Two Sides to the Story in Bahrain

There are two sides to the story in Bahrain: one relates to the Government’s attempts to improve its human rights record and amend laws and regulations through the implementation of Bassiouni’s recommendations. The second represents sometimes an exaggerated picture of the violations which have been monitored by human rights organizations, for example, continued violations, such as deaths as a result of confrontation and the use of tear gas and the excessive use of force. This situation is expected to remain so for some time in the Bahraini political scene.

Despite the existence of tangible positive steps in Government performance, its acceptance of Bassiouni’s report and the efforts of Saleh’s Commission, and some human rights violations continue to take place in Bahrain.

This can be attributed to the fact that political confrontations are being played out on the streets, rather than in the corridors of Parliament or in the media and social networking sites. Conflict and political polarization have invariably produced the current crisis and its repercussions.

Other aspects of the problem include:

Confrontations on the streets entailed the use of violent means, such as Molotov cocktails, iron bars and exploding gas cylinders. This has resulted in many injuries among the security forces. Such actions are the result of incitement on the part of extremists among the opposition, which in turn reflects upon the reactions of the security forces, despite orders to contain the situation with minimal losses.

Implementing Bassiouni’s recommendations, which urge the security forces to respect human rights, requires some time to become part of popular consciousness. In fact, human rights culture has not yet found its roots in Bahraini society, including among protesters themselves. Hence, the introduction and follow-up of procedures and legislations can limit mistakes, but cannot completely eradicate them.

Some groups within Bahraini society feel despondent and pessimistic about the possibility of an immediate solution to the crisis, which encourages constant confrontation and violent protests. In addition to this fact, there is lack of communication between various political parties and religious leaders towards relieving tensions and discouraging lawlessness.

It is very important to realize that a political conflict which reflects itself on the street will eventually lead to breaches and human rights violations by both sides. However, the extent of these violations, especially on the part of the security forces, will depend on self-restraint and adherence to the Law. As for the opposition, it should control the streets, direct peaceful action and exclude and condemn advocates of violence.