Bahrain: Protest against government-backed 'National Human Rights Institution'
PRESS STATEMENT ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE “NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTION” IN BAHRAIN: NGOs consider this a non-independent government-backed organization and will continue demanding the formation of an independent national instition. The choice of members appointed by royal order to the committee of this organization poses serious questions on the credibility and independence of this organization and the NGOs these members are associated with.
After an eight year wait, and promises made by the Bahraini government to set up a national institution for human rights, the King of Bahrain issued royal order (46) for 2009 to set up “National Human Rights Institution”. Furthermore, royal order (16) for 2010 appointing the Chairman and members of the “National Human Rights Institution”.
One of the main tenets of the Paris Principles about the establishment of human rights institution is that the composition of the national institution and the appointment of its members have guarantees of independence and pluralism.
A glance at the names of the 20 appointed members, we find that 5 members hold high ranking positions in ministries and government bodies; another 6 are currently appointed on or were previously appointed in the hand-picked upper house of parliament (the Shura Council); 5 members are members of other human rights organizations that are government-made or backed , so-called “gongos”; 4 members are close associates to the government which include a journalist, two former officials in the Interior Ministry and Defence Ministry and an academic; the final 3 members are controversial figures associated with different NGOs.
The appointment of this institution through royal order contradicts the proposed parliamentary bill by MPs to form this institution according to the Paris Principles and also did not consult with stakeholders in the community and civil society groups.
Overall, the composition of members does not reflect the voices of genuine NGOs responsible for human rights, trade unions, trends in philosophical or religious thought. In addition, the composition also violates the principle that government officials should participate in the institution in an advisory capacity only since several members hold positions in the Labour, Health and Education Ministries. Overall, the composition is neither independent nor pluralistic and the institution is expected to be biased towards its patron as time will certainly show.
The establishment of this institution comes at the same time that government authorities continue to harass independent human rights defenders carrying out genuine monitoring of the human rights situation. International human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and many others have noted the increasing rise in human rights violations, discrimination and corruption. Implicated in these violations is the political regime that has established this new institution and appointed its members. All of this therefore, leads us to conclude that this “National Human Rights Institution” is nothing more than a PR attempt to rectify the discredited international reputation of the government and to counter the work and effort carried out by genuine and independent human rights defenders. This is not a new policy and other bodies such as the Higher Council for Women (established to contain feminist movements), and the Institute for Political Development (to contain the training of political leaders and parliamentarians) is run by the Royal Court directly.
Based on all the above, the organizations undersigned consider this so-called “National Human Rights Institution” to be in contravention of the Paris Principles due to the non-independent government-backed majority of its members that has the hidden agenda of defending the will of the authority that established it and assigned its members rather than promoting and protecting human rights. We therefore will continue to call for and demand a true independent and pluralistic national human rights institution with a committee that is free from government influence in order to have a credible monitoring role on the human rights situation in Bahrain. Finally, we reject the way in which the noble cause of human rights is abused and exploited in this way for self-publicity and propaganda and to contain and distract hardworking activists from carrying out their work on the ground.
