On Monday, May 1, 2017, the Kingdom of Bahrain presented its third national report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council to be the first country to do so as it did in 2008 and 2012.
On the occasion, the Assistant Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Faisal bin Jabur Al Dossari, gave a statement in which he outlined the achievements of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the areas of human rights and protection of human civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
This includes the right to enjoy development which was attained in the framework of the royal reforms of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who laid down the human rights reinforcement principles in a democratic society seeking to achieve safety, security, development and social equity.
The Head of the delegation said while preparing the third report, there was keenness on acquainting the public with the UPR mechanisms and inclusive consultations with civil society organizations, the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) were held taking into consideration the observations and visions presented by some of them.
He added that the draft was published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after being endorsed by the Supreme Coordinating Committee for Human Rights which is the committee concerned with follow-up on the international commitments of the Kingdom of Bahrain including UPR results.
Before touching to the detailed national achievements which were mentioned in the report, the Assistant Foreign Minister referred to the document issued by the Higher Commissioner’s Office on April 6, 2017 which was corrected on February 14, 2017.
“The correction took place about two months after the issuance of the original document which involved a number of allegations and false and inaccurate information that were attributed to some agencies and international organizations,” he said.
He described such matter as strange and in contrary to the ideal practices, saying that the correction did not cover the information which belittled Human Rights march in the Kingdom and were not reflective of the developments on the ground.
The quoted sides have imposed themselves as arbitrators without being knowledgeable of the background or possessing evidence ignoring the success of the National Dialogue in coming out with visions and agreeing constitutional amendments.
“These sides affirm that Bahraini authorities had resorted under the terrorism law to detaining and prosecuting the journalists and human rights activists after accusing them of being affiliated to terrorist groups without giving single evidence.”
The head of the delegation has outlined the achievements of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the human rights field such as law 52/2012, which amended the criminal code, issued by law decree 15/1976 which redefined torture and stipulated that the passage of time does not drop torture crimes.
“ This confirms that there is no way to evade punitive measures in the kingdom of Bahrain,” he said pointing law 42/2002 and its amendments of 2015 which affirm the rule of law, independence ,transparency and right to fair litigation safeguards.”
He also mentioned law 17/2015 on protection from family violence, law 26/2014 that established NIHR, amended by decree law 20/2016 which stipulated its compliance with Paris principles, law decree 70/2014 which amended some provisions of law 5/2002 on joining CEDAW and redrafting certain reservation on the agreement, issuance of royal order 24/2017 on the formation of legal committee to review the unified Bahraini draft family law in line with the Shura Council endorsement on April 16, 2016.
The delegation also referred to samples of the national human rights mechanisms and the numerous executive measures which had been taken in this regard such as the role played by the SCW and its various well-studied plans including the National Plan for Women Empowerment 2013-2022 and women’s empowerment economically and politically which moved with Bahrain’s achievement to universality with UN’s adoption of Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa for Women Empowerment Award.
Many countries have lauded the Kingdom’s achievements in multiple fields while some countries have sought clarifications or presented recommendations which have been thoroughly answered by the Assistant Foreign Minister who unveiled the stance of the Kingdom of Bahrain vis-à-vis such matters.
Some of these were centered on mechanisms of cooperation with the UN and invitation of rapporteurs, travel ban, suspension of capital sentence, withdrawal of citizenship, the file of the sons of Bahraini women married to non-Bahraini men, the safeguards that guarantee non prosecution of journalists, compensation for victims, the legal framework governing freedom of opinion and expression
The Delegation of the Kingdom of Bahrain, beside the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, comprises representatives from the Representatives and Shura Councils, who answered countries’ questions in a number of areas including the legislative power’s share in national responsibility.
In this context, the Representatives of both councils outlined the tremendous efforts they had exerted on the level human rights, particularly towards women, through the Human Rights Awareness Committee and as partner of the executive branch, the legislative power reviewed the government-introduced bill on redrafting the Kingdom reservations concerning CEDAW to bring in line the country’s legislations with international commitments and requirements of global conventions with regard to human rights.
