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 issue.

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.