Arab rights court to open in Bahrain
Manama, September 7, 2013
A court set up to tackle human rights violations throughout the Arab world will open in Bahrain within the next five years, said a report.
The Arab Human Rights Court will tackle torture allegations, discrimination and any other human rights violations lodged by Arab citizens, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
International specialists are expected to visit Bahrain within a year to lay the foundations for the court, including criteria for appointing judges and what powers they would hold.
Plans for the initiative, which was proposed by His Majesty King Hamad two years ago, were approved by the Arab League council last Sunday following a series of discussions and conferences.
The court will also serve as a counterpart to similar institutions across the world, including the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, said National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) vice-chairman Dr Abdulla Al Deerazi.
"As the initiative first came from His Majesty King Hamad and Bahrain has already hosted several human rights events and has expertise in the field, in official and civil circles, it seems like the right place to host the court," he said.
"The court will deal with any human rights issues that violate the International Convention of Human Rights, including things like torture and discrimination, and any other complaints relating to any violation of human rights from any Arab citizen in the Arab world.
"Citizens will have to go through the local legal system first and then if that doesn't work they can appeal to the Arab Court of Human Rights.
"It will have the power to take these issues very seriously."
Dr Al Deerazi hopes the court would mark a turnaround in the global perception of Bahrain's human rights record.
He said the body would operate according to international criteria, but there was still a lot of preparation and decisions that needed to be made concerning how the judges should be appointed.
In the next year, a three-day conference will be held where human rights experts from around the world will lay the foundations for the court, help establish it and discuss how to move forward with the plans.
"It still needs a lot of work but now Bahrain has been chosen we will not hesitate to prepare and make it a reality in the coming future," said Dr Al Deerazi.
In addition to leading human rights groups like Amnesty International highlighting incidents of alleged police mistreatmenta and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report uncovering a number of incidents of mistreatment against opposition members at the hand of security forces, there were claims that arbitrary arrests and detentions had taken place during the unrest in 2011 after an outbreak of anti-government demonstrations.
The allegations made international headlines, but it is hoped the new focus on establishing an institution to protect human rights abuses in Bahrain and the wider Arab world will improve outside perceptions.
"Bahrain gets a negative Press in the international community for human rights violations, but people who live here know it is not as bad as is sometimes reported in the foreign Press, they exaggerate," said Dr Al Deerazi.
"However, we can't deny that we do have some problems with human rights issues and some violations but we have, on the other hand, a course of action proposed by the King and the government to put this behind us and move forward to improve the human rights situation.
"The National Dialogue that is going on will pick up the country from what is happening to make a better future.
"This court is a step in the right direction and a very positive development for Bahrain and the rest of the Arab world."
Meanwhile, Amnesty International told the GDN they hoped the establishment of the court in Manama meant a conscious effort to improve Bahrain's human rights record.
"We hope that Bahrain's decision to welcome the Arab Human Rights Court is a signal that the authorities plan to take adherence to human rights seriously," said Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa deputy director Hassiba Hadj Sahroui.-TradeArabia News Service