The 6th International Conference on Human Rights issues a warning on the alarming situation in Bahrain
The World Coalition was invited to participate in the 6th International Conference on Human Rights, organized on February 22nd, 2017 in Beirut by the Bahrein Forum for Human Rights. Entitled “International community and challenges of the reforms regarding human rights in Bahrain”, this event gathered representatives of numerous human rights organizations. It focused on the actual and serious human rights violations in Bahrain on one hand, and on international mechanisms to strengthen this rights on the other hand. The conference ended with a series of recommendations.
Human rights in Bahrain: a bleak observation
Regarding representatives’ interventions from different national and international organizations, the conference highlighted the deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain. More specifically, measures regarding freedom of speech, peaceful meetings, freedom of religion and faith, have been blamed. The conference also pointed out unfair trials for activists and human rights defenders, as well as the seizure of their civil and political rights.
Freedom of meeting and association
The right to peaceful assembly is forbidden in Bahrain since 2014. Moreover, the Bahraini authorities have imposed arbitrary restrictions to the creation of non-governmental organizations. Detention of political leaders and possible dissolution of political parties or political associations are also matters of great concern.
Anti-terrorist legislation and loss of nationality
In the contexte of the anti-terrorist legislation, judicial decisions have deprived citizens of Bahrain of their nationality. Some of these de facto stateless persones were forcibly expelled.
Abdellah Mouseddad, member of the Steering Committee of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, addressed the last developments regarding the capital punishment in Bahrain. Underlining that only 2 countries from North Africa and the Middle East, voted in favor of the UN moratorium resolution on the death penalty of 2016, M. Mouseddad highlighted the opposition of this region to the world abolitionist trend. A regional attitude already recognizable with the increase of executions in 2015.
In their alternative report on the State of Bahrain, the World Coalition and its partner organizations noted a significant increase in the imposition of death sentences since the last *Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2012. In addition, as recently as January 2017 three man were executed for the first time since 2010. Indeed, numerous crimes other than voluntary manslaughter can be punished by death according to the Penal code and the Law of Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts. Besides, this confirms the use of the death penalty as a political tool against the opponents to the Government and the defenders of freedom as evidenced by the execution of 3 human rights activists.
A strong final statement, which remains shy with regards to the death penalty
Based on this worrying observations, the World Coalition presented the recommendations stated on the report calling for the establishment of an official moratorium and for the abolition of the death penalty. The authors of the report urged the authorities of Bahrain to amend the Penal Code in order to restrict the use of capital punishment only to the most serious crimes, specifying that such limitation can only be effective if accompanied by strong guidelines issued to the judges. The report condemns the use of torture to extract confessions. At the international level, the State of Bahrain was called upon to invite Special Rapporteurs on its territory, especially the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions and his counterpart the Special Rapporteur on Torture.
At the end of the Conference, the final statement called for strong and ambitious measures as well as for the alignment of the Bahraini legislation with international law to guarantee freedom of meeting and expression, the suppression of the King’s interference in judicial matters and the end of the use of military courts regarding crimes of conscience. Significantly, the final statement urged Bahrein to ratify the Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court.
Nevertheless, we can regret that the organizers only mentioned the abolition of the death penalty for prisoners of conscience which reflects only partially the recommendations of the UPR report of 2012. This illustrates the difficulties faced by the abolitionist’s position in the region, even within the human rights defenders.
*The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations Member States. Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all UN Member States is reviewed every 5 years.