How could Bahrain Generate More
Positive Human Rights Reports?

No country in the world is immune from criticism when it comes to human rights. In addition to listening to criticism, countries, in general, are interested to hear references to the efforts they make to remedy their human rights situation, especially those issues that have been previously criticized in public reports.

Since criticism is made publicly through human rights reports issued by several international bodies; likewise, publicly referring to the reforms and rectifications achieved in those same reports may be necessary for a gradual human rights development process. A positive reference may just be the tonic needed for the development of the human rights situation in most countries of the world. Here is Why?

It is true that one of the foremost functions of international human rights organizations is to monitor human rights violations, to call upon the states concerned to end such violations, and develop laws to protect the citizens’ rights. It is also true, in theory, that the task of these organizations does not involve giving those states a pat on the back, rather than openly confronting them with their violations. However, it is also true, that, if the ultimate goal is indeed the development of human rights, the choice of approaches should consider the outcomes and consequences, and accordingly modify the means to achieve the ends.

This is because that states are not only governed by people, who go through what all other ordinary people experience , but they also behave like people in the sense that they are not always willing to accept pressures that they may deem prejudicial to their dignity. This may lead them to act contrary to those pressures and instead of complying with international law and the relevant obligations and commitments, they may resort to sending negative messages to other countries and human rights organizations, as a reaction to the way they have been approached.

Hence, using pressure and applying even more pressure is not always the solution. Pressure may be useful only as a means of opening doors with the states concerned, in order to establish a constructive relationship conducive to the development of the human rights situation. This calls for encouragement, and perhaps praise, rather than denigration of the accomplishments of those countries. It calls for human rights reporting that does not neglect to point out the progress achieved. This serves as a motivation to continue such progress. In other words, the pressure applied needs to be equivalent to the encouragement, if we are to upgrade the human rights dossier and prevent violations.

That is why countries are eager to see the reflection of their efforts on their standing and reputation abroad, and on how the international human rights community views them. If those countries do not find sufficient appreciation, or find total neglect, they will simply stop working on their human rights dossier, especially if relentless media and political pressure continues through reporting and rallying against them. This is more so, if the states concerned do not see equity and impartiality in the reports criticizing them.

State Responsibility

The logic of the international human rights community is different from the logic of the governments explained above. The human rights discourse and stance adopted by international organizations, institutions and even countries, is based on the following:

  • There is no justification for human rights violations in any country. Even if this was due to a deficiency in the legislative and institutional structure, the country concerned may request the assistance of the international community in developing it. Moreover, states are generally governed by international conventions and treaties which oblige them to protect and promote human rights. Thus, the breach of those obligations makes them subject to internal and external accountability.
  • That each state should respect the rights of its citizens is supposed to be the norm. In fact, the very reason for creation of these states is to protect and maintain those rights. Certainly, the state’s fulfilment of its human rights duties towards its people needs no thanks, since it benefits the state, as a government and as people, more than anyone else.
  • The focus on criticism without praise is intended to remind governments of their duties, as well as their national and international legal obligations. This criticism, might be seen as interference in the internal affairs of another country, but in today’s world the international law grants the international human rights community the right to do so.

Bahrain 2016

This should drive governments to think about ‘reform’ and ‘ending violations’ as a moral and legal duty. No doubt, the promotion of human rights in any country would benefit its image and reputation abroad, and would be reflected on the international reports, even those that specialize in criticism and the monitoring of violations.

In other words, regardless of the extent of praise and commendation contained in International human rights reporting of the human rights’ progress and achievements of the relevant governments ; as long as human rights reform efforts, continue persistently, they will impose themselves on the international community, not to mention their positive impact on the national level, with respect to strengthening the structure of the state and its institutions, the cohesion of its people and the stability of its political, social and security structures.

So, how can Bahrain make 2016 human rights reports more positive than the reports issued in the past four years?

Undoubtedly, the path towards this goal is clear. As much as we ask the international human rights community to be more equitable, neutral and positive in its coverage of the positive human rights developments in Bahrain, we also, on the other hand, tell Bahrain to draw up a human rights roadmap, that responds to the issues of concern and achieves some progress in tackling them, in such a way that would oblige the international organizations to include those achievements in their reports for this year, 2016.

We and the international human rights community believe that Bahrain could help in making reports concerning its human rights situation become more positive, by taking into account the following important aspects:

  • There are many countries and international human rights institutions that provide technical support to Bahrain in various fields in order to develop its human rights situation. These institutions and countries that have invested efforts, funds and expertise in Bahrain, expect their investment to pay off in the form of tangible results. Since these agencies and institutions continue to provide support, it is important and necessary for them to see the extent of achievements realized on the ground.
  • Bahrain needs to issue regular reports on the extent of its implementation of the recommendations of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review mechanism, and in particular those relating to collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Also Bahrain has to demonstrate its readiness to receive UN’s Special Rapporteurs.
  • Bahrain has achieved a lot in the human rights front, but has not done enough to acquaint the international human rights community with those achievements. This can not only be done through the media, but also through engagement and cooperation with the international human rights community, especially international human rights organizations.
  • Bahrain has to provide, periodically, a full report on the steps taken or being taken to address the issues of concern expressed by members of the Human Rights Council, so that the progress and development in the human rights situation could be monitored. Thing could become clearer by demonstrating the progress made in implementing the recommendations contained in Bassiouni’s report, which has become both a national and international reference.
  • Bahrain needs to move towards openness with the international human rights organisations (NGOs), and to express its readiness to welcome visits by them. Cooperation with these NGOs is often regarded as a positive indicator of the state’s credibility and seriousness in stopping abuses and proceeding with human rights reform.
  • Bahrain needs to take the necessary steps towards enhancing political and social stability as well as confronting the changing and emerging challenges. This is necessary because political stability is a key element in ensuring the protection and respect of human rights.
  • The Bahraini Government needs to demonstrate via practical steps that it is adopting an open-door policy towards Bahraini civil society institutions, and that it is seeking cooperation and consultation with them on human rights dossiers, as well as involving them in all matters relating to the implementation of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

Reconciliation with the Bahraini civil society and involving it in the official human rights efforts is an international demand. Continuing the estrangement or confrontation, makes the world generally predisposed towards the civil society and inclined to believe it. Under this state of affairs, the world will show little interest in what the government has to say, and will not appreciate the government’s efforts. The best testimony that Bahrain could present about its achievements, should not necessarily c?me directly through official channels or the media, but more so through a real human rights civil society, that is strong and plays an active and independent role in the human rights progress and achievement, and as such, will be more inclined to defend the government’s human rights achievements, regarding them as its own, and seeking to build on them for a better tomorrow.

  • Violations need to stop, so that the world can turn its attention to the achievements. No one can say that violations do not exist, as there is no country in the world without violations. However, what is of essence here is that the repetition and abundance of violations, however small or individual they may be, is sufficient to preoccupy human rights organizations and the entire human rights community. Thus, the spotlights will only be focused on those violations. No attention will be paid to the achievements, which will then be swept away by the torrent of repeated an? persistent mistakes.

For all this, and in order for 2016 to be a positive and productive year, witnessing a shift in the views of the international human rights community towards the situation in Bahrain, a plan of action is indispensable. This action plan needs to achieve the points mentioned above. Whatever is accomplished will constitute an achievement for Bahrain, as a government, while greatly benefiting the society, as well as creating a turning point in the progress of Bahrain’s human rights, political and social development.