Bahrain: Steps towards Promoting Transitional Justice
Lawyer: Samer Moussa
Coordinator of the Legal Aid Program in the
Addamir Association for Human Rights- Gaza
The Implementation of the principle of transitional justice will
to some extent guarantee justice especially during the period of
democratic transition. Resorting to reconciliation methods could
prove to be more beneficial than filing lawsuits as it promotes
a culture of accountability. It also paves the way for national
reconciliation and accepting compromises which protects the rights
of victims and prevents them from taking revenge or resorting to
international courts or regional polarizations.
The principle of national reconciliation in the context of the
implementation of transitional justice has different meanings. According
to some, it relates to the efforts of politicians to start a new
page or amnesty. However, according to human rights defenders this
kind of reconciliation is rarely accepted as it is argued that real
reconciliation should be connected to accountability, justice, admitting
mistakes and guaranteeing that violations will not be repeated.
More often , reconciliation is presented as a final and achievable
goal without much concern to the process it needs. Hence focusing
too much on reconciliation in this way could lead to failure and
Implementing transitional justice has many advantages such as
providing a comprehensive approach in dealing with violations as
well as balance and assimilation. For transitional justice does
not concentrate on the protection of civil peace at the expense
of the victim’s right for justice. It is possible to measure the
legitimacy of the mechanism of transitional justice through the
level of victim complaints, support, participation and benefits.
Despite the fact that some believe that currently Bahrain in
not ready for implementing transitional justice, I do believe that
most Bahraini people are able to implement it and overcome the past
ordeal. This is because what unites them is much stronger than the
reasons for their disunity. Perhaps most Bahrainis have realised
now more than any time before the importance of co-existence based
on a new political and social contract which is founded on reason,
forgiveness, democracy and human rights.
Hasan Moosa Shafaie has stressed that the principle of transitional
justice has different meanings according to different parties, and
that its philosophy is based on the idea that in order to follow
the path of democracy, any country would need to leave its past
mistakes behind. This involves insuring that past mistakes are not
repeated and holding to account those responsible for violations.
According to Shafaie, the effects of the past are still continuing
and a consensual solution has not been reached yet; despite the
fact that the Government has presented some solutions to victims.
However, these issues were used as a tool for political pressure
and condemnation as opposed to a step towards a real settlement.
The Government should be creative, take initiatives, understand
the current political circumstances and realise that there are two
sides to transitional justice. Both the Government and the opposition
made mistakes and for this reason, national reconciliation, forgiveness
and admitting mistakes are all essential.
During any transition or political conflict, societies become
torn between a legacy of human rights violations and the desire
for promoting justice, peace and reconciliation. Transitional justice
is hence the only solution. This involves striving for a comprehensive
justice during the period of political transition. For the concept
of transitional justice consists of two parts: achieving justice
and then moving on into the future with a new positive attitude
and respect for human rights principles.
Transitional justice in Bahrain can be achieved through:
The rule of law, which includes: reforming the Judiciary, constitution
and election laws, promoting the separation of authorities, public
political participation, respecting the freedom of the press and
implementing the system of the Constitutional Court.
National reconciliation, this is a part of a transitional justice
program and a basic effort to promote civil peace and national trust
between the old adversaries while achieving justice, accountability
and fairness to the victims.
Restructuring security bodies, this includes, training the police
force according to a new strategy which protects human rights and
introducing standards for administrative and legal accountability
for various security apparatus.
Continuing political development and civil awareness, through
the introduction of policies that aim to build a civil and democratic
Reforming the media and education system:- This is in order to
build a national culture which promotes unity and avoids social
It is difficult to specify all the steps needed for transitional
justice, but I do believe that the most important steps are to actually
implement Bassiouni’s recommendations and to benefit from other
Arab experiences. The implementation should also be accompanied
by good intentions in order to create a society in which human rights
In light of all the current changes and challenges in Bahrain,
the plan to achieve transitional justice in Bahrain should be based
on five aspects:
* Achieving fair trials which prosecute the perpetrators of violations
whether they were directly or indirectly involved, as was stated
in Bassiouni’s recommendations.
* Searching for the truth which covered many pages in Bassiouni’s
report that detailed the daily events that took place in February
and March 2011.
* Compensating the victims through the fund established by Royal
Decree number 30 for the year 2011.
Institutional and legal reform, dismissing those responsible
for violations from public positions and training civil servant
to respect and implement the principles of human rights.
* Avoiding future violations and promoting social initiatives
by reviving the collective memory of the society.
To ensure that human rights violations will not take place again.
The procedures taken by the Bahraini
The implementation of the recommendations, such reinstating workers,
releasing prisoners of conscience and prosecuting torture perpetrators
and those involved in the killing of citizens will lay the foundation
for a new political, legal and legislative phase.
There are also several recommendations regarding transitional
Firstly, promoting access to transitional justice in order to
build a state in which human rights and freedoms are respected.
The concerned parties should work towards promoting the independence
of Judiciary, encouraging the separation of authorities and reconstructing
the political system on democratic grounds which guarantee the participation
of all citizens and promote accountability and oversight.
the past and present events as well as the violations that took
place necessitate an immediate solution and strategy? decision which
moves the country towards the next phase in order to lay the foundation
for a new period of human rights respect.
Thirdly, the National Institution for Human Rights should be
developed in order to combat all forms of discrimination and marginalization
through the use new programs and plans and to fulfil Bassiouni’s
recommendation. This is in addition to promoting the values of citizenship
as a framework to rights and obligations, presenting proposals on
political assimilation, participating in decision making through
national and constitutional institutions and transforming social
and economic rights to realities on the ground.
Fourthly, supporting the human rights activities of Bahraini
civil societies and spreading the foundations of transitional justice
which takes into consideration Bahraini society and represents a
new social and political will.