Building Trust Guarantees Stability, Reform and Human Rights Protection

It has been mentioned in previous issues that political reformists on both sides (the Government and the Opposition) are losing out in the recent violence and riots in Bahrain to the advantage of advocates of extremism and political stagnation. However, it can be said that forces of reform in the government’s legislative and executive institutions and on the street are stronger than their opponents and thus any agreement, reconciliation or attempts to promote trust between moderate forces and reformists will precisely mean the following:

  • Enforcing the choice of reform with all its various political, cultural, legal, social and economic scopes.
  •  Enforcing state’s apparatuses and emphasizing their authority as well as protecting citizens’ choices which they expressed in the elections.
  • Enforcing the stability and security of the country, containing violence and its advocates and emphasizing the rule of law which is able to protect citizens’ interests.
  • Promoting human rights and working to maintain, protect and develop human rights principles.

Violence and riots would not have escalated on the street if not for the feelings of distrust which have been growing amongst reformists in both parties. It is notable that the growing distance between the two sides manifests itself negatively in the form of violent tendencies and riots, as advocates of violence want to practice what they believe are their rights outside the boundaries of the law; and every time their practices increase, trust between the two sides is shaken or even completely destroyed.

The General Secretary of Wafaq Society Sheikh Ali Salman was not wrong when he stressed (in newspaper interviews after the pardon and release of some detainees by the King on 12 April 2009) that working towards regaining trust will be his first priority, for trust between the Government and the strongest political player in the arena (who also possesses the largest number of MPs) is crucial in order to return the situation in the country to what it had formerly been. Thus as soon as the two sides reached an agreement, citizens were optimistic and took to the streets carrying the King’s pictures welcoming his decision. On the King’s part, he - as usual - did not wish to intervene as soon as a problem arises, instead allowing government bodies to deal with the problem and practice their role. However, when the crisis reached a dead end, he intervened and solved the problem in the correct manner.

The appropriate solution for regaining confidence is based on the emphasis on the rule of law and institutions. It is not possible to forgive anyone - neither the state nor the ordinary citizen- who transgresses the law regardless if their demands are just or not. It is also not possible for one side to monopolize the law, as the law is enforced in order to protect citizens and ensure the legitimacy and right of the state and anyone attempting to transgress it is only weakening the state and abusing the rights of its citizens.

Sheikh Ali Salman said that Wafaq will not be lenient with any individual who advocates violence and pointed out that his Society is willing to take to the streets if necessary. This marks a significant shift in the rules of the game and is making the government and the opposition more vigilant regarding the stability of the country and the security of its society. The correct way for regaining the confidence between the government and the opposition lies in the continuation of the reform process, fulfilling the hopes of citizens and solving their problems. This can only be achieved after a considerable amount of the required trust is regained, far from political tension, as distrust hinders the reform process, weakens state institutions and leaves all parties trapped within themselves, instead of moving towards future change.

We support any trust-building that makes the citizens confident in the ability of the reform actors to protect human rights and preserve human dignity.

Hasan Moosa Shafaei
President - Bahrain Human Rights Monitor