Bahraini rights groups challenge government's claims of implemented reform
May 17, Manama: On 9 May 2016, Bahrain celebrated the culmination of the work of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), announcing that the implementation of all recommendations had been completed. The King awarded Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni a Bahrain Medal of the First Class, and state media reported that Bassiouni said the government of Bahrain had implemented the recommendations - a statement that he later said was inaccurate. The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the government of Bahrain's lack of commitment to reform and the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain.
King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa presided over an event marking the completion of the BICI recommendations. The official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported that Professor Bassiouni said that “the implementation of the recommendations has been within the context of sincere efforts by all those who were keen on the security, stability and development of Bahrain.” Professor Bassiouni later claimed that he was wrongfully cited by BNA; he did not clarify further, and confusion remains regarding what he meant by this statement. This sentiment contradicts the broad agreement among NGOs, experts and the national opposition that the BICI recommendations are far from being fully implemented.
This outcome is alarming, indicating that the the government has little intention to meaningfully address demands for justice and human rights. Moreover, Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and its partners are worried that these governmental foretell the further deterioration of situation on the ground.
In February 2011, almost half of the Bahraini population peacefully demonstrated against structural inequalities, corruption, oppression and a lack of government representation. In response, the government sent security forces to violently end the protests. Thousands of protesters were arrested, hundreds injured and many even lost their lives. In reaction to growing international pressures, the government established BICI in July 2011 to investigate government abuses committed during the demonstrations and to recommend legal and policy changes to prevent such events from recurring. For this, the government received international recognition and praise, as an independent assessment of the situation in the country was indeed urgently needed.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)'s independent report, issued jointly with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), shows that Bahraini authorities have only fully implemented two out of 26 recommendations, while 16 were partially implemented and eight were not implemented. Bahrain continues to purposefully target human rights defenders, to imprison peaceful protestors and to suppress freedom of expression and the right to privacy, forcing some into exile and deporting others after revoking their citizenship.
Prisons are filled with political opposition leaders for crimes including “insulting the King”, peaceful protesters for insisting on their right to free expression, and journalists for critical reporting. Prisoners regularly report severe and systematic torture as well as physical and psychological assault. Frequently, authorities search houses without a warrant, confiscate personal items and deny victims access to a lawyer and the right to fair trial. Further, government violence even targets children and subjects them to the same treatment including torture, physical and psychological assault, unfair trials and arbitrary imprisonment.
At the same time, the government has fostered a culture of impunity for the torturers of protesters and prisoners. The undersigned NGOs stress the importance of implementing all of the BICI's recommendations to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain.
The Oslo Times