Bahrain: Joint NGO Letter to the Member States of the United Nations – Supporting Human Rights Accountability and Reform in Bahrain at the UN Human Rights Council
15 February 2013 12:28 pm
14 February, 2013
The undersigned organizations are writing to urge your government to ensure that the human rights situation in Bahrain is addressed by the member states of the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) at its upcoming twenty-second session in March 2013.
The Council should explicitly address the ongoing human rights violations taking place in the country and the lack of sufficient implementation by the government of Bahrain of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s (BICI) recommendations, especially those calling for accountability. We also urge the Council members to call for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on the human rights situation within the country. This would be essential in order to build on the momentum created by the joint statement delivered to the Council by 28 countries about the situation in Bahrain on 28 June 2012, at the twentieth session of the Council.
United Nations Resolution 60/251, establishing the Council, “Decides that the Council shall be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner” and “also that the Council should address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon.”
Since February 2011, the human rights situation in Bahrain has dramatically worsened, with widespread and serious human rights violations carried out against those who have partaken in or are perceived to have supported pro-democracy protests in the country. The BICI found evidence of torture, deaths in custody, and arbitrary detention, and concluded that the abuses “could not have happened without the knowledge of higher echelons of the command structure” of the security forces. The government has so far failed to ensure a process of independent review and accountability for individuals, particularly at the command and supervision level, who may be responsible for these violations. Instead the government has continued a widespread campaign of harassment against opposition activists, demonstrators, and human rights defenders.
On the 7 January 2013 Bahrain’s highest court upheld the convictions of 13 leading activists for their role in promoting pro-democracy demonstrations, despite the fact that their offenses consisted solely of peacefully advocating political change. Investigations lead by human rights NGOs into the trials of these and other individuals lead us to share the concern expressed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the lack of fairness and due process afforded to the defendants and the especially harsh sentences handed down, including seven life sentences for prominent human rights defenders as well as political opposition leaders such as Abdeulhadi AlKhawaja, Abdul-Jalil al-Singace, and Abd al-Wahhab Hussein.
The government of Bahrain has attempted to deflect international criticism by accepting more than 143 of 176 recommendations during its recent Universal Periodic Review, but for the most part has denied that human rights violations have occurred and avoided putting its statements into practice, including seriously addressing continuing violations and accountability for past abuses. We remain highly concerned over the lack of independent, effective and transparent investigations with regards to allegations of torture, lack of due process and killings of protestors. Contrary to the government’s assertions, in our assessment the key recommendations made by the BICI are not being implemented.
Moreover, as documented in the report by the UN Secretary General on Cooperation with the United Nations submitted to the twenty-first session of the Council, Bahrain has carried out numerous reprisals against human rights defenders who have engaged with the Human Rights Council and other UN human rights bodies.
In this context, the Human Rights Council and its member states have a responsibility to address human rights violations in Bahrain, and make recommendations to the government of Bahrain to bring about an improvement in the human rights situation in the country.
We therefore encourage your government to ensure that, at its twenty-second session, the member states of the Human Rights Council urge the government of Bahrain to immediately:
- Release immediately those held for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly;
- Conduct independent, effective and transparent investigations, by an independent body outside the Public Prosecutor’s Office, into all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, and make the results public;
- Bring to justice anyone at any level of the chain of command who committed, ordered, condoned, or failed to investigate alleged human rights violations;
- Swiftly reform the legislations that unnecessarily restricts freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, including the Penal Code, the Press Law, the Public Gathering Law 32/2006, the Law 21/1989 governing the right to freedom of association, to bring them in line with international standards,
- Free from detention or prosecution persons charged with crimes arising from their exercise of these rights; and
- Refrain from further use of unnecessary or excessive force against protesters and ensure any members of security forces who do are held accountable.
In thanking you for your attention to this matter, please accept the expression of our highest consideration.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
CIVICUS, World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Conectas Direitos Humanos
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN)