Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Bahrain Minister of Interior, today said the ministry will “take statements” from the opposition delegates at Geneva for the UPR in order to “know the truth” surrounding their allegations of threats.
In a statement today the Minister said, “statements of those representatives who claimed to be threatened would be taken as part of legal procedures to know the truth.”
In the original Arabic version the title of the statement reads, “Minister of interior: Registering statements of civil society representatives in Geneva to take legal action to them or against them” although in the English version it is not so clear.
However, what is clear is that this opens the possibility of legal (or other) action being taken against those opposition representatives at the UPR session last week.
One of those in attendance and Deputy Vice President of Bahrain Teachers Union said, “The announcement by the minister is a direct challenge to the President of the human rights council when she asked for our protection against what was written in the pro-government newspapers. This is not at all encouraging and shows the embarrassment and distress caused to the authority as a result of what happened in Geneva, after their lies were exposed to the world.” She added, “This is what we are used to in Bahrain, to silence and intimidate any voice of civil society.”
Such action would come in direct contradiction to the advice of the President of the Human Rights Council who made a special statement to ensure such reprisals do not take place. The statement clearly rocked the Bahrain delegation who described any allegations of intimidation as “unfounded”.
However, a number of coloumns had appeared throughout the week in pro-government media that called the opposition delegation traitors and other such negative remarks. In her speech the President of The Human Rights Council made clear that this is what she was referring to and calling for it to stop. She did assert that she was not claiming that the threats were from the government.
But many activists will interpret the threats as such. Last year, during the crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators, the state media played a major role in naming activists, eventually leading to their arrest. This was something that was even picked up on in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, that called for an end to hateful and sectarian media campaigns.
Sheikh Rashid also took the opportunity to slam human rights NGO’s, calling them biased and accusing them of adopting “a single view”. This comes despite the said organisations working tirelessly over a number of years to build strong reputations for impartiality and gaining international acceptance. Only Bahrain, with a select few others, seem to be so critical of these organisations.
The statement went on to fiercely deny any wrong doing on the part of Bahrain, although as yet they have failed to acknowledge the aforementioned media articles that attacked the opposition delegates.
It is also somewhat surprising that Bahrain has refused to act in a humble manner and move on, instead opting to further intensify this debate with the Human Rights Council of UN.
The government delegation of Bahrain claimed throughout the UPR to respect and appreciate the work of the council, but has no chosen to ignore it’s advice and go on the offensive over the criticism it received.
Dominic Kavakeb of the Bahrain Justice and Development Movement said, “This shows that when there is real international pressure, the true face of the regime becomes apparent. When a regime like Bahrain is backed into a corner it will try to fight its way out and this is exactly what it has proved today.” He added, “We hope that there will be no action taken against the delegation most of whom have already suffered enough with prison sentences and torture.”