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

Direct Dialogue as an Alternative

Forty-seven states have signed a joint statement on the human rights situation in Bahrain. The Forty-seven states have expressed their concern, welcomed some of what has been officially accomplished and demanded more from the Bahraini Government. This took place during the meetings of the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council, recently held in Geneva.

It is the fourth statement to be issued by the states. Its content does not differ from that of preceding statements, except that this time it was more welcoming, and perhaps expressed more recognition, of the efforts of the Bahraini government. Incidentally, it was noteworthy that Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a departure from previous practice, has omitted mentioning the Kingdom of Bahrain in her opening statement before the Human Rights Council. This denotes a certain significance which should be comprehended by the Bahraini government, namely that while appreciating the Government’s cooperation with it in technical aspects, the OHCHR awaits the initiation of actual steps in the recently developed cooperation programme. more

Preparation of Technical Cooperation Programme Completed

Fenniche: Success requires Cooperation and a Favourable Climate

Mr. Frej Fenniche in Bahrain

In the framework of technical cooperation between the UN’s Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Bahrain, an OHCHR delegation visited Bahrain and held several consultative activities to identify priorities and challenges and present recommendations on the preparation of a capacity building program in Bahrain. The head of the visiting delegation, Mr. Frej Fenniche, executive director of the Middle East Department at the OHCHR, delivered the following address:

“Under the directions of Ms. Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in response to the request of the Bahraini government, the OHCHR’s team has worked, in the course of the two months, to develop a technical cooperation project. This has been done through bilateral and collective consultations with a large number of institutions, decision-makers, individuals concerned with human rights affairs and stakeholders at the level of the three authorities and the level of civil society with all i?s variations. All this should give strong support for the project upon implementation. It should also enable project outputs and outcomes to have a positive impact with respect to the protection of human rights, cessation of abuses and holding perpetrators accountable as well as strengthening institutions operating in the field of human rights to exercise their functions in full. more

A View on the Reality in Bahrain

In an interview with the US-based Al-Monitor website, in 13/06/2014, Professor Cherif Bassiouni, head of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), spoke about his opinions and vision concerning

the crisis in Bahrain in its various aspects. In an assessment of what has been achieved from the recommendations of the report, that bears his name, Bassiouni said that the Bahraini Government has implemented a number of them for which it deserves recognition, while others are still to be implemented by the Government. Bassiouni added that “What critics see is that these recommendations have been implemented on a piecemeal basis, so that its cumulative impact is not felt when you take something on a piecemeal level. You can say yes it was done, but it loses the cumulative impact when you dilute it over a longer period of time and when you don’t connect them with one another.” In his view, the whole purpose of having recommendations is to provide a means of social comfort in an attempt to bring about a sense of recognition for a group in a given society that their rights are being observed and respected, “And, therefore, it is the cumulative effect of that group that has to be examined as a way to assessing the impact.”

Bassiouni wondered about the fate of some of the recommendations, which he regarded as extremely important and capable of having a significant impact, most notably those related to the issue of accountability. On the issue of “impunity”, he said that he has no doubt “that there’s substantial progress that’s been made. It’s always the story of whether the glass is half empty or half full. In comparison to what existed, significant progress has been made. In comparison to what can be done, of course there’s still room to go.” more

Justice is the Basis of Stability

In our societies, we hear about the importance of respect and application of law and the need for an effective system of justice; as we hear about the importance of the presence of the other opinion;

and respect for cultural diversity and other diversities as well as the need to establish the values ​​of citizenship rights and duties, among others. But all this may not be found in the manner that we want applied on the ground. In fact, wherever you go you will find violations whether in official bodies, the institutions of civil society or even in the dealings of individuals with each other. This makes the issue of application of values, especially Justice, a questionable matter, and leads one to wonder whether everybody wants these values in deeds rather than in words only.

An ancient Arab saying reads: “Justice is the foundation of sovereignty” i.e. justice provides a guarantee for continued governance and stability of the society. If we do believe that, then why do violations occur and expand greatly, to the extent of even including the judiciary system that is charged with the realisation of the principle of justice itself? more

Shafaei: We are Worthy of Reforming
the Human Rights Situation

Technical Cooperation with
the OHCHR a Necessity

Bahrain’s Al-Ayam newspaper conducted an interview with the President of Bahrain Human Rights Monitor (BHRM), Hasan Moosa Shafaei, on the latest developments of the human rights situation in Bahrain, particularly with regard to the technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR):

Let us begin, brother Hasan, with the issue of the technical cooperation between Bahrain and the OHCHR. What does this technical cooperation agreement actually mean? What benefit or additional value does it provide for Bahrain?

