The Inextricable Link Between Security and Human Rights

One of the basic issues in addressing human rights violations in Bahrain is fundamentally linked to the cultural term of reference and the legal and legislative standards that provide the legal and logical umbrella that determines the manner by which the problem is addressed. For example, despite the fact that protesters in Bahrain are able to obtain permits that allow them to protest legally, they choose not to do so, under the pretext that what they are doing conforms to international standards. They believe that having no permits should not prevent them from expressing their opinion or exercise their rights to assemble. On the other side, the Government, which has joined international conventions and agreements that oblige Bahrain to adapt its laws to conform with these conventions, tends however, quite often , to enact its own local legislations and ignore these international agreements and standards. This is why the Government finds itself unable to convince the international community of its administrative and legal procedures.

Many incidents that took place in Bahrain involved the breaking of the law as well as the committing of human rights violations. These two issues have posed a great challenge to the State’s institutions, civil society and active political parties. Theoretically the consensus was against breaking the law and in favour of the protection of Human Rights, but practically maintaining human rights has, to some degree, clashed with the considerations of maintaining security. Nevertheless, in our opinion, it is realistically possible to provide security and stability without compromising human rights principles and standards.

Maintaining security is a necessity for human rights but by no means an alternative to it. Security should not be maintained at the expense of human rights. It is difficult to strike the right balance especially when political situations are tense. On the one hand, the authorities stress the importance of security and view it as the priority, while pro democracy and human rights advocates, on the other hand, believe that lack of respect for human rights and the persistence of violations would only lead to the breaking of the law and disturbance of the peace. It is a conundrum no doubt.

Instability and unrest directly impact human rights as they affect the right to life, freedom and physical safety. The lack of security emanating from unrest is a basic factor in undermining the civil society as an entity and the role it plays, either by restricting its activities , or by politicising it . On the other hand, unrest threatens social and economic development and would subsequently have a direct effect on the ability of the community to enjoy its human rights in its broad and comprehensive sense.

Same as many other countries, Bahrain has faced the challenge of adhering to human rights standards, during political crises and their resulting social and security upheavals. This challenge includes the possibility of infringement on the security of individuals, a basic Human Right, which could entail the perpetration of some violations such as ill treatment, restriction of the margin of freedom of expression and imposition of sanctions on civil society organizations in general. Such practices would have its impacts on the rule of law, good governance and human rights.

This confirms the fact that respecting human rights and maintaining security are inextricably linked, for you cannot maintain one without the other. Without security, human rights cannot be protected and without human rights security cannot be achieved. For this reason, international human rights law urges countries to adopt the necessary procedures to protect security, not only through the use of reasonable force, but also by confronting social, economic, cultural and political problems which can cause instability and encourage unrest.

Giving priority to maintaining security is the correct course of action in the general sense because it means the protection of the lives, honour and dignity of people. But such course of action should only be conducted within the discipline of the law and the human rights binding obligations, otherwise it will have the opposite effect at the expense of a durable and sustained stability. In other words, the desired benefit from giving priority to security will not be felt on the ground without respecting human rights. Any human rights violations will have a negative impact on the security situation.

It is the duty of the Government to provide both security and respect for human rights simultaneously i.e. to protect security and to provide political and economic rights and services for citizens. This can only be achieved by respecting human rights principles. The Government should also ensure that the conduct of law enforcement institutions conform to both national and international laws. This should be taken into consideration even during major crisis. There is no conflict between the adoption of effective measures to enforce law and order and provide security, in the one hand, and the protection of human rights, on the other. As a matter of fact, both compliment and reinforce each other.