No Democracy without Human Rights

Towards Reforms and Change in Bahrain

In 1993, the Declaration and Programme of Action issued by the International Conference on Human Rights recognised the interdependence and mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy, development and human rights.

Democracy and human rights are interdependent and reinforce one another. There can be no democracy without respecting the fundamental rights of citizens in accordance to International human rights standards. An increase in human rights violations undermines democracy.

There is also a strong connection between human rights and the rule of law; and these two principles are the main components of democracy. If a country disrespects the rule of law, this will lead to the violation of the fundamental rights of its citizens. Respecting the rule of law is a sign of respect for the will of the people. Moreover, abiding by the law prevents discrimination, prejudice, totalitarianism and the misuse of power.

Currently, Bahrain is at a crossroad and the people are relying on the national dialogue to rebuild a consensual democratic political system. Political parties should understand that building a stable political system based on justice, equality and public participation, will be impossible without eliminating sectarianism, violence and extremism.

Bahrain will not be able to build its own political system with the continual misuse of power, economic and political corruption, impunity and restriction of freedoms.

The rule of law, human rights and democracy are intertwined and the absence of one will prevent the others from taking place. It is not possible to respect human rights without respecting the rule of law. Human rights violations contradict the essence of democracy and such violations are dealt with swiftly in democratic countries.

Bahrain faces two challenges. The first is finding a way to end the current political crisis through the initiation of a successful dialogue. The second challenge is building a political system that promotes democracy. Both challenges are difficult to overcome but there is hope that they can be achieved in the foreseeable future.

The path to achieving this is difficult and complicated but we all know that democracy cannot be built in one night. It is a long and continual process that needs time to become rooted in the system. It also requires investments, institutional work, collective efforts and awareness by social and political parties.

According to the reports of the OHCHR which was issued in December 2012, and was entitled ‘a study on the common challenges facing states in their efforts to secure democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective’: ‘states should strive to respect the principles of the rule of law, in particular, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, the independence and accountability of Parliament and institutional checks and balances, as guarantors of protection against impunity, cor?uption and abuse of power’.

The report also added that ‘democracy, development and human rights have important conceptual and practical affinities. The suppression of impediments to participation in public life and decision-making, reductions in income disparities, improved access to economic opportunities and social safety nets are markers of a healthy democracy’.

The report also stressed that ‘all components of civil society must be able to exercise their right to participate in decision-making structures and mechanisms and to be actively involved in democratization processes. Also, incitement to hatred, discrimination or intolerance on any ground is a threat to democracy and should be appropriately countered. Moreover, national security and counter-terrorism strategies must not serve as pretexts to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law’.

It is time for Bahrain to start reforms and make changes in order to restore stability. Long term solutions are needed and all political parties should think about the future and the interest of the public. They should stop lingering on the past and avoid thinking about factional interests.