Response to Human Rights Watch Report
The Government of Bahrain has received Human Right Watch’s latest report and is reviewing its content, including a series of anonymous allegations it contains, and recommendations. Bahrain is committed to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and continues to consistently demonstrate this over recent years.
The report acknowledges many of the reforms Bahrain has implemented over the past few years. These include the setting up of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and the establishment of independent watchdogs, namely the independent police Ombudsman, a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) within the Public Prosecution, and a Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission (PDRC) that constitutes Bahrain’s national preventive mechanism. It also recognizes the alignment between Bahrain’s national legislation on mistreatment with international standards. On several occasions, the report mentions initiatives taken by the independent police Ombudsman and the PDRC to inspect places of detention and investigate allegations of misconduct, including in Jaw prison.
Human Rights Watch’s report is based on a very limited number of interviews, including some activists with a political agenda. For a more extensive report, it is recommended to consult the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR).
Cases mentioned in the Human Rights Watch report fall within the mandate of the independent police Ombudsman and the Special Investigations Unit. The Government of Bahrain again urges Human Rights Watch to lodge all complaints with these institutions and provide them with sufficient information to enable them to conduct effective investigations. No human rights purpose is served by criticizing the institutions publicly before they have had the opportunity to receive and investigate the allegations.
Bahrain continues to bolster the capabilities of its national institutions to carry out their mandates effectively. The awarding of the European Union’s Chaillot Prize to the independent police Ombudsman and the NIHR in 2014, and the Ombudsman’s admission to the International Ombudsmen Institute as a full voting member, are testament to the success of these efforts. These national institutions continue to build on their successes and play a vital role in safeguarding human rights Bahrain.
Finally, the Government of Bahrain notes with concern that responses to allegations of torture from specific individuals in the report have in many cases already been responded to on previous occasions. For instance, the Ministry of Interior has responded publicly to one case on two occasions when Amnesty International investigated his case. The allegations may have changed, but the government’s position does not; no mistreatment occurred during arrest or detention of the case highlighted in the report.
It is also of concern that two of the recommendations made by Human Rights Watch call for the suspension of cooperation programs from the United Kingdom and technical assistance from the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR.) Human Rights Watch should applaud and support the cooperation and technical assistance of other entities that are assisting in Bahrain’s reform progress.