- Bahrain center for Human Rights
- Bahrain Youth society for Human Rights
- Women’s Petition Committee
- The Committee for martyrs and victims of torture
- The Human Rights Office of the Freedom and Democracy movement (Haq)
- The Committee for citizenship-less
- The coordinating committee for defense of political detainees
The Most Important Members of the so-called National Human Rights Institution: The King has appointed the activist Salman Ali Kamal Al-Din as the president of the new institution, and he is the former deputy secretary-general of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, where he was known in his tenure of that office for his close relationship with the authority's institutions, and for him publicly criticizing the defenders of human rights, which includes them sending information to international organizations. In the last years, Kamal Al-Din contributed in several government campaigns against the protest acts through government TV and the government-backed newspapers. Dr. Abdullah Al-Dirazi was also appointed from the same society, and he is the current president of the society and a former member in the central body in Waad Political Society. Al-Dirazi recently sparked widespread controversy by questioning the Human Rights Watch Report about systematic torture in Bahrain, where Al-Dirazi was forced to resign temporarily due to the protest reaction of the torture victims against him. At that time, it was disclosed that Al-Dirazi's position was in return for a promise to appoint him in the National Human Rights Institution; however he denied this at that point. Although Al-Dirazi was representing his society in the Coalition for Truth and Justice – and which released common positions related to forming a National Human Rights Institution – Al-Dirazi did not adhere to the position announced by the Coalition and he did not discuss his appointment with any of the ten institutions that take part with his society in that Coalition. The third activist appointed in the new institution is Dr. Jassim Al-Ajmi and he is the former president of the Bahrain Transparency Society. Financial suspicions were raised around the society during his presidency, as well as being not able to obtain the trust of the Transparency International or the trust of the donors which provided funding for the society. Al-Ajmi was also condemned for siding by the government against the Arab Delegation for the Defenders of Human Rights during the Future Conference held in Bahrain, and he was also condemned for his hasty position of announcing the integrity of the 2006 elections. His society also released after that a report on the mentioned elections – in conjunction with the Bahrain Human Rights Society – which the opposition considered to be in the interest of the authority and covers up on its violations.
The five people, who were appointed by the King among the ones working in artificial human rights organizations by the government (GONGOs) , are 1. Faisal Fouladh who is the president of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, and a member in the Shura Council, and 2. Tariq Jalil Mohammed Al-Saffar who is a member of the board of directors of the Telecommunications Regulatory and also a member in the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, and 3. Yousif Isa Al-Hashimi who is the president of the Jurists Society. Dr. Salah Al-Bandar, the former government adviser revealed – in the documented report he released in 2006 – how the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society and the Jurists society were established with government funding and a government agenda amid the plot against the political opposition activists and the independent Human rights defenders. The mentioned figures and organizations have indeed been exploited actively in the spate of attacks on the independent defenders of human rights. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights recently released a leaked government document ordering the payment of an amount of B.D. 30 thousand to the Jurists society to invite a suspicious body to sabotage the work of the independent civil society institutions. As to the fourth person, he is 4. Hasan Mousa Shafifii, who was a formed member of independent human rights organizations, however he was secretly employed, without the knowledge of his colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2003 where he was actively utilized abroad to distort the work of the independent human rights organizations as he currently works as a counselor in Bahrain's embassy in London , as well as taking part in the governmental delegations in Geneva . He currently works as the president the Bahrain monitor Human Rights and which is a bulletin released from London in both Arabic and English. It is a bulletin prepared and distributed by the media committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The fifth person is 5. Mohammed Airij Al-Ansari who is currently the director of recruitment at the Ministry of Labour, and the government has lately sent him to defend it with regards to systematic torture , in a hearing session organized in the American Congress on 27 April 2010. Mohammed Al-Ansari took advantage of his small society "Association of Public Freedoms and Human Rights" to promote for himself as a human rights defender and to penetrate the non-government organisations, where it was found that during that time he was employed in the Royal Court and that was before being appointed in his current position in the Ministry of Labour. Internal discord erupted in the mentioned association, and as a result its already limited activity froze. Al-Ansari was a key player in that dispute.
Ranking Members in the Ministries and Government Institutions:
- Isa Al-Khayat, and who was a appointed as a senior vice president in the new institute, is the former Dean of Admission and Registration at the University of Bahrain, and the Executive Director of the Institute of Political Development, which was founded in aim of monopolizing the training of the political activists and members of Shura and MPs, and it is directly run by the Royal Court and government.
- Fadheela Taher Al-Mahroos, which was appointed as a vice-president in the new institute, is an office holding doctor at the Ministry of Health, and a member in the Supreme Council for Women which is a government organization headed by the King's wife established to contain female activity.
- Mariam Athbi Shamlan Al-Jalahma, the assistant undersecretary for primary care at the Ministry of Health, and former doctor.
- Khalid Ahmed Al-Khaja, a head specialist in curriculums in the Directorate of Curricula at the Ministry of Education.
