Politicization, bureaucracy and lack of flexibility:
Obstacles Facing the National Foundation for Human Rights
The Bahrain Human Rights Monitor (BHRM) values the efforts made
by officials in order to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain.
At the same time we have been monitoring abuses and shortcomings
and offer recommendations which serve the human rights issues in
professional manner through objective analysis and commitment to
the principles and values of human rights. Among the things that
we advocated for and urged the Government to carry out is establishing
an independent national human rights body. The Royal Decree dated
11November 2009 on the establishment of the National Foundation
for Human Rights (NFHR) is a qualitative leap in protecting and
promoting human rights in Bahrain.
The establishment of such an institution places human rights
at the top of the agenda of a number of interested parties (government
and civil society) and strike a required balance needed to protect
human rights by different actors including the State itself. The
Government has placed itself in a position of the leading sponsor
of human rights through a new mechanism, which called for by many
relevant actors. The establishment of the NFHR is a step forward,
which must be supported in order to carry out its duty properly.
The positive momentum created by the warm welcome to establish
this institution, suggests that the aspirations of many human rights
societies have been met. The challenge remains in how far the NFHR
will demonstrate its credibility, neutrality and ability to perform
Advantages expected from the establishment of the NFHR are enormous,
just to mention:
- Establishment of the NFHR creates a climate of trust between
the citizen and the State - which has always been the first
suspect of human rights violations.
- Establishing the NFHR emphasizes that human rights are important
and an integral part of the process of democratic change, therefore,
principles and values of human rights must be included in the
- The establishment of the National NFHR for Human Rights
will accelerate pace of the required changes in the human rights
field within the legislative and executive organs of the State,
as well as within the political societies and civil society
organizations, in line with the NFHR’s mission to protect and
promote human rights.
- The NFHR will be a link between the regional and international
human rights organizations, and thus would lift the burden of
the shoulder of the various organs of the State, which deal
with such organizations without coherence and harmony.
The fears that affecting the work of the NFHR, which must be
avoided from now-on include:
- It is feared that the NFHR will be affected by political
pressure and consequently put political interests of certain
governmental body before the human rights that serve the interest
of the citizens and raise the profile of the State at the international
level. In other words, it is feared that the NFHR may deviate
from the human rights course to the political debate and be
influenced by it, so it loses courage and decisiveness in dealing
with the human rights issues.
- It is feared that the NFHR be transformed to a bureaucratic
organ, governed by impractical procedures, which restrict its
jurisdiction and effectiveness. Particularly, with regard to
the slow procedures in dealing with individual complaints, lack
of follow-up to such complaints and the speed of adjudication,
this shed doubts about the relevance and credibility of the
- It is also feared that the NFHR to become an arena for conflict
with civil society organizations, or between civil society organizations
themselves, or between the latter and the government, this will
transform the energies in the direction of destruction and obstruction
instead of development and cooperation.
- It is also feared that the NFHR becomes structurally ineffective;
thereby hindering its work, therefore there is need for an institutional
and organizational structure that is flexible and effective
at the same time.
- It is also feared the lack of cooperation from civil society
organizations with the NFHR, or the latter’s inflexibility in
order to absorb and benefit from the energies and creativity
of civil society in this area. The NFHR should not operate in
isolation from the human rights community, and this necessitates
constant communication and consultation with human rights societies
Hopes and expectations for the NFHR are large; and the challenges
are enormous, which require more efforts and wisdom in dealing with
them as well as the cooperation of all parties concerned in order
for the NFHR to realize its objectives and becomes successful.