Making Human Rights Institutions More Effective
Bahrain’s recent step toward establishing a Commission of Prisoners
and Detainees was welcomed by most human rights organizations, as
was the case when the Government established the National Institution
for Human Rights, the Office of Ombudsmen in the Ministry of Interior
and the Investigation Unit affiliated to the Public Prosecutor that
is mandated to look into torture claims.
This step confirms the seriousness of the Government‘s response
to the requirements of human rights protection. However, this step
should be followed by further steps most important of which should
be the demonstration of activeness and efficiency towards achieving
the required goals. Setting up the organization is not the end goal
but rather the mean to ensure the protection and consolidation of
Human Rights. The Commission should exert all efforts in order to
achieve such a goal.
Although, international human rights organizations appreciate
the establishment of such institutions, their main concern remain
seeing action on the ground rather than good intentions. These institutions
will lose the trust of both the local and international human rights
communities if they fail to achieve their purposes.
The assessment of the performance of these institutions is subject
to certain measures that include:
1- Their achievements rather than their future projects, regulations,
intentions or the promises given by their staff.
2- Their impact on people who benefit from their services, such
as the detainees and their families. These institutions will only
gain public legitimacy if they are seen to be defending the rights
of victims and the needy, and only when the latter express satisfaction
and show trust in them. These institutions should also persuade
all sectors of the community to make good use of the services they
provide and to take part in their programmes whatever the difficulties.
3- The competency of the individuals in charge of such institutions.
The selection of such individuals should be based on criteria such
as professionalism, independence, courage and trustworthiness .
The absence of such distinguished individuals will make these organizations
unable to carry out the missions in question or to gain the confidence
and the belief of the public in the significance of the work they
4- Another factor in measuring their success is whether there
exist a monitoring mechanism that would gauge the extent of the
Government’s adherence to recommendations and proposals made by
national institutions concerned with the protection of human rights.
If these institutions fail to achieve their objectives, they
will lose their credibility and the recognition of the international
human rights community and may be viewed as a mere tool in the Government’s
public relations exercise.