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 levels.

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.