Information Affairs Authority, September 19th, 2012: Following Bahrain successfully accepting 145 of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations, and partially accepting 13, the Human Rights Council accepted Bahrain’s response in the session held in Geneva this morning.
HE Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered the opening statement, highlighting Bahrain achieving the majority of the Council’s recommendations, and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to the cause of human rights.
He stated that the accepted recommendations were in relation to “criminal justice issues; prevention of torture; rights of women; protection of children and minorities; ratification of international treaties; the fight against human trafficking; and implementing the BICI (Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry) recommendations and findings of our National Dialogue.”
He went on to add, “We all agree on the fundamental principles, which are free speech and fair treatment of those accused and convicted of crimes.”
HE affirmed, “the rule of law is the essential condition of a society that respects human rights,” but stressed that “all segments of society need to play a constructive role” in upholding human rights concerns.
“No one has the right to force factionalism upon a society against its will. We welcome peaceful expressions of disagreement, but not incitements to hatred and violence which damage the social fabric of a nation” HE added.
HE emphasized the unprecedented initiatives undertaken by the country in addressing human rights concerns, which were supported by the Council’s session last May. These include the establishment of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to investigate police misconduct and assign accountability which has resulted in 3 convictions thus far; an Ombudsman in the National Security Agency; a Compensation Fund which has already allocated over $5.5 to the families of all the people who lost their lives mentioned in the BICI report; amending the definition of torture in the penal code and expanding the protection for freedom of expression in accordance with international law; as well as numerous other significant reforms.
Moreover, HE Sheikh Khalid noted that the Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced the recruitment of 500 police officers from all segments of society last week, and that His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa has instructed the active pursuit of establishing an Arab Court of Human Rights comparable with international benchmarks in the human rights sphere.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs reinforced the need for a political dialogue, “From the Government’s part, we have been proactive about convening inclusive dialogue – in fact, the Minister of Justice has been in meetings with political societies as recently as this week.”
However, he stressed that some “believe that continued unrest on the streets afford them a political advantage…. To keep up the momentum and media coverage, they fuel the flames of extremism and violence. They reject dialogue.”
HE provided support by illustrating what the Kingdom is faced in the actions of extremists. He stated that “there were 7,356 instances of tire-burning in repeated attempts to paralyze our small country…. [and] private citizens reported 1,470 cases of vandalism” which has resulted in injuries to almost 500 police officers this year alone, as well as 52 more who remain permanently disabled.
“No one could expect that an inclusive and tolerant system of politics will emerge if leaders of important groups seek dominance instead of dialogue and reject democratic institutions,” HE stated. “All groups with political aspirations should move away from the politics of the street to the politics of the table. “
He reminded the Council that “[a]nyone who knows the reality of the situation in Bahrain can certify that our opposition is not limited to voices speaking from abroad. Far from it – the most extreme criticism is voiced continuously within Bahrain, beyond what is tolerated, it seems, in other countries.”
Bahrain’s commitment to the UPR was further reinforced when the Delegation submitted an addendum to the Office of the High Commissioner to fully accept two additional recommendations. One recommendation relates to considering ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. The second concerns the activities of non-Government organizations.
HE the Foreign Minister thanked the advice and constructive engagement presented by the Council. President of the UN Human Rights Council, Ms. Laura Dupuy Lasserre, expressed her gratitude to the Kingdom’s decision to voluntarily provide an interim report to the Council prior to the next UPR.