
American positions. This led some to believe that the US supports
oppositions while others to believe that it supports the regimes.
The important issue is that the US wants the regime to stay in power
but to undertake political reform process. The problem for the US
is how to achieve political changes without harming American interests
and without affecting the stability of the Gulf.
International human rights organizations have concentrated on
following the violations without taking into consideration the deep
political aspects and especially the sectarian conflict. I think
that these organizations are concerned with the Bahraini political
situation from a human rights perspective.
There is a complaint that Bahraini civil organizations
were not active during the events. What can they do to decrease
violence, sectarianism and extremism?
Naeem Al Onayzat,
an expert in the security of societies: the Government should
protect and help civil society organizations to freely do its work
and to financially support them in accordance to a clear law. Civil
society organizations cannot fulfil their role during a crisis if
they lack expertise, training and resources. Hence, they cannot
be given any social and human rights responsibilities.
|Naeem Al Onayzat
Bahraini civil societies can organise social debates which can
bring social components together and discuss the reasons behind
extremism in order to eradicate it. It is always beneficial to give
these organizations the opportunity to organise TV programs for
spreading awareness. Moreover, it would be a good idea if these
organizations contribute as mediators between various political
parties and between the Government and opposition.
What can international organizations do to help
in solving this crisis?
Issam Younis, the General Director of
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza: Human rights organisations
should professionally deal with all public issues. The real challenge
for any human rights organization appears during exceptional and
difficult circumstances. They should be impartial with all parties
and focus on the victims as well as the values of justice in order
to solve the problem.
Some Government bodies believe that international
human rights reports are biased and ignore all positives and only
concentrate on the negatives, to what extent are these organizations
impartial, independent and not affected by foreign influences?
Dr. Emad Awaad: the prominent human
rights organizations are impartial and professional regardless of
any political connections. In reality there is a connection between
political and human rights objectives. In general, human rights
have become a political issue and involve issues such as international
trials and political relations. The main objective of human rights
organizations is improving the human rights situation in all countries
and highlighting any violations. Some questions were left without
ansewers like the? reasons behind these violations and whether they
have been provoked? These organisations shed the light and focus
on human rights violations when they take place in any country and
reports and statements are issued. For example, the HRW criticizes
the Bahraini Government’s procedures in implementing Bassiouni’s
recommendations and says that they are not genuine. In fact, some
recommendations were implemented and there are statements that state
that the rest will be implemented but need some time. Some organizations
are in hurry and concentrate on the victims; their reports should
be balanced and provide an explanation within the political context.
How do you view the human rights experience and
what are the shortcomings?
Dr. Hasan Moosa,
the President of Arab Organization for Human Right in Austria and
a member of the Executive Committee in Cairo: I think there
are shortcomings which should be tackled for the sake of Bahrain’s
future. Bassiouni’s recommendations have not been fully implemented.
Violations are monitored and there are visions as to the way out
of the crisis. We can not build a stable country on violations.
build it on a foundation of freedom.
What is required is working in accordance with the international
human right system which the King of Bahrain accepted and the National
Action Charter which contains many articles which protect the rights
of the citizens. Also, efforts are being made to implement the rest
of Bassiouni’s recommendations and releasing the prisoners of conscience
by Royal orders. Also, the violence on the street should stop because
it hinders political solutions and affects human rights and increases
social and political tension.
The foreign interference factor in the crisis
According to official and opposition statements,
both refuse foreign interference in Bahrain and believe that Bahrain’s
problems can only be solved by the Bahrainis themselves. Does the
foreign element have a big influence on local affairs and how can
we avoid its danger?
Naeem Al Onayzaat: undoubtedly, the
problem in Bahrain is not only local but also there are many foreign
powers that have interests in the Gulf including Iran whom we cannot
say does not want to interfere in Bahrain.
The ability to protect Bahrain needs extensive dialogue with
the protesters as well as social and political parties in general.
The Government should exert more effort especially when combating
sectarianism. Political societies in Bahrain should avoid sectarian
discourses and express the need for a national unifying discourse.
