Situation in Bahrain a “serious concern” as Human Rights Council Opens


A joint statement of 46 member states today branded the human rights situation in bahrain an “issue of serious concern”, during the opening session of the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The statement that included both the US and the UK, called on the Bahraini Government to release all “persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights” and expressed concern at the increase in long sentences for “exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly”, as well as the lack of sufficient guarantee of a fair trial.

Despite claims by the Bahraini Government that they are not partaking in torture, the joint statement also registered its concern by continued reports of “ill-treatment and torture” in detention facilities. In response to the decision to make 31 Bahraini nationals stateless in November 2012, the states made clear their rejection of such decisions “without due process”.

As has been a regular call from the international community in recent years, the Bahraini Government was reminded of its obligations to implement the recommendations of both the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the UN’s own Universal Periodic Review, as an explicit message that such processes have yet to be fully satisfied.

Echoing the call of the delegation of the European Union, the statement urged Bahrain to establish a permanent Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, in the country, with a full mandate. This has been a constant demandfrom Bahraini civil society for a number of years and marks the first occasion where it has been publicly adopted by the international community.

Whilst the states welcomed the recent visit of the OHCHR to Bahrain, including their ability to visit prisoners, the call for a permanent office is an instruction that more cooperation with the UN’s mechanisms is necessary.

The Arab Group, however, seemed satisfied with the temporary visit, failing to call for a permanent office. The Bahrain delegation did little to address the remarks from the international community, only adding that it will encourage further initiatives from the OHCHR.

During the allotted time for NGO interventions, Mike Payne from the US based Americans for Democracy and Human Rights told the Council that Bahrain has failed to adequately respond to the concerns raised by the High Commissioner for Human Rights since 2011. He cited continued convictions against activists, extra judicial killings and a lack of accountability, as well as praising the statement of the 46 member states.

With a series of side-events covering Bahrain to take place over the coming couple of weeks, Bahrain is likely to remain high on the agenda of the Human Rights Council.

Read the full statement below, with the list of 46 signatories:

10 June 2014, Geneva

Joint Statement on the OHCHR and the human rights situation in Bahrain

Mr. President,
I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of a group of 46 States.

We welcome the positive steps taken by the Government of Bahrain in order to improve the human rights situation. 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 an NHRI. We urge these institutions to proactively fulfil their mandate and encourage the Government to uphold its commitment to these institutions and their independence. We also welcome the recent report of the Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman.

We note with satisfaction that a technical visit of the OHCHR took place this year and that public consultations between all stakeholders, including civil society were conducted during the visit. We welcome the fact that the OHCHR was allowed to visit prisons and could support the parliament in the creation of the National Human Rights Commission to be in conformity with Paris Principles.

However, the human rights situation in Bahrain remains an issue of serious concern to us. We are concerned about the increases in long sentences for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the lack of sufficient guarantee of fair trial. We are concerned about the repression of demonstrations. There are also concerns that peaceful demonstrations are frequently disrupted by a minority of violent demonstrators. We expect that all sides refrain from violence. Furthermore, we are concerned about the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders and journalists. We are troubled by continuing reports of ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities. We are also concerned about cases of arbitrary deprivation of nationality without due process. Lastly we are concerned that there is insufficient accountability for human rights violations and urge that all allegations are properly investigated including by the newly established institutions. In that regard we also note the need to continued efforts to judicial reform to ensure its independence, impartiality and improved capability.

We call upon the Government to address these concerns and expedite the full implementation of the recommendations received from the BICI and the UPR recommendations accepted by Bahrain by undertaking further measures, in particular amending and repealing legal provisions that unduly restrict human rights. We call on all parties to constructively and inclusively collaborate in this regard. We urge the Government to further enhance its cooperation with the OHCHR and the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and to reschedule previously planned visits as soon as possible. We call on the authorities to pursue an open door policy for all civil society organisations.

We urge the Government to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. 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.

We invite the Government to allow the OHCHR to establish a country office with a full mandate. We further invite the OHCHR to brief the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation and on the follow-up to its technical visit and we will continue to follow closely the developments in Bahrain. We also encourage the Government to further engage with this Council.

This statement had been read in the name of the following countries: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay.

Thank you Mr. President.

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