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 effectively.

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 process.
  • 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 NFHR.
  • 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 and activists.

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.