The technical cooperation is a long-established United Nations programme dating back to 1955. It is provided by the UN for countries seeking assistance in the process of establishing national infrastructures and strengthening the structures that have a direct impact on the public observance of human rights and preservation of the rule of law. more

The rhetoric of hatred and
the Need for Reconstruction

Hasan Moosa Shafaei

Hasan Moosa Shafaei

The following warning echoed in the Holy Qur’an amply applies to Bahrain: “Do not be like a woman who unravels the thread she has firmly spun, using your oaths to deceive each other so that one party may be more numerous than another”

Here is a country that had been exemplary among Gulf states in its respect for plurality, cultural and sectarian diversity as well as religious tolerance. Now it has become socially fragmented after being ravaged by a flood of sectarianism, while the cancer of hatred tampered with its fabric and its homes have been overrun by a stream of violence and militancy. All this has been inflicted by the hands of Bahrain’s own sons and daughters. the so called political, cultural, religious and media elites. They have led segments of their society into splintering, extremism, violence, hatred and division.

The fruits of long decades of love and social peace and harmony have been wasted on the altar of private benefits. This took place with terrible recklessness. more

Amnesty in Bahrain:

Openness and Concerns

In the context of its response to international recommendations and human rights organizations, the Government of Bahrain has agreed to working visits being carried out by these organizations. Amnesty International has recently visited Bahrain (3-9 May 2014) and thereafter issued a statement entitled: “Bahrain: Openness on Human Rights, but Serious Concerns Remain”.

It had been Bahrain’s approach until two years ago to allow, and even officially welcome, international organizations’ visits to Bahrain and to permit them to carry out their activities without intervention. But the Government has found that these organizations do not reflect in their statements and reports the Government’s strenuous attempts to reform the human rights situation. Thus, the Government responded with intransigence to the subsequent visit requests by such organizations. This has been considered as deterioration in the level of transparency, which made the Government appear as if it was attempting to hide abuses away from the eyes of the world. more

Respect for Freedom
of Expression and Confronting Hate Speech

The media is a double-edged sword, and is one of the most dangerous weapons in rallying, mobilisation and shaping of public opinion trends.

While media can play a positive role in promoting a culture of peace and understanding within communities or between peoples, it can, if misused, become a lethal weapon of a far-reaching impact in stirring up seditions, hatred and resentment within the same society, or in rallying up groups against each other. Perhaps the best example of the power and influence wielded by the media is that it had been the Nazi regime’s most effective tool in mobilising Germany and consolidating the Nazi agenda in the minds of its people, which led to disastrous consequences for Germany and the world.

Inspired by bitter experiences, the world conscience has woken up to the need to adopt the necessary measures for protection and advancement of human rights. Thus, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued embracing those rights, and stressing the need to respect and protect them. Based on its belief in the importance of the human’s freedom to express oneself and his/her views, the Declaration included in Article XIX a text emphasizing the right to freedom of opinion and expression, while Article XX provided for the right to peaceful assembly and the formation of organizations and groups. The international community has successively endorsed those rights through subsequent inclusion in relevant international conventions and treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. more

Technical Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and OHCHR

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has preceded Bahrain in requesting cooperation with the OHCHR. An agreement has been drawn out between KSA and OHCHR in June 2012 i.e. three years ago. The cooperation agreement in its entirety includes the same issues tackled in the agreement with Bahrain, although OHCHR usually designs programmes that are customised to each country’s needs after consultations with the respective country. In respect of Saudi Arabia, there was a need to promote capacities in the area of international human rights law, particularly with regard to the United Nations’ mechanisms; training of those charged with the implementation of national human rights regulations and preparing worker’s guideline manuals pursuant to the international rules of human rights. KSA has also requested assistance in developing the role of the judiciary in protecting human rights, through seminars and courses, in addition to seminars and conferences that were organised with civil society institutions. Further meetings were held between human rights experts and the relevant judicial organs and bodies in Saudi Arabia, to develop working methods that could ensure the protection of human rights in accordance with the principles of national institutions. Moreover, the agreement involves assisting Saudi Arabia in preparing periodic reports in fulfilment of its international obligations, in addition to other matters that would be implemented in the course of several years.

A Bahraini Anti-Hate and Sectarianism Committee

On 15 May 2014, the Bahraini Government issued an edict establishing a committee called the “Anti-Hate and Sectarianism Committee”, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Jawad bin Salim Al-Arayad, and including in its membership the Ministers of Interior, Education, Social Development and Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments.

The Committee shall propose and adopt policies and approaches, and prepare effective programmes to address the problem of hate discourses emanating from religious platforms, books, mass media, communication, education or through political and social forces. The Committee shall also be concerned with enhancing the spirit of tolerance, reconciliation and co-existence and consolidating the factors of unity in the Bahraini society.