How can Bahrain avoid regional influences which
could increase tension and internal conflict?
Dr. Emad Awad: your question take us
back to the root of the problem, which is the geographic position
of Bahrain and its demography which have imposed a kind of political
polarization. There are the GCC countries on one side and Iran on
The Bahraini people have only one chance which is to become united
on the principles of citizenship, mutual interest, reform and democracy.
This is in addition to promoting freedom especially when taking
strategic decisions and confronting sectarianism.
A way out of the political and human rights problem
Based on your follow up of the Bahraini crisis,
in your opinion what is the best way to solve the current problem?
Dr. Hasan Moosa: Bahrain is an integral
part of our Arab nations and is currently being subjected to attempts
to disunite it and break down its collective identity. We support
the desire of the Bahraini people for more freedom, democracy and
institutional work. However, this should be achieved in a framework
of a united Bahrain. Bahrain is for all Bahrainis therefore calls
for freedom should not lead to sectarian conflicts and political
societies should not be established on sectarian or religious bases.
I believe that the way out of this crisis is for the Government
to take more responsibility and push forward the national dialogue.
The political parties that reject dialogue cannot solve the problem
by resorting to the street. All issues are to be solved and settled
on the basis of citizenship, civil peace and national reconciliation.
National dialogue is essential, but dialogue cannot be initiated
without certain foundations such as national identity, equality
and the rejection of foreign interference. A lesson should be learnt
from the Libyan experience. We would like to see our Arab world
as a society based on justice, law and citizenship; we are against
any religious, military or sectarian states.
What are the mechanisms for solving the Bahraini
In summary this can be achieved through a comprehensive national
dialogue. Dialogue means that both the Government and the opposition
should agree on specific reference points and regulating rules for
the process of the dialogue based on human rights standards which
guarantee Bahrain’s stability, unity and the safety of its citizens.
Dialogue should also lead to social reconciliation. This should
be left to the Bahrainis themselves without any foreign interference.
There are international and regional influences but the decision
should remain in the hands of Bahrainis and this depends on their
ability to sort out their differences and learn from past mistakes.
The lack of trust is disappointing and an obstacle
to dialogue between political parties, how can this problem be solved?
Bassiouni Hamada: trust cannot be built
by words and meetings but by action because actions speak louder
than words. Trust is very important in solving political problems
and we should pay attention to the reasons behind the current mistrust
between political parties. In my opinion, the most important reason
is the fact that each party is expecting the best from the other.
Moreover, violence, violations and taking extreme positions have
badly affected the trust. Trust needs self assessment and all parties,
including the Government and opposition, have contributed to this
problem and should take initiatives to rebuild trust.
In your opinion, what is the most important factor
for avoiding social and political divisions in Bahraini society?
Dr. Mosaed Abdulati, in my opinion,
the most essential factor is constructive and direct dialogue between
all Bahraini social segments. This dialogue should be based on good
intentions from all parties and should take into consideration the
general interests of all Bahrainis. Also, in order for the dialogue
to succeed, all parties should avoid media statements.
There are foreign interference attempts in the Bahraini
crisis and a lot of mistrust between political parties. How do you
see the solution?
Talal Okal, there is no magical solution,
but there are certain guidelines. 1- all parties should admit that
a crisis exists. 2-foreign interference should be ruled out. 3-violence
and extremism will not solve the problem, and all parties should
be willing to engage in a comprehensive dialogue between all social
segments including the Government. During the national dialogue,
steps which should be taken with regards to transitional justice
should be discussed in order to find a solution to the problem of
mistrust and create constitutional mechanisms. I would like to stress
that only Bahrainis themselves are able to solve their problems.
Bahrain needs quick and practical solutions which avoids all factors
which ignite political and social conflict. Bahrain contains many
national capabilities and civil society organisations which could
contribute in finding a way out of the crisis. Even if there are
points of disagreement, they should focus on the points of agreement
and this will provide the suitable mechanism to go out of the crisis.