UN council praises Bahrain's rights record
Manama, June 11, 2014
The UN's Human Rights Council has praised Bahrain for taking "positive steps" in improving its human rights record.
Forty-six members of the council yesterday urged Bahrain to allow the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to set up an office in Manama to oversee the reform process and report to the UN, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The joint statement, which was backed by the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Canada among others, also hailed Bahrain for allowing a technical team from the OHCHR to visit in February.
"We welcome the positive steps taken by Bahrain in order to improve the human rights situation," said a statement.
It cited in particular the establishment of the Office of the Police Ombudsman, the Special Investigation Unit, the Prisoners' and Detainees' Rights Commission and the creation of the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR), as examples.
"We urge these institutions to pro-actively fulfil their mandate and encourage the government to uphold its commitment to these institutions and their independence."
The joint statement, which was backed by the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Canada among others, also praised Bahrain for allowing a technical team from the OHCHR to visit and carry out its work, including meeting civil societies.
"We welcome the fact that the OHCHR was allowed to visit prisons and could support parliament in the creation of the National Human Rights Commission to be in conformity with Paris Principles," it added.
However, the council also expressed concern about accountability of human rights violations, judicial reforms and full implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report.
It also called for the release of prisoners, who it claimed were detained through arbitrary arrests, and an end to alleged ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities.
"We urge the government to further enhance its co-operation with the OHCHR and the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and to reschedule previously planned visits as soon as possible," added the statement.
"We call on the authorities to pursue an open door policy for all civil society organisations.
"We also urge the government to appropriately address reports of ill-treatment and torture of prisoners and to ensure an independent, thorough and impartial investigation and prosecution of these cases, as well as of other allegations of human rights violations.
"Lastly, we are concerned that there is insufficient accountability for human rights violations and urge that all allegations are properly investigated by the newly established institutions."
A Bahrain government official who was present during yesterday's session said they were committed to co-operating with the OHCHR, which visited the country in February.
"We welcome the visit of the technical team to Bahrain for 10 weeks and are committed to reinforce the framework of human rights and offer full co-operation," he said during the session.
Meanwhile, NIHR vice-chairman and complaints monitoring and follow-up committee head Dr Abdulla Aldeerazi yesterday said the acknowledgment of Bahrain's achievements following the 2011 unrest reflected global confidence in the country.
"I believe it is time that this statement is looked at seriously by the government and I suggest forming a special follow-up committee to study the issues raised in the statement," he told the GDN.
He also supported the setting up of an OHCHR office in Bahrain, saying a similar office already exists in Doha.
"We should not have any problem in setting up this office and it's a matter with the government to negotiate with the OHCHR on this," he added.
Prominent Bahraini lawyer Nabeel Saeed dismissed claims of arbitrary arrests, but said there was always room to improve the judiciary in Bahrain.
"The judiciary in Bahrain is absolutely independent to an extent that even the top members of the ruling family have attended court sessions and lost cases," he said.
"With regards to the prisoners, they have all had fair trials and appeals in front of the Public Prosecution and the courts. "These people claim to be human rights activists and violate other people's rights by committing atrocities to the extent they would be considered nothing but terrorists in Western countries from where reports critical of Bahrain are issued." The sessions in Geneva will continue until June 27.
However, Bahrain last night hit back at the Swiss representative who read a joint statement on behalf of some European countries, citing human rights allegations in the kingdom.
"The joint statement undermines the unrelenting and sincere efforts undertaken by Bahrain to carry out its human rights obligations," the Bahraini delegation said, citing the kingdom's commitment to implement the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommendations.
The delegation deplored the fact that the joint statement put the chaos perpetrated by terrorists on par with the commitment of security forces to utmost self-restraint when dealing with terrorist attacks endangering their lives as well as the lives of citizens and residents.
It urged UNHRC member nations to ensure the accuracy of their information about the situation in Bahrain before issuing statements which are based on subjective and inaccurate allegations. - TradeArabia News Service