Bahrain Monitor - A Monthly Newsletter on the Human Rights Situation in Bahrain

Inconsiderate Pressures
Lead to Setbacks

There is a bitter complaint voiced by many countries attempting to develop their human rights dossier and ease foreign concerns about their human rights situation. More often than not, the majority of countries responds and interacts with the challenges they face in their human rights dossier and seek to remedy the situation, which is often the focus of attention and subject of criticism.

The major problem, however, is that the efforts of these countries may not be reflected in the desired manner on international human rights reports. This applies irrespective of whether these reports are issued by organizations, states or international institutions. When criticizing, these reports provide details of abuses, identify responsibilities and call for change in the form of recommendations. However, when the states concerned implement some or all of these recommendations, they are not met with any positive feedback in subsequent reports nor are they hailed, except incidentally, for the development achieved. more

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? more

Queries at UK Parliament on
Human Rights in Bahrain

During the past weeks, the British Parliament witnessed a number of discussions about Bahrain. The discussions generally reflect the interest of the British Government and MPs in Bahrain, as well as the kingdom’s importance in British politics. The questions posed by MPs to the British government, identify the areas of interest in Bahrain’s affairs, while the responses by the British Foreign Office reflect UK’s vision and its approach towards the human rights dossier.

(Ian Lucas (MP), January 25, 2016): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to support the extension of democracy in Bahrain.

Tobias Elwood, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

(Tobias Ellwood, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, February 2, 2016): Governance of Bahrain is a matter for all political parties in Bahrain. We encourage all political parties, to engage constructively in political dialogue in order to reach an inclusive political settlement. Although we were disappointed by the opposition’s decision to boycott the 2014 elections, we commended the participation of a broad range of candidates which saw 14 independent Shia candidates win seats, of which three were women. We regularly discuss human rights and reform with the Government of Bahrain including at the biannual UK-Bahrain Joint Working Group meeting which was most recently held in November 2015. more

My Message to
Human Rights Defenders

Hasan Moosa Shafaei

Hasan Moosa Shafaei

The relationship between the Government and civil society in Bahrain was short-lived.

Despite the flourishing of civil society at the commencement of the reforms era in 2000, with the emergence of hundreds of civil society organizations in all fields, including human rights; the relationship quickly deteriorated leaving behind a common sense of disappointment.

The government felt that human rights organizations, in particular, turned away from human rights activism by indulging in politics and ultimately over-politicizing human rights work. Furthermore, the government found that emerging human rights organizations were not rational and were not seeking a gradual political and human rights development, despite knowing that the political system is incapable of omitting or transcending stages due to its own special circumstances. more

Promoting Human Rights
the British Way

The international human rights community - including states, official international organizations, NGOs, as well as academic and research centres- adopts various approaches and methods with regard to promoting and improving human rights, and protecting them in the face of violations in various parts of the world. However, the dominant feature of the trends of these human rights entities is the tendency towards vehemence and sometimes confrontations with perpetrators of violations and sharp criticism and calls for strong international actions against the perpetrators that may include the threat of military intervention.

There are some, however, who believe that pressure and confrontations may not yield fruit, and that the quiet diplomacy is more capable of reaching the shore, by safely navigating the raging seas of thorny human rights issues, than the vessels of vilification, threats and intimidation. more

Moving Bahraini Human Rights Dossier Abroad, Why?

Indeed! Why do we see Geneva and some European capitals becoming the main battleground for human rights’ battles between the Bahraini opposition and the government?

Is it mainly because the human rights centre of gravity is currently located in Geneva, seat of the highest international human rights authority in the world i.e. the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights? Or is it also due to the presence of the UN Human Rights Council, with all its powers, tools and capabilities and international influence; in addition to the presence of the headquarters of a large, unlimited and ever expanding number of the most important international human rights organiz?tions; and the existence in Geneva of a persistent and continuous human rights activity by countries and human rights organizations throughout the year? more

Bahrain & the International
Human Rights Organizations:
Dialogue & Problems

On the eve of the start of its reform project in 2000, Bahrain has opened the door to all international human rights organizations. This attitude was adopted under Bahrain’s belief in the need to cooperate with them, as well as its confidence that it is proceeding in the right direction, as far as human rights are concerned. This openness was also intended to inform the international human rights public opinion on the developments of the situation and the government’s efforts, so that the outcome is refle?ted in the form of balanced and neutral reporting in the reports issued by these organizations. more

HRW: Torture of Detainees Continues

Official Response: We Build
on Human Rights Successes

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report on torture allegations in Bahrain has been based on interviews, conducted by telephone and Skype with 14 individuals, who had been in police detention or in prison, and with several Bahraini defence lawyers. According to HRW, the interviews were conducted in this manner because Bahraini authorities refused to grant visas to HRW team.

