The Assistant Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Abdulla bin Faisal bin Jabur Al Doseri, said that Bahrain is exerting its efforts to continuously promote the protection of human rights and dignity through cooperation with partners and stakeholders at the national level.
In response to the recommendations of the third national report of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which was reviewed today, September 21, 2017, at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mr Al Doseri stressed the importance of constructive cooperation with the Human Rights Council, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant international organizations at the international level, who deserve support to achieve their objectives on the basis of the principles governing the work of the Council, which are the principles of dialogue, objectivity and non-selectivity.
On May 1, 2017, Bahrain submitted its third national report to the universal periodic review mechanisms. The Kingdom positively and responsibly received 175 recommendations submitted by the member states of the Council. Bahrain has made great efforts in studying these recommendations, including several meetings of the Coordination Committee with the High Commission to examine all reports and recommendations relating to the promotion and protection of human rights.
Mr Al Doseri explained that a number of other meetings were held with civil society organizations and associations whose presence exceeded 20 associations. These recommendations were reviewed extensively. The efforts of the Higher Coordination Committee and meetings with civil society organizations and their important observations contributed to crystallizing the position of the Kingdom of Bahrain on responding to the recommendations, which were submitted to the esteemed Council.
He added that the extensive consultations and studies on the recommendations contributed to 139 considerations, and that many of these recommendations have been achieved on the ground, and the Kingdom of Bahrain will work to achieve the remainder of them, confirming that 36 recommendations were either in conflict with the application of Sharia or lack of conformity with national laws or legislation, or require further study, although a number of them could have been partially accepted.
“The Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its commitment to and continuation of the pioneering reform and democratic approach launched by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, to preserve its human rights record, which is based on modern and progressive constitutional and legal texts, equality and pluralism, and the emphasis on respect for the principles of the promotion and protection of human rights in a democratic society that seeks security, development and justice for all, as reflected in the Kingdom’s legislation, policies and programs.”
The Assistant Foreign Minister reviewed a number of outstanding achievements in the recent period to add to the record of achievements and progress in the promotion and respect of human rights in the Kingdom, including:
The Family Law No. 19 of 2017, which came into force on August 1, 2017, and received wide acclaim among the Bahraini society in line with the Kingdom’s obligations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). After years of effort, Bahraini women have achieved one of their most important aspirations by issuing the Family Law, in recognition of the dignity of women and their pivotal role in the process of development and progress. It is a true translation of the aspirations of all Bahraini women. This has safeguarded the cohesion of the Bahraini family fabric, was effective in strengthening and enhancing national cohesion and unity and its contribution, being a uniform law, achieving the consensus of the entire spectrum of society.
Law No. (18) for the year 2017 on penalties and alternative measures, which is considered one of the most important initiatives aimed at developing penal policy in the Kingdom of Bahrain, through the promotion of punitive measures in its concept based on double penalties and reform towards comprehensive protection of future societies.
An amendment to Article 2 of Law No. (74) of 2016 concerning the care, rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities. The provisions of the law apply to persons with disabilities – from Bahrainis to persons with disabilities who are Bahraini citizens married to foreigners who reside in Bahrain permanently.
Law No. (6) of 2017 was issued to ratify the Arab Anti-Corruption Convention, which works to eliminate corruption and combat crime related to corruption in all its forms.
Law No. (7) of 2017 was issued with the ratification of the Arab Convention against Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism, which aims to prevent the financing of terrorism from funds obtained from money laundering offenses.
To take a number of measures that contribute to the reform of the labor market, including a flexible work permit. This system allows foreign workers to work without the sponsorship system. The Kingdom seeks to correct the labor market and maintain labor rights.
This year, the Kingdom of Bahrain was ranked first among 188 countries as the best country to work at and for the residency for the families for foreigners, according to a survey conducted by a specialized international research center.
The rule of law, independence and impartiality of the judiciary are the basis of the rule of the Kingdom of Bahrain and one of the most important pillars of the protection of human rights and freedoms. Article 20 of the Constitution provides for fair trial guarantees, including the right to defense and the prohibition of torture. The independence of the judiciary has been strengthened financially and administratively under the Judicial Authority Law promulgated by Legislative Decree No. 42 of 2002 and its amendments for the year 2015 and in line with the provisions of the Constitution.
The Assistant Foreign Minister pointed out that Decree-Law No. 46 of 2002 on criminal procedure and its amendments affirms comprehensive guarantees for the protection of human rights in freedom, personal safety and criminal justice by providing fair trial guarantees, the right of accused to contact their families and relatives, the use of lawyers and attending hearings without restraints, Ill-treatment or coercion.
