Transitional justice not retribution:
If We have Learned Our Lesson,
We should Let Bygones be Bygones
When large crowds are engaged in some conflicts or disputes,
not one particular group or person is to blame. In a civil strife
no regime would be able to punish a large number of people. Therefore
collective punishment is not the answer to the problem.
Loss of life and revenge will only inflame the situation and
gaping wounds would remain for a long time. No solutions are left
except to forgive everybody or limit the circle of punishment to
those officials who have committed the atrocities.
All feuding parties in Bahrain have committed mistakes through
words or actions, trespassed on a number of occasions, instilled
hatred and violated human rights. If the law of the land is to be
applied, thousands will end up imprisoned. Retrospective punishment
is therefore unfeasible, at a time when Bahrain strives for a way
out and aspires to a stable future.
Those who refuse to let bygones be bygones forget that their
refusal would affect everybody, including themselves, if the same
standards are applied. Bahrain needs to cultivate forgiveness because
it is the only way to achieve reconciliation, stability and help
to bring people together.
In times of strife and prevalent tension, abhorrent things could
take place. That is why the principle of upholding the law is important
in its entirety to retain security and stability; but a strict painstaking
accountability does not necessarily lead or contribute to the return
to normality. Mistakes have been committed by different political
parties. So it makes sense to forfeit common and minor misdemeanours
and concentrate on asserting stability and security.
We hope that the community has embarked on a stage of nursing
the wounds and of tolerance, forgiveness and departure from a harmful
and painful past that had affected everyone.
Forgiveness does not cancel the need to activating the concept
of transitional Justice. The essence of this justice is to take
the democratic path, sever links with past mistakes and miseries
and to hold the persons who committed them fully accountable. In
some countries different approaches have been adopted, such as the
establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission or the thorough
documentation of errors and violations.
We hope that the society is entering a phase of forgiveness because
we need to focus on security and stability.
In Bahrain we have had an accumulation of errors in the periods
before reforms were instigated and after February 2011. We need
to find agreeable solutions, find new ways that would not confine
us as prisoners of the past. Our politicians failed to agree on
a settlement regarding the victims of the pre-reforms era in spite
of good intentions. Their failure was due to:-
(a) The Political polarization , Which led to the hijacking of
the human rights file by politicians, where it has been addressed
within a political perspective rather than a human rights one.
(b) A lack of confidence that had contributed to the failure
of many initiatives, particularly as the political opposition was
not merely seeking material compensation for the victims, but aiming
at extracting political concessions through forcing the government
hand rather than cooperating with it, at a time when the domestic
political climate was least favourable.
(c) The exploitation of the torture issue to achieve political
ends. Some hard-line political circles did not see any personal
benefit from a successful conclusion to the issue – so they rejected
all possible suggested solutions.
(d) The lack of courage and psychological readiness amongst the
feuding parties to acknowledge mistakes and shoulder their part
of the responsibility.
Now we are approaching a possible political breakthrough, the
same scenario is being played out again. With the residues of the
past still evident, compounded by the addition of new files of a
greater number of victims, this issue would undoubtedly be one of
the major talking points among the opposing political parties, which
means that it has to be resolved, otherwise the situation will continue
to be tense, and would significantly affect the outcome of the dialogue
and national reconciliation process.
What we are seeking is transitional justice not retribution.
We are looking for political and humanitarian solutions rather
than political condemnation or the exploitation of the victim’s
We want to leave the past where it belongs, behind us, and look
forward to a brighter future, learning from our mistakes in order
to safeguard against their recurrence.
Bahrain is in need of a political way out, a diffusion of the
tension on both the political and security fronts to enable the
introduction of the concept of transitional justice.
The Government should always take the initiative, and the proponents
of the application of the transitional justice should appreciate
the existing political situation and acknowledge that justice should
work both ways. The government is not the only party to shoulder
all the blame. The opposition has its fair share too. What is needed
is for all parties to rise above the wounds and the pain, and to
act with maturity and in a responsible manner and to learn from
the bitter experience of the past three years?how to coexist, compromise
and put the national interests above all.