HR Societies criticize the Government for minimizing their Participation:

Few Meetings and cautious dialogue!

The report of four Bahraini human rights organizations, issued last September, praised the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nazar Al Baharna, for his efforts to develop and protect human rights in Bahrain. He was also praised for his attempts to include civil society organizations in the Supervision Committee, which is headed by him and is concerned with the implementation of Bahrain’s recommendations and commitments with regards to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

However, this report which was prepared by: Bahrain Human Rights Society, Bahrain Transparency Society, Bahrain Women’s Union and the general Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, criticized the Government’s performance with regards to including human rights organizations in its efforts; pointing out that official bodies have not established a real partnership between them and the civil society.

The four societies complained that their participation in the preparation and discussion of the Government’s annual report was small and limited saying that ‘it is impossible to say that a meeting that mostly consists of government officials and meets for a few hours every three months, represents a correct framework for partnership between the Government and civil society. It cannot be said that the preparation of the report was based on equal efforts and consultations between officials and civil bodies. This is because the Committee, which wrote the report, is a governmental committee in the Foreign Ministry. It is true that the report was presented to the members of the Supervisory Committee, but this is inadequate. A joint committee should be formed by the Supervisory Committee’. The report added that: ‘with all respect to the mechanism of the Supervisory Committee for the UPR of Human Rights, it does not reach the stage of a committee with a real mandate and can only be described as meetings with cautious dialogue.

The four organizations said that their comments on the official report have been ignored including the comment that the House of Representatives’ ratification of the Sunni section of the Family Law reinforces sectarianism. With regards to the establishment of the National Commission for Human Rights, which was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2007, the four organizations believe that its fate is still ambiguous and demanded the implementation of the recommendations of the seminar held by Foreign Ministry regarding its establishment. This is in addition to allowing the civil society organizations the opportunity to participate in the preparation of its draft law.

In the report, the organizations also pointed to the fact that Bahrain has not signed the following agreements: the International Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, International Criminal Court, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, first Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Also, there are some agreements which have been signed but have not yet been translated into national legislations in order to be implemented. However, the report of the four human rights organization (which is parallel to the report of the government) did not deny the fact that ‘the Bahraini Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, deals positively with the correspondences of UN rapporteurs and participates actively in international conferences on human rights. But the Government at the same time does not hesitate to convert any reports issued by organizations or the press to their advantage and is quick to deny any negative report. Also, the Government has not started an independent investigation with regards to torture allegations, and the public prosecutor still has not seriously investigated the torture allegations of the detainees, and is not allowing Bahrain Human Rights Society to visit the detainees in order to verify these allegations.

On the other hand, the report praised the efforts of the Foreign Ministry regarding the introduction of human rights awareness in the curriculums of all university and school stages. It also called for the ratification of a unified family law and unified Islamic courts which would promote unity between citizens and eradicate sectarianism. The report also praised the Ministry of Employment and its Minister for his attempt to improve the working conditions of foreign workers such as the freedom to change employers, the prohibition of working in midday heat during the summer and the inspection of foreign workers’ lodgings. The report added that ‘we need many laws which regulate the lodgings, health and salaries of foreign workers. We also need a special law for housemaids in order to bring justice to this group which is subjected to a great deal of oppression due to the lack of a law that regulates their work in houses’. The report also criticized the fact that employees of the public sector do not have the right to establish unions just like workers in the private sector, and the harassment of trade unionists.