Respecting Human Rights is the Way to Achieve Stability

Dr. Loai Deeb

Dr. Loai Deeb

Bassiouni’s report laid the foundation for the principles needed for the desired changes in Bahrain. The recommendations of the report created a state of incomplete transitional justice; but also created a willingness to uncover past violations, promoted civil peace, reconciliation, the rule of law and democracy.

Bassiouni’s recommendations can be regarded as the first step towards achieving justice in a way that is suitable for Bahraini society after the period of unfortunate human rights violations and violence. When he first ascended the throne, the King of Bahrain took a historical decision when he initiated the first political reforms. He also took another important decision when he ordered the establishment of Bassiouni’s Committee and committed himself to implementing the recommendations of the report.

The democratic transition in Bahrain should be combined with steps of transitional justice such as allowing criminal lawsuits, conducting legal investigations with those responsible of violations, establishing truth committees, setting up compensation programmes and reforming security apparatus. All these steps have been taken by the Government, however, they are incomplete and unsatisfying and have failed to end the crisis. The reasons behind this are the lack of political trust, fear of the future and the? existence of incitement discourses. The steps taken by the Government are very important and positive; however, the Bahraini scene is still unclear as there are still many shortcomings which need to be addressed. There is also a need for creative initiatives in order to improve the relations of the various social components.

Promoting trust in post-crisis societies requires more interrelated measures . For without efforts to uncover the truth and compensate the victims, punishing a few criminals could be seen as a form of political revenge. On the other hand, uncovering the truth without prosecuting those responsible of violations and reforming security institutions could be regarded as words without deeds. In addition to this, compensating the victims without criminal lawsuits can be seen as trying to silence the victims (this cannot be applied to the compensation programmes that the Bahraini Government endorsed). Moreover, reforming institutions without political partnership will fail to achieve the desired results.

We believe in the right of citizens to know the truth as equal as their legitimate right to live free and prosperously. The possibility of achieving peace, democracy and change differs from one country to another. However, uncovering the truth is essential whatever the circumstances as long as decision makers in Bahrain are able to cooperate with other political parties. This will help in achieving civil peace, democratic development and avoiding the repetition of past mistakes. National dialogue is also important for promoting consociational democracy, co-existence and the rule of the law. These are the main aims of all Bahrainis who desire to overcome the current crisis and heal the wounds of the past.

Moreover, there is a grave need for internal dialogue between on the one hand, all the social components and between political societies and the Government on the other hand. There is also a need for the active participation of all parties in the political process. Good intention if found among political parties is not enough to solve the problem, it should be seen on the ground.

To avoid more disunity in the society, Bahraini national identity needs restructuring on solid political and cultural bases, equal citizenship standards and a state of freedom and law.

Other countries which went through similar crises were able to move beyond a transitional justice towards a reconciliation justice through admitting their mistakes, forgiveness, transparency and placing legislative foundations in order to prevent the repetition of the past. Despite the importance of punishment as a deterrent tool, it should not be an objective in itself. The Penal Code alone cannot create ethics, protect coexistence standards and dignity; for ethics should come from within and from believing in the rights of others. The demands of the political movement in Bahrain were legitimate but were transformed into political and social division, violence, and sectarian discourses. Sectarianism in the media is very harmful and should stop in order to prevent further losses.

The Government and opposition are both responsible for Bahrain’s future and both should be lenient with their demands for the sake of preserving and strengthening the social fabric, achieving political and security stability, achieving a balanced development and a genuine national consensus. It is obvious that some of Bassiouni’s recommendations point in this direction and implementing them professionally represents a way out for all. Political parties should benefit from the rich experiences of others in order to create their own unique experience of achieving stability.