Bahrain and the Universal Periodic Review
The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. The UPR includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists. This is the first international human rights mechanism to address all countries and all human rights.
The ultimate goal of UPR is the improvement of the human rights situation in every country with significant consequences for people around the globe. The documents on which the reviews are based are: 1) national report - information provided by the State under review; 2) information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups, known as the Special Procedures, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities; 3) information provided by other stakeholders including national human rights institutions, regional organizations and civil society groups.
In the third session of the UPR that took place on 1st May 2017, (27th Session) the human rights situation of Bahrain was reviewed by countries and NGOs.
Among the issues raised in the above-mentioned documents are:
1- Implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI);
2- The right to a fair trial;
3- Addressing allegations of torturer;
4- The situation of human rights defenders, including imprisonment and travel bans;
5- Ensuring the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, expression and opinion;
6- Revocation of nationality and expulsions;
7- Discrimination and harassment of the Shia population, including measures against opposition societies and leaders;
8- Steps to ensure equal rights for women, particularly with regard to passing granting citizenship to her children
9- Addressing cases of violence, abuse and exploitation by migrant workers, and steps to strengthen legal protection for them.
Many non-governmental organizations have condemned Bahrain government for human rights violations it has done including The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, ODVV.
In paragraph 3 of the first page of the “Summary of stakeholders’ submissions on Bahrain” the ODVV urged Bahrain to ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the additional protocol.
In paragraph 26 of the summary, the ODVV noted that since Bahrain’s last UPR, the authorities have continued to target the political opposition in Bahrain, imprisoning the leaders of the major opposition groups and restricting their activities.
This law gives the Ministry of Justice the right to register and supervise political associations, while it is not obliged to clarify the reasons for refusing to accept the registration of new associations. As a result, the Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit against Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s main Shia opposition group on July 17, 2016 and its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salaman has been detained since December 2014 on charges related to his freedom of expression. They recommended amending the Political Associations Law, by revoking article 13, and 163 of the Penal Code, and repeal all measures against the political opposition; allow opposition party members and leaders to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, in line with international human rights law and release all leaders and political activists arrested since 2011.
The Government of Bahrain emphasized that its Penal Code criminalizes the practice of torture, and allegations of torture have been investigated by the relevant government authorities. Contrast to its claim, it is widely reported that there have been no meaningful investigation or punishment.
In spite of the fact that the brutal torture cases have been continuously reported not only by local NGOs, but also many international watchdogs, the authorities claimed that the allegations of ill-treatment and torture raised by NGOs are “groundless”.
The authorities tightened restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association and continued to curtail the right to peaceful assembly. They detained and charged several human rights defenders and banned others from travelling abroad, dissolved the main opposition group and stripped more than 80 people of their Bahraini citizenship, forcibly expelling four. Opposition leaders continued to be imprisoned as prisoners of conscience. There were new reports of torture and other ill-treatment and unfair trials. Women continued to be discriminated against in law and practice. Bahrain remained part of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition engaged in armed conflict in Yemen.
Reported Amnesty International on Bahrain 2016/2017.
Quoted and edited: Negar Paidar