The January-June 2016 Bahrain human rights report by Britain’s Foreign Office has highlighted the British Government’s work to support those civil society organizations in Bahrain which support “responsible freedom of expression and social inclusion – to encourage moderate voices to take a greater role within civil society”.
The report praised the Bahrain Government’s socio-economic reform programmes which it said had the potential to “strengthen community cohesion, human rights and the rule of law”. It also welcomed other recent measures such as the release of opposition activist Zainab al-Khawaja on humanitarian grounds.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office reiterated its commitment to work closely with the Bahrain Government to consolidate progress on human rights. This includes “building effective and accountable institutions, strengthening the rule of law, and police and justice reform”.
The report notes that at the beginning of 2016, Bahrain and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights agreed on a joint programme of technical assistance and capacity building to “empower civil society actors, increase independent oversight, and increase compliance with international human rights mechanisms”.
The report states that “Bahrain continued to face a genuine security threat, and extremist groups continued to target security personnel. In April, a police officer was targeted and killed after a Molotov cocktail attack in Sitra. Low-level civil disturbances also continued on regular basis”.
The British Government emphasized the importance for “all sides to engage in constructive and inclusive dialogue to promote social cohesion and inclusivity, including political representation for all Bahrainis”.
The report referred to the suspension Al-Wefaq Islamic Society and the citizenship revocation of Al-Wefaq’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Isa Qassim, without discussing the role of these entities in increasing civil tensions and sectarian discord, or putting these measures in the context of the recent law banning the involvement of clerics in politics.
Human rights institutions
British support continues for “independent human rights and oversight institutions” such as the National Institution of Human Rights, the independent Ombudsman, the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission and the Special Investigations Unit. The report singled out continuing achievements by these human rights and oversight bodies:
Special Investigations Unit
“Following an appeal by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the Supreme Appeals Court reinstatedthe sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment (having previously reduced it to 2 years) for both defendants who were found guilty of the manslaughter of Ali Saqer, who died whilst in detention at Dry Dock Detention Centre in 2011.”
Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission
“In May 2016, the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission (PDRC) released a report on its independent inspection of Jau Rehabilitation and Reformation Centre in November 2015. PDRC commissioners highlighted a number of key concerns in respect to prison conditions, and the report included testimony from detainees. The UK welcomed the transparent approach taken by the PDRC and the Ministry of Interior’s commitment to implement all the recommendations made in the report.”
“Following an earlier recommendation from the Ombudsman’s office on youth justice reform, 15 to 18 year-olds and 18 to 21 year-olds in detention continued to be accommodated separately. Work is now needed on rehabilitation, release and reintegration into communities.”