The report reviewed the outcome of the activity of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) concluding that they have both failed to provide proof of their effectiveness, a fact already illustrated when the SIU was sharply criticized in the 2013 annual report of the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), which described it as lacking “ the aspired independence and impartiality”. more

Public Prosecution’s
Response to HRW Report

‘HRW Failed in Finding the Truth’

On February 3rd, 2016, the Public Prosecution, through Advocate General, Abdulrahman Al Sayed, responded to Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) annual report which covered the developments in the Bahraini human rights situation in 2015. Al Sayed said that the report was based on ‘unofficial and unreliable information’, adding that HRW “has failed to find the truth. This resulted from HRW officials’ methodology of quoting others without taking the trouble to carry out research, scrutiny and investigation, to ascertain the authenticity of the news reported to them. This led to the false conclusions contained in the report”. more

Doha conference

UNHCR & the Promotion of
Human Rights in the Arab Region

A Conference was held in Doha, Qatar, to discuss “the Role of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Promoting and protecting Human Rights in the Arab region”. The Conference was attended by nearly 250 Arab and international human rights organizations, and more than 43 personalities responsible for human rights dossiers worldwide. Among the participants were 17 delegations representing foreign ministries of Arab countries, human rights commissions or legal committees in parliaments and consultative councils in the Arab region, in addition to the participation of a group of special rapporteurs and international treaties bodies. more

Bahrain in HRW’s
Annual Report

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its World Report 2016, which claimed the existence of credible and consistent allegations of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Bahrain during 2015. According to the report, such allegations undermined claims of reform. While the Bahraini government and its friends, such as the United Kingdom, have contended that the new institutions established by Bahrain are effectively contributing to the development of the human rights situation and the protection of detainees, the report argues that these institutions have failed to provide protection, just as the authorities have failed to hold accountable those responsible for torture and other abuses.

The report said that the police forces still use excessive force to disperse demonstrators, and that restrictions on freedom of expression still exist, and trials of activists and prominent opposition figures for crimes related to expression still continue in courts lacking in fair trial standards.

Authorities have attributed the death of two policemen, in two separate incidents, to terrorist acts, and complained of the escalation of violence and terrorism. more

How to Combat
‘Violent Extremism’?

UN Secretary-General presented to member states an action plan, which he considered an urgent call to forge a new global partnership to confront what he described as ‘violent extremism’.

Ban Ki-moon said that Muslims make up the vast majority of the victims of this ‘violent extremism’, and that it is not limited to any one religion, nationality or ethnic group. However, upon reading the published details of the action plan, one finds that it cited no examples of such ‘violent extremism’ other than Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Da’esh (ISIS), which are organizations that emerged among Muslims and within Muslim territories, by exploiting their religion. Such exploitation led them to legalize the spillage of Muslim blood and looting of their property, as well as sexually violating Muslims in some cases. more

Positive Example

To say that Bahrain’s human rights efforts are not positively reflected in international reports is not accurate, and perhaps not entirely true. The following model is an example in which Bahrain’s openness towards the international human rights community, as well as its human rights efforts, are reflected in a report by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We cite here one report as a case in point.

“During this reporting period, the government of Bahrain has taken positive steps to increase engagement with the UN and international NGOs, which demonstrates a level of transparency. We welcomed the visit by Amnesty International in March and the two-month technical visit by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in April; we hope Bahrain will agree to accept the full technical assistance package offered by OHCHR. more

Clarifications of UK’s Foreign Secretary,
Philip Hammond

On the occasion of the celebration of the international Human Rights Day on December 10th, 2015, the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, published an op-ed article in The Independent entitled ‘Promoting human rights is not about who can shout the loudest’. The article is aimed at explaining and defending UK’s human rights policy, in the face of criticism from the Parliament and the press.

British Foreign Secretary
Philip Hammond

The Minister stressed his country’s strong commitment to the protection of human rights, which he said is being approached in three ways:

“First, we are focusing on efforts which get tangible results … Quiet and continued engagement behind the scenes, nurturing a relationship and not being afraid to raise testing issues in private can sometimes achieve surprising results; lecturing people in public doesn’t always work, and can sometimes prove counter-productive”. more

The British Ambassador Meets Bahraini Human Rights Organizations

The British ambassador to Bahrain, Simon Martin, met with representatives of human rights organizations in Bahrain on February 3, 2016. Ambassador Martin described the meeting as a “fruitful.”

Human rights activist, Nidal Al Salman, who attended the meeting, emphasized that the meeting was positive, pointing out that the British ambassador stressed the need to reach out to the civil society and indicated that no reform can take place without the exchange of views and discussion to arrive at solutions that suit everyone. more

Joint workshop with the ICRC

Activating a memorandum of understanding signed five years ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in collaboration with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry, held a training workshop for 33 officials from the General Directorate of Reformation and Rehabilitation (prisons), the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Criminal Evidence Department, and the Office of the Ombudsman among others. more