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HRW in its UN Report: Bahrain Failed to Comply with Previous Commitments in UPR

2022-04-07 - 6:02 p

Bahrain Mirror: Human Rights Watch said in its report for the 41st of the UN Universal Periodic Review on human rights situation in Bahrain that Bahrain has failed to live up to the recommendations that it supported and pledges it made in the past three cycles of the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review.

HRW indicated that in 2021, Bahraini activists commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 2011 uprisings amid continuing heavy repression. Oversight mechanisms are not independent of the government and officials are not held accountable for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. 

Bahrain continues to arbitrarily imprison individuals for participating in protests and to deny activists and human rights defenders fair trials. There is no independent media and the draft press law of 2021 has expanded restrictions to digital space. The authorities continue to deny access to independent rights monitors and the United Nations special procedures, including the special rapporteur on torture.

HRW report discussed the situation of freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain and stressed that no independent media has operated in Bahrain since the Information Affairs Ministry suspended Al Wasat. Foreign journalists rarely have access to Bahrain, and Human Rights Watch and other rights groups are routinely denied access. In addition, the government imposes restrictions on the digital content and puts individuals to trials over their Internet activism, on charge of "dissemination of false news," "challenging the state's efforts to confront COVID-19 pandemic," and "misuse of social media." It also uses spywares to spy on individuals, including the NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.

It also highlighted the situation of prominent dissidents in prison, including Sheikh Ali Salman, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Hasan Mushaima, Abduljalil Al-Singace who are serving life terms.

During the 2008 UPR, Bahrain pledged that it "is fully committed to supporting non-governmental organizations through legal and other instruments so as to develop a constructive dialogue with these organizations and other stakeholders." However, Bahrain has shut down almost all non-governmental organizations that have been at all critical of the government and its policies.

The organization mentioned in its report a number of recommendations, most notably "Remove abusive restrictions on freedom of expression; amend the press law to bring its provisions into compliance with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; impose a moratorium on the use of surveillance technology until adequate human rights safeguards are in place, and disclose any existing contracts or use of such technologies and immediately release all opposition activists, journalists, and other individuals arrested solely for exercising their right to free speech, peaceful assembly, or association."

It stressed the necessity to "Reinstate the operating license of the independent media outlet Al-Wasat; allow independent political societies to operate in Bahrain, including Al-Wefaq and allow foreign journalists and human rights organizations access to Bahrain and accept the requested visits of the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly."

With respect to death penalty, HRW presented a number of recommendations including "Reinstate a moratorium on death sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty; order independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture, and where evidence of torture is found, order a retrial that fully complies with international fair trial standards and excludes evidence obtained under torture and invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to conduct a mission in Bahrain."

The organization stated that the Bahraini authorities have failed to credibly investigate and prosecute officials and police officers who allegedly committed serious violations, including torture, since the 2011 protests, and recommended to "Hold accountable officials and security officers who have participated in or ordered torture during interrogations since 2011; comply with international rules and standards regarding prisoner treatment and provide necessary and timely medical care to prisoners; allow human rights groups to visit Bahraini prisons and ratify the Rome Statute and implement the statute in national legislation, including by incorporating provisions to cooperate promptly and fully with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to investigate and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes before its national courts in accordance with international law."

The report specified a part on children's situation and said that police beat children arrested in protest-related cases in early February 2021, in the lead up to the 10th anniversary of the 2011 uprising in Bahrain, and threatened them with rape and electric shocks. Prosecutors and judges, who refused to allow the children's parents or lawyers to be present during their interrogations and ordered their detention, enabled the abuses. 

In this context, HEW recommended to "Revise Law No. 4/2021 to guarantee a child's rights to access to their parents and a lawyer at all stages of arrest and custody, to be informed promptly of their rights and the reasons for their arrest and detention, to be able to challenge the legality of their detention, including detention in social care facilities or any other location whether or not it is classified as a prison or jail, and to access quality education without discrimination and introduce legislation that clearly prohibits corporal punishment of children in all contexts."

It also recommended to "Ensure migrant workers can change jobs without their employers' consent, at any time and without risking their legal status, publicize the new rules, and extend the reform to domestic workers and revise the labor law to ensure it meets Bahrain's obligations under international labor standards, including by extending its full and equal protections to domestic workers including a non-discriminatory minimum wage, weekly rest days, and limits on working hours."

Human Rights Watch noted that Bahrain has not fulfilled its promises to the United Nations to address citizenship and family laws and strengthen its protection of women and minorities, demanding in its recommendations to "Amend the citizenship law of 1963 to allow women to pass their citizenship onto their children on an equal basis to men; Repeal articles 316, 334, and 353 of the Penal Code and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, race, nationality, and age."

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