Human Rights Workshop Banned

The Ministry of Social Development, which supervises the activities of civil society organizations, has banned a workshop on the theme of ‘ Human Rights Capacity Building’. The Bahrain Human Rights Society was due to organize the workshop on 27-29 May 2010, and said in a statement on 21 April 2010 that it wrote a letter to the Ministry of Social Development requesting the Ministry to facilitate the attendance of some participants in the training course, and explained the main discussion points as follows: (monitoring preventative detention, allowing visits to prisons, international human rights principles during detention, minimum standards of treatment of prisoners coupled with case studies, how to administer preventative visits, how to investigate and document violations, the Istanbul Protocol, advocacy and support strategies, using international human rights mechanisms and the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture).

The Society announced on 19 April 2010 that it had received the Ministry’s refusal, under the pretext that ‘the workshop falls outside the objectives of the Society’, and that according to the Civil Societies’ Law No (21) for 1989 (article 18) ‘it is prohibited for any society to be involved in political activities’.

The Bahrain Society considered this a restrictive measure on civil society, which contradicts the international conventions which Bahrain has signed.

On 22 April 2010, Minister Fatima Al Boloshi stressed that ban on the workshop was a result of the existence of political material in its program, stressing that the Society did not publicize in the media the details of these points of discussion. Al Drazi denied this, and emphasized that all points of discussion were published in the media and that these do not include anything political. He also demanded the Minister to point out these so called political points. Al Drazi added that ‘obtaining permission for organizing training workshops is not part of the Civil Societies’ Law, and this is only required from the Ministry of Social Development in order to obtain visas for trainees and guests from abroad’.

The President of the Bahrain Transparency Society, Abdel Nabi Ikri, described the Ministry’s decision to stop the workshop as unwise since there is no connection between the workshop and what has been described by the Ministry as engaging in politics. He also expressed his surprise regarding the attitude of the Ministry towards a society which is well known for its adherence to the framework governing its activities. Ikri also criticized the Ministry for its one-month delay in responding to a mere request of bringing a trainer from abroad, and wondered about the reality of official facilitation provided for civil society organizations. Moreover, Ikri called upon the Ministry of Social Development and the Bahrain Human Rights Society to engage in a dialogue, and discuss the issue, in order to reach a friendly solution that helps the organization of the training workshop.