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Salam Media: Factors Influencing a Vision for Human Rights Reform in Bahrain

The government of Bahrain has claimed that it is presently working on a national plan for human rights, but has barred independent civil society organisations from participating in the plan’s formation, limiting involvement to government institutions. This is a repeat of the last government committee tasked with implementing BICI’s recommendations, which failed to enact the recommended reforms.

As a prerequisite for radical and permanent political transformation in Bahrain, it is required to establish a vision for human rights and adopt a concept of comprehensive human rights reform within the scope of its working project and within a methodology. This working project must include a vision, objectives, mechanisms, and means within the framework of a working programme and a timetable for implementation and follow-up, as well as the need to harmonise the project with international determinants and standards used in successful human rights reform projects from the past. In addition, it must be made clear how the initiative can fulfil fundamental international human rights objectives such as transitional justice, victim justice, and reparations. Numerous nations, including Morocco, Guatemala, and South Africa, have successfully adopted transitional justice initiatives. Such efforts are essential for holding human rights violators responsible, mentally rehabilitating victims, assisting family members of victims to reintegrate into society, and redressing the effects of their persecution.

The government of Bahrain must take real steps to instil confidence in the project’s sincerity. It should include the release of all prisoners of conscience, including opposition figures and leaders, as well as an end to the harassment and prosecution of civilians for peacefully expressing their opinions within the bounds of freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The release of prisoners of conscience would aid in fostering trust, bridging divides, and fostering national healing and discourse. The recommendations of the Independent Commission of Inquiry must be implemented within a working programme by independent bodies monitored by independent institutions of civil society. The execution of these suggestions should be assisted by universal periodic evaluations and international human rights agencies’ recommendations.

It is crucial that the government align local legislation and administrative judgments with international conventions and treaties, and that administrative decisions adhere to Bahrain’s constitution and human rights obligations, which transcend local laws. This would ensure that ministers and government departments do not have the ability to restrict the rights and freedoms of individuals. Currently, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs has discretionary jurisdiction to award operating licences to new institutions, to restrict the functioning of registered institutions, and to interfere with their work. The Minister of the Interior has discretionary jurisdiction and can revoke a citizen’s nationality by administrative action if they have personal doubts about the individual’s allegiance. This is a breach of human rights that deprives the citizen of his constitutional, natural, and human rights.

Developing strategies and plans for human rights reforms requires cooperation and coordination with key internal and external human rights organisations and with the UN human rights authorities. Unquestionably, civil society organisations play a significant role in monitoring and recording human rights breaches and monitoring the government’s adherence to international human rights responsibilities. These civil society institutions must have a direct relationship with the community and the expertise to establish action plans to address human rights issues.

We recommend restructuring the National Institution for Human Rights within the Paris Principles, as well as restructuring the official judicial and human rights regulatory institutions to align with international frameworks, charters, and treaties to ensure their independence in achieving justice and redressing victims. Enacting laws and regulations that guarantee the independence and transparency of the judiciary, allowing United Nations special rapporteurs to enter the country and cooperate with the authority (cooperation with United Nations human rights bodies can also be added), and involving civil society institutions and specialised individuals in developing national plans for human rights, supervising and following up on th (allowing lawyers to defend citizens without any retaliation). We also recommend allowing full access to information and data for all citizens and human rights bodies (so that people can exercise their right to participate in/verify decision-making), as the right to information is recognised as a human right and is one of the inalienable rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the international transparency standards. Finally, we suggest that the machinery of the security forces be changed and that those responsible for grave human rights breaches be held fully accountable.

The Council for Equity and Reconciliation and the State Council:

We suggest the creation of an equality and reconciliation council, under the auspices and supervision of the United Nations, staffed by qualified representatives of civil society and members of the state who are independent of the security forces, to assist victims of human rights abuses. This council must have greater authority than the ruling family. And this council must have the ability to make recommendations to the monarch and the government and to give victims of human rights breaches with financial, psychological, medical, and social compensation.

The council should be accountable for implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry into the 2011 abuses of human rights. The council’s scope should involve the establishment of a State Council whose duties would be to safeguard the reform and independence of the judiciary and the Supreme Judicial Council. The State Council members are tasked with devising a procedure for appointing judges.

based on expertise, independence, and impartiality. To defend the constitution, the State Council must establish a Supreme Court distinct from the Supreme Judicial Council and the Ministry of Justice. This court will act as a reference for both citizens and the government. The State Council would have the jurisdiction to propose amendments to laws that violate international law, to serve as the government’s adviser in drafting draught legislation and administrative orders, and to react to government requests for legal assistance. The Council would also, at the request of the government or on its own initiative, conduct research on any administrative or public policy issues and, by virtue of its legal and consultative capacity, rule on the operations of the executive authority and state entities. Members of the Official Council would serve for a period of four years and be selected independently of state appointments based on their legal and advisory competence.

Bahrain also need a body that performs psychological rehabilitation programmes before to and after the release of all inmates subjected to torture during arrest and incarceration and reintegrates them into society.

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