Bahrain in Human Rights Reports
Bahrain Ranked Third in the Arab World on the Right of Access
May 2010 has witnessed the publication of a number
of local and international human rights reports on Bahrain. The
reports highlighted the developments, which took place on specific
human rights fields, and included some suggestions and criticisms
to specific areas which require more efforts from the Government
in order to improve Bahrain’s human rights record internationally.
Amnesty: Investigating Torture Allegations
Amnesty International issued its annual report on 27 May 2010,
which covers human rights developments in 2009. The summary of the
report on Bahrain was as follows: ‘the Government took steps to
promote human rights and improve conditions for some migrant workers.
However, it continued to penalize criticism of the royal family
and failed to investigate allegations of torture in 2008. One person
remained at risk of execution’. The report also referred to the
establishment of the National Foundation for Human Rights, and said
the Government was considering withdrawing some of its reservations
from key international human rights treaties it had ratified. The
Government also said that it will introduce various legal reforms
and provide human rights training to judicial and other officials.
The report also - without declaring Amnesty’s position - pointed
to the use of the Shozin weapon during violent clashes, and said
that the Government had refuted the use of excessive force claiming
that security forces had only intervened when the protest became
violent. The report also mentioned the royal pardon of 178 prisoners
accused of involvement in violence in order to overthrow the Government’.
With regards to freedom of expression, the report said that ‘the
Bahraini Government remained especially sensitive to criticism of
the monarchy’. Also, amendments to the 2002 Press and Publications
Law, proposed in 2008, remained pending before the House of Representatives.
If implemented, the amendments would remove imprisonment as a penalty
for those convicted of criticizing the King or “inciting hatred
of the regime”. The report added that in January, the Ministry of
Information and Culture blocked a number of websites, blogs and
discussion forums, including some deemed to “incite hatred and sectarian
With regards to migrant rights, the report stated that ‘the Government
announced a revision of the sponsorship system – known as kafala
– through which foreign migrant workers obtain employment. The new
system, which came into force on 1 August, permits foreign workers
to change their employment without obtaining their current employer’s
consent. However, the report added that the new amendment does not
apply to domestic workers, most of whom are women, which makes them
subject to abuses at the hand of their employers.
Combating Human Trafficking
On April 2010, the National Commission to Combat Trafficking
issued its first report entitled ’Combating Human Trafficking in
the Kingdom of Bahrain’. The report introduction mentioned that
‘the Kingdom of Bahrain, like many countries of the world, is suffering
from the phenomena of trafficking in persons’. The report presented
the legislative developments to combat human trafficking, which
are included in the Bahraini 1976 Penal Code. It also presented
other Government legislations related to the same issue including
the Legislative Decree No. 16 (1988) on transplant of human organs,
Legislative Decree No. 23 (1976) promulgating the Labour Law and
Immigration and Residence Law issued in 1965. Finally the report
included Law No. 1 (2008) with respect to trafficking in persons.
The report also included measures and decisions undertaken by
Government bodies in order to combat human trafficking crimes such
as the establishment of a specialized unit and introducing measures
with regard to immigration and passports. This includes not deporting
any foreign worker unless an order is issued by the judicial authority,
setting up a hot line to receive complaints, providing shelter for
the victims and the issuing of guidelines booklets on the rights
of expatriate workers in several languages by LMRA. The report listed
all the training courses that Bahrain organized during the last
years, either alone or with the collaboration of local and international
civil society, UN agencies and international organizations such
as the IOM.
The report listed a number of cases related to human trafficking
in which the judiciary had intervened, and the investigations and
trials had taken place involving foreign and Bahraini citizens.
Finally, the report stressed the Kingdom of Bahrain’s determination
to eradicate the phenomena of trafficking in persons, through the
development of legislations and by urging relevant authorities to
apply preventative and deterrent measures to stop trafficking and
to increase bilateral and international cooperation to combat this
The Right of Access to Information
The Amman Centre for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS) published its
fifth report on press freedom and the right of access to information.
The report assessed Arab countries based on Article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights which states that ‘everyone has the
right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference, impart and receive
information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontier’.
It was also based on Article 19 of the International Convent on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that ‘everyone has
the right to hold opinions without interference. And that everyone
has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include
freedom to seek various forms of information and ideas, receive
and impart to others regardless of frontiers, either in writing
or in print, in the form of art, or any other media of his choice’.
The Amman Centre has designed an indicator to measure freedom
of access to information in the Arab world. The indicator is based
on two pillars, firstly the legal indicator, which deals with constitutional
provisions in a given country, and whether its government has ratified
the ICCPR. Secondly, an indicator for practical performance which
is defined by ’Article 19 Organization’ regarding citizens’ rights
to access information, which includes revealing information, obliging
public institutions to publish basic information, promoting an open
Government effectively, making exceptions clear, specific and subject
only to the principle of “harm and public interest”, and dealing
with information requests. Based on the two pillars of indicators,
the position of the countries is defined through their performance
and legislations on the freedom of access to information. It has
to be said that the legal indicator represents 60% and performance
indicator represents 40% of the overall weight.
The ACHRS concluded that Jordan had achieved (87%), Yemen (82%)
and Bahrain (78%) thereby occupying the three first places, while
Saudi Arabia had scored (%26), Syria (%23) and Libya (%23) thereby
occupying the bottom of the list. With regards to Bahrain, the report
looked at three articles in the Press Law namely; articles 31, 32
and 33 providing for the right of journalists to access information.
However, the report added that ‘despite these articles there are
no practical guarantees to provide journalists with information’.
It added that ‘there is an active movement in Bahrain, which demands
the issuing of a separate law for the right of access to information’.
The report also added that ‘Bahrain is expected to be the first
state in the GCC to give the right to each natural or corporeal
person to access information’. Authors of the report followed and
observed the Bahraini press, Parliament and civil society’s active
debate on the issue.