22nd June, 2013 –
Once again Human Rights Watch has pulled together outdated and unrelated pieces of information to create a false and unfair portrayal of the situation in Bahrain.
We will publish a fuller review of HRW’s 90 page report in due course. However, to give an idea of what is wrong with this report, we will cite a few examples:
· HRW talks about “suppressing” and “closing down” NGOs. However the only significant society which has been closed down since the 2011 unrest is the Islamic Action Society (Amal), which HRW conveniently fails to mention is a militant and sectarian entity run by an extremist cleric, Ayatollah Hadi al-Modarresi, from abroad. This is an entity which by most international criteria would rightfully be closed down for inciting violence and spreading religious hatred. It is noteworthy that the principle legitimate opposition political societies like Al-Wefaq and the National Democratic Action Society ‘Waad’ are functioning normally and legally.
· HRW speaks about “draconian” provisions in the new draft law on NGOs. However, when we get to the detail it is acknowledged that these draconian provisions are no more than increasing the number of founding members by five members, providing a budget and having an office. Few right-minded people would agree with HRW in describing this as repressive.
· In places where the law has become more liberal, such as allowing for multiple trade union federations, HRW has made a logical somersault in order to criticize this too.
· HRW also takes issue with provisions preventing the establishment of societies on sectarian lines – This country has enough difficulties with sectarian divisions, without HRW encouraging a scenario for further exacerbating tensions between sects.
HRW rightly notes that “during the 20th century, civic, political, and trade union organizations played increasingly important roles in shaping Bahrain” and we would also take issue with any measures which undermined this reality.
However, HRW and other organizations should be less susceptible to opposition propaganda which twists every measure taken by the Government and interprets these as cruel plots to repress ordinary people.
While continuously blaming the government for everything, HRW would be right to also take issue with groups like Al-Wefaq Islamic Society which at the behest of an intolerant religious leadership is working to inflame the divisions in Bahraini society and perpetuate a climate of violence and fear – rather than engaging seriously in a process of National Dialogue as they themselves have pledged to do.