Bahrain: The Need to Deal with International Reports

Governments in the Arab World do not feel comfortable towards international human rights reports, as they expect that each activity, report or statement will not be in their favour. The reason for this is that human rights reports are usually used politically and in the media against the regimes as they reveal secrets, issues and abuses that undermine the image of those regimes- an image that they desire to be kept clean and hidden from the rest of the world. And because political problems are deeply rooted in the Arab World and the majority of the regimes are authoritarian and oppressive, local opposition uses the reports as a tool for political ends, a tactic used by some Western governments usually against rivals from the developing countries.

It is notable that whenever the political situation improves in a country, the human rights situation improves too and the apprehension and anger of the rulers and officials towards these reports decreases respectively. Occasionally oppressive regimes create their own human rights organizations, directly or indirectly, in order to use them as covers and facades for themselves and for confronting critics and opponents. As for the regimes moving towards democracy such as Bahrain and Morocco, their anxiety towards the activities and reports of human rights organizations is decreasing continually with the democratization process which increases confidence in the stability of the political system. Especially with the existence of local independent organizations that monitor and criticise the abuses that take place. This is should be the case in such countries in line with the new orientation where the correlation between democracy and respect for human rights prevails.

In Bahrain we observed a positive attitude in dealing with international human rights organizations, which were allowed to visit the country and given an opportunity to perform their activities. The Government responded positively to some inquiries and answered some questions but there is still a great deal of resentment towards the international reports. This is due to the fact that most of the reports do not reflect the positive development on the ground and exaggerate the abuses that take place or depend on information with no credibility. Additionally, such reports do not take the official position into account.

We believe that it is necessary for the Government to:

  1. Encourage the presence of international organizations in Bahrain for investigating, inspecting and seriously co-operate with them.
  2. Deal with the reports positively, study them, identify its mistakes and rectify them.
  3. Communicate with the organizations and point out any gaps in their published reports, most of the time these organizations welcome such clarifications.
  4. Not to exaggerate the negative effects of the reports on its reputation and internal affairs as long as a real political process exists and freedom of expression is wide. It is no longer possible to invest negatively in such reports because the political manipulation has been weakened in the current atmosphere of openness, and in light of the availability of alternative means for expression and the existence of political stability.
  5. To issue its human rights reports and note the mistakes, positive developments and challenges.

Hasan Moosa Shafaei
President - Bahrain Human Rights Monitor