Bahrain phoney “reforms” slammed during side event in Geneva

Two years since Bahrain promised to implement the recommendations made during its universal periodic review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council, a side event in Geneva has slammed any progress made. The event co-organised by the Arab NGO Network for Development and Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), heard from Fareeda Ghulam, wife of Bahraini political prisoner Ebrahim Shariff, Abdulnabi Alekry from BHRO, Matthew Sands of the Association for Prevention of Torture and was moderated by Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice.

Fareeda Ghulam introduced a short film entitled “Captives Behind Bars”, that featured interviews with prominent Bahrainis discussing the situation of political prisoners in Bahrain. Ghulam went on to highlight the lack of implementation of both the UPR recommendations and those of the BICI, deconstructing the claims of the Government of Bahrain. They have been keen to talk up initiatives such as the police ombudsman, Ministry of Interior ombudsman, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the prisoners and detainees rights commission, but Ghulam drew attention to the reality of these new bodies.

Ghulam described the SIU as “an example of bureaucratic spin to quiet international pressure”, labelling the institution as “ineffective”. She gave a similar assessment of the other new bodies describing the continued excessive use of force by the police, despite the role of the police ombudsman and the ongoing ill-treatment of detainees, despite prisoners rights commission.

In May 2012 Bahrain received 176 recommendations to implement at the UN Human Rights Council, as part of its Universal Periodic Review. Bahrain promised to implement the vast majority, in addition to the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, but both Matthew Sands and Abulnabi Alekry highlighted the deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain during this period.

In the next session of the Human Rights Council in September, Bahrain will have to provide an interim report on its progress towards the UPR recommendations. The message from this side event was that regardless of any claims made by the Government, little progress has been made and violations are ongoing.

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