The National Charter Represents
a Comprehensive Human Rights Tool

February of each year coincides with the anniversary of the ratification of the National Action Charter, which was adopted in February 2001. The Charter gave birth to the Constitution and national reforms in various fields. The Charter contains seven chapters incorporating the most important principles of human rights in Bahrain including: the guarantee of personal freedoms; equality; prevention of torture and discrimination; freedom of religion; freedom of expression and publication; the freedom to establish civil society institutions; the Government’s duty to provide job opportunities; affirming the rule of Law and the independence of the judiciary; granting the people the right to participate in public affairs and create a parliamentary system.

It is obvious that human rights issues in general are far-reaching and comprehensive and their practical application requires a radical change in the state’s structure, legislations and institutions’ performance. In other words, it is wrong to limit human rights to the mere prevention of blatant human rights violations such as torture and arbitrary arrest and providing just trials. All of these issues are part of a series of chains in a wider system in which respect for human rights can only be achieved through the development of the state’s apparatus in its various aspects. For example, human rights violations cannot be stopped without appropriate legislations governed by the general principles mentioned in the National Charter. These laws are set by legislators who can only be active if they are elected. Moreover, these legislations need mechanisms and institutions which allow them to be implemented on the ground; the institutions themselves need to be run proficiently and officials need to be trained. They also need to be educated in order for their mentalities- as well as the mentality of society in general- to change through the media and other educational means. This change, however, requires a wide range of freedom of expression, assembly, organization and financing.

This indicates that there is a mutual and strong relationship between the issue of human rights and Government apparatus and any positive change in one of them will have an effect on the other. A change in human rights means a radical and continuous change in the Government apparatus including the executive, legislative and judicial authorities as well as in society itself. In short, the human rights situation in Bahrain cannot be developed in isolation from a comprehensive development in all related areas.

What took place after the National Charter was a development in the entire structure of the state but to varying degrees, including the issue of human rights, which can only flourish in the context of an entire system. In addition, human rights defenders should have a comprehensive view of all human rights aspects and should not limit themselves to one aspect only. They should understand the effect of the different yet interrelated chains in the state and society on human rights and vice versa. This will help to clarify the available resources that help achieving long-term objectives, as well as identifying the obstacles that await them. This approach will help them determine their priorities in the struggle for human rights. With this view in mind Bahrain might need more competent and specialized civil society institutions in order to cover all human rights aspects in their wider context.