- Ali Abdullah Al-Aradi, a legal counselor taking part in the governmental delegations within the UN on human rights, and he coordinates the role of groups sent by the Bahraini government to Geneva to play the role of the non-independent associations and distort its work, as had happened with the group of the Sheikh, Al-Saidi while reviewing the record of Bahrain in the Committee against Torture in Geneva.
Former and current members in the Shura Council:
- Ebrahim Nono, a business man from the Jewish minority and a former member in the Shura Council. He did not have any significant role in the Council except for approving government requests and giving the impression to the western public opinion that the political regime in Bahrain is tolerant towards the religious minorities and to gain support from the Jewish lobby in the United States.
- Alice Thomas Yousif Sama'an, the second deputy chairman of the Shura Council. She is a Christian who largely contributes in the international campaigns arranged by the Committee of Foreign Media at the Ministry of Information to improve the image of the regime when subjected to criticism of the human rights organizations; the latest was the campaign held by the government in the United States after the recent Human Rights Watch report.
- Rabab Abdul-Nabi Salim Al-Arayadh, a lawyer and member of the Shura Council and a member in the Supreme Council for Women headed by the King's wife.
- Aisha Salim Mubarak, a member in the Shura Council.
- Abdul-Ghaffar Abdul-Hussein Abdullah, the secretary-general of the Union of Labour Committees during the State Security era – and which was controlled by the Intelligence Apparatus – he then succeeded in becoming the secretary-general of the Bahrain Trade Unions, and when he failed in his reelections in the Union, the King appointed him in the Shura Council. He still holds the post of the president of the Bapco Trade Union, where he took advantage of his relations with the administration of the company and his presidency of the Union to exclude three independent unionists for the benefit of the company's administration.
- Muneera Isa bin Hindi, a member in the Shura Council, and the sister of the King's counselor for sport affairs and the governor of Muharraq.
The remaining appointed members are represented in:
- Aqeel Al-Sewar, a journalist writer specializing in attacking the opponents of the political regime and the defenders of human rights, and he writes in Al-Watan newspaper which the report of the former government adviser Dr. Salah Al-Bandar exposed that behind establishing and funding it is the Royal Court and that it is part of the plot of sectarian exclusion and striking the regime's opponents.
- Ahmed Abdullah Farhan Thani, a former officer in the army in military justice, and the legal counselor of the Council of Representatives, where he was appointed with influence of the government. The MPs counted for the opposition say that the legal counsels of Farhan in most cases serve the government's agenda.
- Dr. Abdul-Rahman Aqeel Janahi, the director of the Center of Transportation and Roads in the College of Engineering at the government University of Bahrain.
- Abdullah Faisal Jaber Al-Dossari, a former officer in the Ministry of Interior and he currently holds the post of deputy chairman of Arcapita, which is believed to be owned by senior State officials.
[1 ] - Bahrain Center for Human Rights report presenting documents that reveal the "GONGOs" organizations in Bahrain – its heroes… role and mechanisms http://bahrainrights.no-ip.info/en/node/2983
[2 ] - Bahrain Center for Human Rights report presenting documents that reveal the "GONGOs" organizations in Bahrain – its heroes… role and mechanisms http://bahrainrights.no-ip.info/en/node/2983
[3 ] - Bahrain Center for Human Rights report presenting documents that reveal the "GONGOs" organizations in Bahrain – its heroes… role and mechanisms http://bahrainrights.no-ip.info/en/node/2983
[4 ] - The Report "Bahrain … the democratic choice and mechanisms of exclusions" – the Gulf Centre for Democratic Development – United Kingdom – August 2006. Report link http://virtualbahrain.net/report/index.php
[ 5] – BCHR statement A Secret Document Reveals the Authority's Plot to Fund Projects to Distort the International Human Rights Activity http://www.bchr.net/ar/node/3049
[6 ] – The website of Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he is named counselor among the employees of the embassy http://www.mofa.gov.bh/mofa/mofaeservices/LiveBahrainMissionsWebSite/BhMissionsEn.aspx
[7 ] - http://tb.ohchr.org/default.aspx?country=bh
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