The freedom of assembly, opinion and expression is guaranteed in the Constitution and national legislations without restrictions except the professional and ethical rules stipulated in the constitution, the law and the local and international press and media conventions, which prohibit any provocative invitations to sectarian or religious, racial or sectarian hatred or threaten national security or public order or infringement to rights, reputations and dignity of others, the violation of public morals or the violation of any of the principles of human rights.
He reiterated that there is no limit to ambition and efforts to bring about a lasting positive change in the human rights situation in Bahrain. “Our actions are better than our words to dispel any doubts about the commitment of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the promotion of human rights through the rule of law. We believe that segments of society are essential partners in the process of building and commitment to national action and to steer away from violence, intimidation and hatred and sectarianism in society,” he said.
He concluded that Bahrain’s continued efforts in the fight against terrorism, its financing and violent extremism will not deter it from continuing the democratic process, building a modern state and promoting human rights in all fields.
On the most important statements that followed the speech of the Assistant Foreign Minister, and the responses of the Kingdom, it came as follows:
Regarding the prohibition of travel for human rights activists, Mr Al Doseri highlighted several points:
First, the Kingdom of Bahrain, out of its desire to continuously promote human rights and to promote rights and freedoms, has ratified a number of international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it has ratified in 2006. (2) Second, everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own. The above-mentioned rights may not be restricted by any limitations other than those provided for by law, and are necessary for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.
Second, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain affirms the right to freedom of movement. Article 19, paragraph (b), states: “No one shall be arrested, detained, imprisoned, searched, dismissed or restricted to his or her freedom of residence or movement except in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
Thirdly, the national laws in this regard are in line with international conventions, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as established by the Constitution of the Kingdom. No one may be prevented from traveling except in accordance with the law. The main laws regulating the issue of travel bans are the Criminal Procedures Law No. (46) of 2002 and the Civil and Commercial Procedures Law No. (12) of 1971. According to the law, travel ban is issued only by the judiciary and based on a lawsuit, for criminal or civil matters. Therefore, if a travel ban is taken, the action shall be taken by the judicial authority.
Fourthly, the judicial procedures that are taken in accordance with the law related to the prevention of travel are considered on a case-by-case by the relevant judicial authority.
Fifthly, national laws have promoted the right of movement and travel by important guarantees, as they have established a judicial system to be appealed against the travel ban in order to achieve justice and to promote rights.
The Assistant Foreign Minister stressed that the legal system in the Kingdom of Bahrain can not prevent the executive branch of any person from travel, and that the prohibition is in accordance with the constitutional and legal controls by the judiciary, and that any person who was prevented from travel to resort to the judiciary.
The Kingdom of Bahrain was sparing no effort to enact new laws or to amend existing laws in line with its international obligations. The right of movement was guaranteed to all individuals in accordance with article 19 (b) of the Constitution, restricting the freedom of any person to reside or move except in accordance with the provisions of the law and by virtue of the law of the judiciary, which in itself is a basic guarantee for all individuals. The executive branch can not restrict the freedom of any person to move except by judicial decision. Legally, the right to appeal against the decision issued by travel is a right guaranteed to the affected person on the basis of the rule applicable to each affected person.
With regard to the participation of civil society, the Assistant Foreign Minister pointed out that, in recognition of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s mandate to be the first country to submit its report through the universal periodic review mechanism, the Kingdom has prepared its reports through a community partnership. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also held several national consultation meetings, including government agencies, the legislative branch, the judiciary and civil society organizations, to discuss their views in order to prepare the third periodic report of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a meeting to consult with civil society organizations in which more than 20 A human rights organization, providing its observations and views on the report, which were taken into account in the report. This practical approach is a translation of the convictions of the competent Bahraini authorities to consult and coordinate the preparation of its third report.
With regard to the resolution of Al Wefaq Society, the Kingdom of Bahrain affirmed the following:
First: Political action in the Kingdom of Bahrain is very important for democratic transformation and support for comprehensive reforms. Political organization is a right guaranteed in the Constitution of the Kingdom, and it is regulated by various national laws and executive regulations.
Second: The application of the law is an important issue for strengthening the rule of law and the state of institutions, and everyone must abide by it and respect it. The role of the state is to preserve the application of the law and its sovereignty and to take the necessary measures in case it is violated.
