Beyond the HRW Report
The latest report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month
under the title ‘the Revival of Physical Coercion during Interrogation
in Bahrain’ has not covered the whole truth. Despite the fact that
the report received many criticisms, it contains some positive aspects
that were lost during the heated debates which followed between
journalists, human rights activists, official bodies and MPs.
The report contained many weaknesses such as the absence of the
official response to the allegations, and its reliance on the testimony
of former detainees involved in violence and rioting, most of whom
have political affiliations and oppose the reform project. Also,
some of the information contained in the report was not only inaccurate
but was clearly false, such as the names of some of the civil servants
in the Ministry of Interior. Later on it became evident that there
is no connection between these individuals and the report content.
We do not believe that HRW intended to defame the political system
in Bahrain. Thus the unfounded accusations put forward by some writers
and commentators, such as the claim that the organization is an
agent of foreign intelligence, is unacceptable. We assume that the
report was published in good faith aiming to improve the human rights
situation, and hence we should benefit from it.
On a positive note, it is important to remember that the report
was published from inside Bahrain, and specifically from the headquarters
of the Bahrain Human Rights Society: the first human rights society
founded in the reform era. The report was also thoroughly discussed
in the media and was debated in Parliament and by Government officials.
Furthermore, launching the report in Bahrain highlighted the margin
of freedom available in the country and the confidence of the system
in its abilities and its reforms. The report has also yielded impressive
political and human rights activism, as well as positive discussions
at the official, public and legislative levels. It raised human
rights awareness, and reflected unlimited aspirations of what the
status of human rights should be in the country.
It is also expected that the report will reinvigorate the country’s
official apparatus, especially the Ministry of Interior, and will
push it to investigate torture allegations. Additionally, it will
encourage it to put forward mechanisms, which prevent such breaches
from taking place. The official institutions concerned with human
rights should have learnt a lesson from the report namely; by delaying
their response to the enquiries of international human rights bodies,
these latter will issue their reports even if official responses
are not included.
We are confident that torture in Bahrain is not systematic, but
at the same time we cannot say for certain that there are no breaches
of the law, since many doubts still exist due to the lack of transparency
on the Government’s part. On the other hand, it seems that the torture
cases mentioned in the report were exaggerated by witnesses. Obviously,
the report is unable to uncover the full circumstances of allegations
Both the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Interior should fulfill
their promises to study and investigate these cases professionally
and with transparency. It is worth noting that the Ministry of Interior
has admitted that breaches have taken place when it referred some
of its employees to the courts for trial a few months ago. The Ministry
of Interior confirmed this again after HRW issued its report, but
it did not reveal the nature of these breaches to the public, or
the reasons behind the referral of some of its employees to courts.
Also, it did not declare the outcomes of these trials or the results
of previous investigations. We hope that the report will put an
end to the controversy and debates regarding allegations of torture.
Moreover, there is need for a mechanism for investigation that is
acceptable, transparent, professional and impartial. This mechanism
will deal with all torture cases, rumours and allegations in a manner
acceptable to all parties.