Bahrain Mirror- Exclusive: Bahrain failed another round in the United Nations. No one now believes the small state that masters falsifying recommendations and investing in the ad to waste time. 20 members wearing elegant suits and ties sat in the Human Rights Council (HRC) to be insulted. All the member-states' recommendations were on a side, and they were on the opposite one. The 20 members came to read papers like "robots". They became a mockery.
Why were human rights defenders prevented from taking part in the session? The answer is: Bahrain ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. What are the guarantees to protect the right to freedom of expression? The answer was: Bahrain ratified the family law. These are two examples on the performance of the official delegation during the Universal Periodic Review in the HRC affiliated to the UN on Monday. You can add many of "we don't have authorities" answer to the raised questions. Indeed, they have no "reforms". Evidence prove the facts and Bahrain has drowned in Geneva. When the government had something to say in 2008, things went smooth and the government was praised by the states' delegates and member states. The official delegation returned to the country to talk about its achievements and when it had nothing to say in 2017, there were no achievements to brag about. There was only condemnations, questions about executions, political prisoners, torture, citizenship revocations and discrimination against citizens. Bahrain Mirror asked for the opinion of 3 human rights defenders residing outside Bahrain, who had the chance to be in Geneva for the UPR session and after it; they were witnesses to what happened. Following are excerpts:
Bahrain Mirror: What are the main remarks on the UPR session on Bahrain's human rights record?
Jawad Fairooz: One can notice the large number of states that requested to make interventions and recommendation. For instance, 91 states requested to present interventions on human rights record in comparison to the 64 states that requested to do so during 2012. Besides, heavy presence was noticed in the discussion session although there was no official session to the council. Around 20 members of the official delegation (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Information Affairs, Ministry of Labor and Supreme Council for Women) took part in the session and their speeches lasted for about one third of the set time. However, their performance was not met with satisfaction. Pro-government human rights organizations were also present at the session and their interferences were already prepared, according to our sources. These organizations were directed by the delegation and his team. As a main remark, it would have been better if the OHCHR presented at the beginning of the session a brief on the civil organizations and their special assessment report showing to what extent Bahrain abided by the previous UPR recommendations, especially that the organizations were not allowed to make an intervention during the session.
Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda: There is an international human rights consensus on human rights deterioration in Bahrain. They also agree that there is a human rights violation crisis that should be curbed. I think this is very important as Bahrain and UK were trying to promote on the international level that there is an amelioration and reform on terms of human rights. However, these new condemnations came to prove that the international community is not convinced of this narrative.
Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman: The UPR session for human rights in Bahrain is an important stage that shows the serious human rights violation Bahrainis are suffering from. This session is distinguished for tackling serious violations like the policy of citizenship revocation, peaceful assembly ban, freedom of press oppression, ban of international media parties from covering the incidents taking place in Bahrain, Shiite clerics targeting, discrimination against Shiite citizens, as well as reprisal action against independent human rights parties. This session has unveiled the Bahraini government's claims regarding amelioration of human rights. Many of the questions raised to the official delegation shows the international community's certainty that Bahrain has deliberately failed to implement the 2012 recommendations.
Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman
Bahrain Mirror: How do you evaluate the stances expressed by the US and UK?
Fairooz: The US stance was surprising for mentioning the violations and for the fundamental recommendations it presented. However, the UK stance was expected for it started by praising Bahrain. Yet, it was remarkable for the British delegate to condemn the death penalty, prevention of nationality and for mentioning that reform was not achieved. On the other hand, the majority of the states were clear and specific about their recommendations. Their interventions showed that they are concerned and are closely following the violations practiced in Bahrain. This remark can be applied on several African, Latin American and Eastern European states. The interventions of the Arab sovereign states like Iraq and Tunisia were disappointing as they reiterated the authorities' claims.
Al-Muhafda: The stance of the new US administration was the same as the previous one; it rejected dissolution of societies and believed in the necessity of introducing dialogue and respecting freedoms. However, UK's stance was the worst on the level of the western countries and was similar to those expressed by the Arab states that ally with each other out of interest, without taking the human value into consideration. The arms deals with the Gulf States and Gulf States money in Britain explain this hypocritical stance.
Al-Salman: The US stance was not surprising as the Government of Bahrain was aware of it either through the officials in the embassy or through the delegations visiting Washington, or even the reports of the US Department of State. The US stance was obvious in rejecting the dissolution of Wa'ad and Al-Wefaq societies and its rejection to practicing systematic discrimination against Shiite citizens, especially in light of Bahrain's failure to implement the US recommendation in 2012 regarding reforming the security force to represent diversity of the Bahraini community. In general, the EU states stances were positive, particularly when it came to death sentences, torture and military trials.
Bahrain Mirror: Can you compare the 2017 UPR session to that of 2012?
Fairooz: The absence of civil organizations interventions may be the most important difference. In 2012, human rights organizations were allowed to make 10 interventions in 2 minutes given to each. Around 40 participants from the civil human rights delegation were present last session, however, things were different this time.
Al-Muhafda: Yes, 2012 session came after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations. At that time, Bahrain was trying to reveal to the international community that it is willing to implement the recommendations and establish governmental organization to investigate the violations and hold violators accountable. However, the governmental stance proved to be void in the 2017 session. States have become convinced that Geneva and the BICI recommendations were not implemented. The situation severely deteriorated, especially with the execution of death sentences early this year.
Al-Salman: We have to comprehend that the 2012 UPR came after the serious violations practiced in 2011 in light of the National Safety Law and the complication of thousands of violations like work dismissals, torture, imprisonment, military trials, killing in streets, and other violations. However, the 2017 recommendations come in light of very bad situations, yet different from those of 2012. We are witnessing new violations as citizenship revocation, peaceful assembly bans, and rejection of the UN special rapporteurs to visit. It is to note the Bahrain pledged in 2012 to allow the special rapporteurs to visit Bahrain. This year's recommendations are not less important than those of 2012, for they affirm that the Bahraini government has failed to implement the previous recommendations.
Bahrain Mirror: What is your comment on the government's response to the recommendations of states delegates and member states during the session?
Fairooz: It was clear that the government delegation was unable and perhaps has no authority to present detailed and obvious responses on the recommendations and questions of the states' delegates. Besides, the responses were prepared beforehand and did not answer the raised questions. The seriousness of violations, documented evidence as the reports about deterioration of human rights, were shameful to the Bahraini delegation, although the delegation attempted to whitewash and exaggerate the formal human rights performance and sought to mislead the participants through mentioning statistics and governmental services that have nothing to do with the questions and nature of recommendations.
Al-Muhafda: The speech and responses of the official delegation were mere words that do not answer the raised questions. Preventing all activists inside Bahrain from taking part in the session was enough to explain to all the states the nature of this regime; policy of burying head in the sand through denying the violations and talking about a conspiracy that no one believes now. The majority of influential countries that condemned these violations have political, economic and military relations with Bahrain, and of course they do not support the Iranian agenda. The government should admit that it has to stop these violations and abide by the international conventions it ratified. Talking about security challenges does not justify the violations. Rights should be protected and guaranteed at all times and under any circumstances, otherwise we are considered to be living in a country that does not include all citizens.
Al-Salman: The Bahraini government did not respond to any of the questions raised by the member states. This proves lack of evidence to justify its failure to stick to its international commitments in the human rights field. The responses were funny and denounced by all the attendees in the UN for being irrelevant to the questions raised to the official delegation. The official delegation's failure to respond to inquiries, increased the international community's certainty that the Bahraini government is engaged in systematic human rights violations, which are spread throughout all aspects of the country.