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
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.
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.