Third: The government is keen on the continuation of the role of political associations in all directions, including Al Wefaq, but the Assembly must be committed to the provisions of the Constitution and the law, especially the law of political associations. The Kingdom is keen to maintain the role of these associations and has established a special system of financial support for all associations from the general budget of the State. But this role must not violate the law, and should not affect the sovereignty of the state and the national unity of society.
Fourth: The State dealt with great flexibility with the excesses and violations of the Al Wefaq Society’s repeated during the period from 2001 to 2016 and did not take any actions against it in 2011. It also made sure it participates in a series of national dialogues (the first dialogue in March 2011, the second dialogue in July 2011, the third in February 2013, and the fourth Dialogue in September 2014), and the society proved its lack of seriousness in the dialogue or positive engagement in these dialogues. Where it withdrew from the last sessions of the first dialogue, which resulted from its contribution to the consensus resulting from the amendment of the Constitution. As for the rest of the dialogues, it withdrew and was not an active member of them, but delayed to thwart all of them.
Fifth, Al Wefaq continued to violate the law and dealt with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain with dualism and selectivity. It refused to recognize the Constitution in 2002 and then recognized it in 2006. It refused to recognize it again in 2011. It was also linked internally to the “secular council”, which is a radical organization founded by clerics outside the law, and the judiciary issued a decision to dissolve it. Al Wefaq also has ties with Hezbollah, the Dawa Party in Iraq, and close ties with Tehran, which helped establish a religious authority in Bahrain.
Sixth, the decision to suspend the activities of Al Wefaq and the closure of its headquarters is not a governmental decision, but rather a sovereign decision issued by the independent Bahraini judiciary. The Government of Bahrain has never closed any political association, and it is not one of its executive powers. It is the judiciary that has sole powers according to the Constitution.
Seventh, the Bahraini judiciary suspended the activities of the Al Wefaq Society and closed its headquarters for the following reasons: targeting the principle of respect for the rule of law and the foundations of citizenship, providing an incubating environment for terrorism and extremism and violence, calling for external interference in internal affairs and exploiting religious platforms in political work.
Eight, all members of Al Wefaq are entitled to apply at any time to the Office of Political Associations in the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments to establish a new political association, subject to compliance with national laws, respect for the Constitution and the inviolability of national unity.
Ninth, the Kingdom of Bahrain is keen to support the activity of the various political societies. The constitution prevents any authority from targeting associations as a genuine constitutional right. Therefore, 22 political societies are still active and play their role in the political process.
On the suspension of the death penalty, the Assistant Foreign Minister said that the death penalty is imposed only in serious cases, and that there are adequate safeguards for the imposition and implementation of the death penalty in Bahraini law. The penalty is imposed on a small and limited number of criminal offenses. The Penal Code stipulates the possibility of commuting the death penalty if sentenced to life imprisonment or imprisonment for a shorter period if the offense is committed in circumstances deserving commutation of the sentence.
On the question of the nationality of Bahraini children, the Assistant Foreign Minister pointed out that the Supreme Council for Women gives special attention to the issue of Bahraini women married to foreigners and seeks to improve their situation by contributing to the necessary measures to obtain basic services for citizens.
He explained that the Cabinet issued a resolution approving a draft law amending certain provisions of the Bahraini Nationality Act of 1963, allowing the granting of Bahraini nationality to the children of a Bahraini woman married to a foreigner in accordance with specific regulations and standards.
As for the issue of journalists and the media, the Assistant Foreign Minister said that a new draft law for the press and electronic media is being prepared to enhance the freedom and independence of newspapers and electronic media institutions in accordance with international rules, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It prohibits any calls for violence, hatred, threats to national security and public order, infringement of the rights, reputation and dignity of others, violation of public morality or violation of any of the principles of human rights. It promotes the rights of journalists to express their views in a secure and independent manner within the framework of the Constitution and the law as well as right to receive and circulate information.
He pointed out that executive and judicial measures are being taken to prohibit any incitement to sectarian violence, and national, religious or racial hatred in the media, in accordance with the Penal Code and its amendments, and the current press law issued by Legislative Decree No. 47 of 2002.
He stressed that the Kingdom of Bahrain supports the rights of journalists to carry out their mission freely and independently, and to punish any assault on them with the penalties stipulated for assaulting a public official, as stipulated in Articles 29-34 of the current press law promulgated by Legislative Decree No. 47 of 2002. It has been ensured that no journalist is arrested, imprisoned, intimidated, oppressed or insulted for exercising the legal and constitutional right to an opinion, and the right of litigation is guaranteed to the victim of any illegal practices.