NIHR’s Independence Vital for its Success
The annual report of the National Institution for Human Rights
(NIHR) has come as a surprise to observers and those concerned in
terms of its content, professional tackling of topics as well as
its maturity in providing suggestions and recommendations.
Despite containing objective criticism for many of the human
rights issues in Bahrain, the report undoubtedly presents a positive
image of NIHR and the large margin of independence it enjoys. The
report also reinforces NIHR’s credibility at the local and international
We in Bahrain Human Rights Monitor believe that NIHR has made
an achievement, not only for the issuance of such a report, but
also because it reveals the substantial efforts exerted by NIHR
recently to meet its responsibilities according to the statutes
of its establishment. The domestic or international public opinion
was not aware of those efforts, so learning about them in the context
of the report , came as complete surprise for everyone.
We hope that NIHR will consolidate its local status as well as
its standing in the human rights world with more of such acts and
activities. We hope that it opens up to the domestic scene before
the worldwide one, to become an essential human rights reference
for the state and society, and to play a pivotal role in the solution
and the development of human rights issues.
We wish that NIHR’s members, staff and officials, will continue
this professional and objective approach. We hope that they could
build upon it for their future activities, through following-up
the implementation of recommendations and assisting the government
in solving human rights problems. Having said that, we also call
upon the state’s institutions to engage in further cooperation with
NIHR, as per the Royal Decree establishing it.
As much as it is considered an asset to NIHR, this Report is
also an asset to the government it criticized. Acceptance and recognition
of this criticism, and commitment to the implementation of the recommendations
set out in the report, enhances the credibility of the government
in terms of its seriousness in dealing with the human rights dossier.
It also is an indication of the seriousness of the government in
providing the favorable atmosphere for NIHR work, without the pressures
restricting its independence and its positions, as stipulated in
the Paris Principles.
The greater the commitment to the principles of Paris, the greater
is the chance for development of a national human rights institution
that is credible, effective and professional. Conversely, the abandonment
of those principles leaves the national human rights institutions
void of value and drains them of any moral balance or presumed standing
, and consequently renders them unable to serve neither human rights
nor the regimes that established them.
In order to support NIHR, we are primarily required to implement
its recommendations, and to increase the cooperation of government
institutions and ministries with it. Cooperation could take place
by providing information, allowing investigation or by responding
to NIHR questions and inquiries, or other means. On the other hand,
officials need to keep NIHR away from interventions or pressures
if any. NIHR needs to be encouraged, praised and given confidence
to be a true human rights voice that sincerely expresses the reality
of the society and the state.
As for the civil society institutions, particularly civil human
rights organizations, we ask them to view the NIHR report and activities
with fairness, leaving aside the political polarizations and stereotypes.
The Bahraini civil society was expected to read the report and welcome
it publicly; but the attitude of stereotyping among some, made them
unable to even consider the report, let alone express any positive
response to it, in terms of its actual service to the cause of human
rights and not as a tool to condemn the government based on the
principal of (I judge you by your own words!)
We have not seen any positive reaction towards the report from
the civil society institutions affiliated to the opposition, bearing
in mind that the report confirmed that NIHR has requested the assistance
of local human rights societies which did not respond to the request.
But we do hope that the report will be the beginning of a new relationship
between the NIHR and all Bahraini civil society institutions. The
international organizations and the United Nations often ask national
institutions to cooperate, interact and encourage civil society
organizations to engage in their programs and human rights activities
and to consult with them in their reports, drawing of policies,
plans and programs, and even in the implementation of those plans,
programs and in their evaluation. How can that take place, if the
civil society is negatively boycotting and is unable to see things
objectively and positively?
It should be noted here that Bahrain has achieved some positive
bright spots in its human rights march. But these are sporadic in
most cases; and not built upon, developed and expanded. The Government
has a right to complain that many people do not acknowledge the
positive aspects. This is true to a large extent. But it is also
true that many of these positive aspects are often lost primarily
because of the political conflict. There are those who see only
blackness and are merely interested in promoting the negative news
only. On the other hand, there are official mistakes that occur
and overshadow the positive aspects painstakingly accomplished by
the Government. Then there are some issues that are not fully accomplished,
and are not properly followed up till they bear fruit.
We hope that the NIHR project pays off even after a while, and
we wish this plant would grow till it becomes a towering tree.