Bahrain in the AOHR’s report
In July 2010, the Cairo-based Arab Organization for Human Rights
(AOHR) released its annual report. The following are the main highlights
of this report regarding assessment of human rights in Bahrain:
Initially, the report discussed the constitutional and legal
developments in the country pointing to the Royal Decree of November
2009 with regard to the establishment of the National Institution
for Human Rights (NIHR). It also presented some of its aims and
objectives. The report also mentioned the second Royal Decree issued
in April 2010 regarding the appointment of the NIHR members. The
report highlighted the names of a number of human rights activists
who were given the responsibility of managing the NIHR.
The report of the AOHR reflected the opinion of the Bahraini
civil society regarding the NIHR stating that ‘as usual a number
of civil society organizations issued many statements doubting the
independence of the NIHR’. However, the AOHR believes that ‘judging
any national institution depends on its performance and its ability
to express society’s interests. This is what we hope the Bahraini
NIHR is going to achieve’.
The report also pointed to the ratification of the family protection
bill on 22 April 2010 by the House of Representatives.
Under the title of: (Fundamental Rights) the report presented
a number of issues including the case where the Supreme Court of
Appeal revoked the verdict of a Court of First Instance of 13 October
2009, in which the Court of First Instance acquitted 19 persons
accused of killing a security man in what is publicly known as the
Carazcan Case. The Court of Appeal sentenced each of the 19 accused
to three years’ imprisonment.
In addition to this, the Human Rights Watch report on torture
was mentioned and how it ‘triggered controversies which lead to
the society demanding that the authority reveal those responsible
for these inhuman practices and hold them accountable for their
Among the issues that were mentioned in the report was also Issues
related to the Anti-Trafficking Law and the establishment of a national
committee for combating human trafficking, were also mentioned in
the report. The report described this as a ‘positive step’, but
highlighted concerns of the Bahrain Human Rights Society that ‘there
are no mechanisms to activate the Law especially with regards to
oppressed domestic workers’. The report suggested that there is
need to establish a fund to protect victims of human trafficking
in order to help them financially during their waiting for court
rulings or in appointing lawyers or in providing them with a living
income during judicial deliberations. The AOHR report also mentioned
the visits of the Bahrain Human Rights Society to the women’s detention
centre and presented parts of the report, which was issued in May
2009, and its findings and recommendations.
The AOHR covered the issue of the abolishment of the sponsorship
system regarding foreign workers, which began in August 2009. Although
the step was praised by many, local and international human rights
organizations including the AOHR demanded that the Law also include
Moreover, under the title of (Public Freedoms) the report presented
some of the debates regarding freedom of expression and highlighted
that the Government announced a new legislation for the press in
May 2008 and is expected to abolish criminal punishments in most
journalistic breaches. However, despite this, the authority continued
to use the Press Law (No 47 of 2002) in order to restrict the freedom
of journalists and to limit the coverage of controversial issues.
The law still provides for criminal punishments for some written
and oral comments and can still be used in the case of writings
that harm national unity.
The report also said that many journalists were subjected to
legal pursuit based on the current law in the context of writing
about favouritism and corruption in various Government sectors.
It also added that ‘journalists working in Bahrain have complained
that they have been contacted by officials from the Ministry of
Interior regarding their criticisms of Government policies. At times,
the Ministry would even interfere to stop the publication of the
information. In April 2009 the authority closed the daily newspaper
Akhbar Al Khaleeg with the excuse that it violated the Press Law
but removed the ban after 24 hours.
The report also highlighted the legal pursuit of several journalists
such as Hussain Sabt who was accused of publically defaming one
official. After many court sessions, he was forced to publish an
apology in the newspaper. It also mentioned the summoning of the
writer Lamees Dhaif to the court who was accused of insulting the
judiciary in a chain of articles published in February 2010.
The report stated that restrictions still exist on the use of
the internet and the closure of 1040 websites with the excuse of
targeting pornographic sites by the Ministry of Information. According
to the report, a closer look at these sites showed that some of
them were in fact news sites and journals, debate forums and human
Comments on the report
1- The AOHR report on Bahrain is balanced in its comprehensive
coverage and the variety of issues. The report also attempts to
draw attention to the positive and negative elements in the Government’s
performance in a professional manner.
2- The report also relies on credible information sources and
in many cases the information is correct, although there are some
shortcomings. For instance, the Ministry of Social Development prevented
a workshop by the BHRS on building human rights skills on 27 -29
May 2010. This was based on the excuse that the workshop program
contained some political elements and that the Society failed to
publish the full details of them. However, the report failed to
mention that the workshop was then given permission to take place
on 18-21 June 2010.
3- There are also various ways of analysing these cases. For
instance, some of the non- pornographic internet websites, which
were shut down, incited hatred and violence. With regards to the
authority’s closure of the Bahraini Nursing Society office in Sulaimania
Medical Centre on 23 March 2010, the report stated that the reason
for this was the fact that the Society planned to organise a meeting
that day in solidarity with the detainees of one demonstration.
According to the Ministry of Health, the reason for the closure
was due to the accumulation of legal and administrative breaches.
Finally, with regards to the difficulties that face Bahraini
Journalists, as mentioned in the report, it is necessary to remember
the fact that until now no journalist has been detained since the
beginning of the reforms and that the current Press Law does not
satisfy journalists. However, both the legislative and executive
authorities bear responsibility for the delay in the ratification
of a new Press Law, which fulfils the requirement of free journalism
and abolishes the punishments that restrict journalists.