Bahrain hailed for openness, progress
Manama, May 21, 2014
Bahrain has been credited for its "openness" and "progress" in a new report by Amnesty International.
The report was compiled during a visit by a team from the international human rights organisation, during which it met a wide cross section of people from government ministers to prisoners, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It was the organisation's first visit since January last year and came a few days after the end of a two-month mission by representatives of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"During its latest visit to Bahrain, Amnesty International found encouraging government openness during discussions on human rights, and signs of limited progress towards greater respect for the rule of law," it says in the report.
Its representatives met members of non-governmental organisations, senior ministers, victims and families of those who suffered alleged abuse, political societies and other rights groups.
The delegation, led by Middle East and North Africa Programme deputy director Said Boumedoha, also met prisoners at Jaw Prison and the Isa Town Detention Centre for Women between May 3 and 9.
"Amnesty International welcomes the Bahraini authorities' willingness to engage on human rights at many levels of government and the legal and institutional steps introduced to tackle abuses," it says.
"The real test for the government now is to ensure that this climate will encourage the right approach to tackle current and past human rights violations and will result in a tangible impact on the lives of the Bahraini people."
Al Fateh Youth Coalition spokesman Yacoub Al Slaise credited Bahraini authorities for opening doors to Amnesty International and displaying transparency.
"I think the Bahrain government has shown high level of transparency by allowing the Amnesty delegates to visit the country and do their job," he said.
"This is a good sign and the report is the best to come out from Amnesty International after the 2011 events."
In its report, Amnesty International said Bahrain authorities assured them of their "commitment and seriousness about moving forward the human rights dossier and the need for more time and engagement from the national and international human rights community in order to make the reform work".
"They shared with the organisation information about the training received by security forces and the international human rights expertise they sought in order to put in place mechanisms to enhance and safeguard rights," it said.
The delegates met officials at the Public Prosecution, the head of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), the Interior Ministry and the National Security Agency Ombudsman and the Commission for the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees.
"The authorities said they established most of these institutions as a follow-up to recommendations by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), put in place to investigate abuses in connection with the 2011 uprising," said the report.
"Amnesty International supports the efforts of these institutions to investigate past and current violations. Their efforts are essential to any process that seeks to deliver justice for victims and to strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights."
The organisation said it raised cases of alleged abuse with the Ombudsman and the SIU and would closely follow the outcome of their investigations.
However, in its report it also said it remained concerned over a "lack of reform of the judiciary, slow and inadequate investigations into past abuses, and continuing restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly".
It also expressed concern about alleged "prisoners of conscience" and sentences handed down by Bahraini courts for rioting. The organisation urged authorities to demonstrate "concretely and convincingly" that abuses do not happen and that, when they do, adequate and transparent action is taken to deliver justice.
Bahraini MP and parliament human rights committee chairman Ahmed Al Sa'ati said Bahrain was working in the right direction, but welcomed technical help from the West to improve.
"Bahrain witnessed a huge earthquake in 2011 and it is normal for us to deal with all these issues raised by Amnesty," said Al Sa'ati, who also met with Amnesty International members in Bahrain.
"All departments are working hard to improve their image - for example the Interior Ministry is recruiting people from both sects, a prison commission is set up to monitor all violations and there is an independent judiciary.
"We are all working and this report reflects the positive steps taken by the government and Amnesty International should stop resorting to extreme activism and publish balanced reports that include comments from different sides in Bahrain." - TradeArabia News Service