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Home » News

Bahrain must address lack of trust in Government, says UN rights chief

Article / Review by on December 21, 2011 – 8:24 pmNo Comments

Bahrain must address lack of trust in Government, says UN rights chief

Protesters in Manama, Bahrain. Photo: Al Jazeera EnglishProtesters in Manama, Bahrain. Photo: Al Jazeera English

The United Nations human rights chief today called on Bahraini authorities to address the “deepening mistrust” between the Government and civil society, including by releasing those detained for participating in peaceful protests.

“The Bahraini authorities need to urgently take confidence-building measures, including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals or are still awaiting trial for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” Navi Pillay said in a news release.

A team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited the country from 13 to 17 December, at the invitation of the Government, and met with a number of high-level officials, as well as a broad range of civil society members. It also visited a number of detainees in the central Jaw prison in the capital, Manama.

My team has come back with the message that there is a profound lack of trust in the Government, and this mistrust has deepened as a result of the violent crackdown on protesters, destruction of mosques, the lack of fair trials and the lack of progress in providing redress for violations.

“My team has come back with the message that there is a profound lack of trust in the Government, and this mistrust has deepened as a result of the violent crackdown on protesters, destruction of mosques, the lack of fair trials and the lack of progress in providing redress for violations,” said Ms. Pillay.

“There are also obvious, and very dangerous, examples of hate speech, including at the level of official media, painting entire communities with the same broad brush. This needs to stop and a process of dialogue, including with leaders from different religious and migrant communities, needs to begin.”

Ms. Pillay also noted that thousands of people have lost their jobs for participating in demonstrations, and many students have had their education derailed.

“These serious violations of their economic and social rights must be immediately addressed. Those who have been unfairly dismissed should be reinstated to their original functions.”

The country was beset by violent clashes between security forces and protesters earlier this year, part of the Arab Spring uprising that has engulfed much of the region and led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.

Ms. Pillay urged the Government to tackle impunity, including for security forces responsible for excessive use of force on peaceful protesters and officers who perpetrated torture.

“We continue to receive reports of the repression of small protests in Bahrain and although some security officers have reportedly been arrested, we have yet to see any prosecution of security forces for civilian injuries and deaths,” she said. “Such impunity – at all levels – is a serious impediment to national reconciliation.”

Last month an independent inquiry into the alleged rights violations during the clashes found, according to media reports, that Government forces had used excessive force during the crackdown in February and March and had tortured some detainees.

The High Commissioner said the inquiry was an important first step in the right direction and welcomed the subsequent acknowledgement by the King of Bahrain that serious human rights violations did occur and need to be addressed.

She stressed that it is time for concrete steps to be taken towards redress, reparation and reconciliation, adding that OHCHR is prepared to support the national leadership in meeting its international human rights obligations. This includes implementing relevant recommendations by the inquiry and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

“Bahrain has an important opportunity now to strengthen its legal and institutional infrastructure, including an impartial judiciary, for the protection of human rights,” Ms. Pillay stated.

“We stand ready to accompany comprehensive national efforts towards the establishment of an open and democratic society, provided that the first critical confidence-building measures are taken,” she added.

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About Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 

Who we are

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.

Leadership

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. The High Commissioner heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts. We offer leadership, work objectively, educate and take action to empower individuals and assist States in upholding human rights. We are a part of the United Nations Secretariat with our headquarters in Geneva.

The Office’s priorities are set out in two key strategic documents: the OHCHR Plan of Action and its Strategic Management Plan 2010-2011. These priorities include greater country engagement, working closely with our partners at the country and local levels, in order to ensure that international human rights standards are implemented on the ground; a stronger leadership role for the High Commissioner; and closer partnerships with civil society and United Nations agencies.

United Nations human rights system

We also support the work of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and the core treaty bodies set up for monitoring State Parties’ compliance with international human rights treaties, promote the right to development, coordinate United Nations human rights education and public information activities, and strengthens human rights across the United Nations system. We work to ensure the enforcement of universally recognized human rights norms, including through promoting both the universal ratification and implementation of the major human rights treaties and respect for the rule of law.

Our structure

We have an office at United Nations headquarters in New York and offices in numerous countries and regions. In addition to the Executive Office of the High Commissioner and a number of units that report to the Deputy High Commissioner, OHCHR has two major divisions and four branches.

To implement our comprehensive mandate, we employ more than 850 staff (last update in April 2007), based in Geneva and New York and in 11 country offices and seven regional offices around the world, including a workforce of some 240 international human rights officers serving in UN peace missions.  We are funded from the United Nations regular budget and from voluntary contributions from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, foundations and individuals.

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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