Bahrain: the Way to Uncover Torture Claims
Most governments in the world, including democratic ones, do
not feel comfortable with the idea of being constantly pursued by
human rights organizations regarding any abuses that may occur in
their countries, even if in principle, these governments support
human rights and helps organizations deliver their message. But
when there is a knock on their doors, politicians fear that human
rights reports could undermine their political or electoral positions.
Any human rights abuses either in democratic countries or in
those in the process of democratization are single events that can
not be completely eradicated, while this is obviously not the case
in authoritarian regimes, in which the violation of citizens' rights
is a basic principle.
The question is why democratic countries (as well as emerging
democracies) have reservations against human rights organizations'
interference, and sometimes refuse to grant them permission to visit
or investigate the allegations of abuses or meet with detainees
in prisons? And why do these reservations exist when the general
policy of these governments is to criminalize both torture and denial
of detainees’ rights, and despite the fact that these abuses are
illegal and are punishable by law?
It could be argued that these reservations are not in the governments'
interest, and could confirm the allegations against them which are
by far worse than any outcome resulting from cooperation with international
and local human rights organizations.
Two justifications for this reservation are made: firstly, the
fear of politicization and defamation. Secondly, the encroachment
on the sovereignty of the State concerned. For these reasons some
governments resort to adopting local mechanisms to monitor their
own prisons which undoubtedly prove to be highly effective.
In Bahrain the Red Cross visits are constant and regular, and
the Bahraini government does not feel uncomfortable towards them
nor with the outcome of their visits. This is obviously because
the Red Cross does not publicly release any reports and instead
prefers to discuss its findings directly with the government concerned,
which means that media defamation and politicization of Red Cross
reports are unlikely. There has been an increase in local and international
allegations of abuse inside Bahraini prisons which is denied by
the government and confirmed by local organizations. In this case
how can the truth be uncovered? As a government, Bahrain has allowed
its prisons to be inspected by Bahraini human rights organizations,
and indeed the Bahrain Human Rights Society has made several visits
to the prisons. However, the Government has decided to cease its
cooperation with the Society in this matter, which again can be
attributed to the fear of politicization and defamation, but that
truth has yet to be uncovered from the Society's point of view,
so what is the solution to this dilemma?
First: to resort to the judiciary in order to solve the issue
and to accept the decisions that are reached.
Second: to accept the findings of the medical committees investigating
the allegations (two independent medical committees have been established
in two separate cases, but there decision was inconclusive).
Third: the authorities in charge of prisons should conduct constant
investigations. The Minister of Interior has announced before the
Parliament that some abuses have taken place and that those responsible
were held accountable for their actions in accordance with the law.
Fourth: the Government could ask an independent international
human rights body known for its expertise in the field to conduct
an investigation – although this can be regarded as a threat to
the State sovereignty. If the Government did so, this will prove
that it does not fear any inspections to its prisons and is also
willing to take strict measures if abuses are proven.
Hasan Moosa Shafaei
President - Bahrain Human Rights Monitor