They affirmed that both houses of the legislative branch share national responsibility with the executive power are mainly concerned with the drafting of laws and keeping them abreast with local international developments and keen to follow up the Kingdom’s commitment and make sure that they meet the state needs.
Rule of Law and Reinforcement of Justice
In the same context, Colonel Rashid Mohammed Bunejema, Director of the Legal Affairs Department at the Ministry of Interior, affirmed the keenness of the Government of Bahrain, represented by the Ministry of the Interior, to apply the law, establish justice and respect human rights standards in all its mandated activities as per the Constitution and governing laws.
In his speech, Bunejema referred to the creation of a new department under the name of the Audit and Internal investigation Department, which receives, reviews and examines complaints and requests for assistance against members of the public security forces
He also pointed the issuance of the police Code of Conduct, based on the best international practices and the Code of Conduct adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and that terms of inmates’ rights, a new law was issued to reform and rehabilitate centers taking into consideration the rights of inmates.
The Director of Legal Affairs at the Interior Ministry, Lt-Col Rashid Mohammed Bunejma highlighted the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Interior and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2011 which allows the Commission to visit prisons and detention centers and make the necessary recommendations in this regard in addition to holding training courses in the field of human rights.
He noted that the year 2013 witnessed the establishment of the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission which specializes in monitoring and conducting regular and surprise visits to all rehabilitation centers, detention centers and juvenile centers.
On the interest of the Kingdom of Bahrain in increasing awareness on human rights for the employees of the Ministry of Interior, Bunejma affirmed the Ministry’s keenness in this area, noting that the number of beneficiaries of the programs of the Royal Academy of police training courses since 2011 reached (14162) participants.
He also mentioned the introduction of special diplomas in penal and human rights institutions which gained international recognition from the EDEXCEL Foundation, as well as the inclusion of human rights as a basic subject in master’s programs in criminal, administrative and security sciences.
At the end of his statement, Colonel Bunejma answered all questions related to the Ministry of Interior providing evidence and facts and stressing the kingdom’s keenness on applying the law and establishing justice and respect for human rights standards.
Bahraini judiciary enjoys independence and integrity.
The Advisor to the Ministry of Justice and member of the official delegation, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa affirmed that “The judiciary in the Kingdom of Bahrain enjoys independence and integrity in accordance with the Judicial Authority Act of 2002, which stipulates that the judiciary has full financial and administrative independence.
He also placed on emphasis on what is stated in Article 20 of the Constitution on ensuring fair trial and that the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a legal trial in which he is granted the necessary guarantees to exercise the right of defense at all stages of the investigation and trial, with the prohibition of physical or moral harm.
“Recently, there has been substantial modification of the Military Justice Act based on the recent constitutional amendments as a necessity to protect society from terrorist acts and to preserve the security and sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
“With regard to the civil settlement initiative to compensate those affected by the events of February and March 2011, the Government of Bahrain adopted this initiative upon the proposal of the Committee to follow up the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry.
“It took into account the amount of compensation proportional to the error and damage caused by this error including cases where the damage led to disability s without prejudice to the right of those who do not accept the offered consensual settlement to resort to civil courts, and in no way that would impact criminal accountability. ”
In his statement before the Human Rights Council, Shaikh Salman refuted all the concerns raised about the issue of places of worship and some political societies, pointing to the legal procedures adopted by the State.
Guaranteed Press and Media Freedom
In his speech Before the Human Rights Council, the Legal Consultant at the Ministry of Information Affairs and member of the official delegation participating in the work of the 27 Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (Third National Report of the Kingdom of Bahrain), Fawzan Khalifa Bufarsen highlighted the great efforts made by the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to ensure public and personal rights and freedoms especially in the field of media.
He noted its keenness to prepare a new draft law for the press and electronic media, after consultation with local partners such as the Bahrain Journalists Association, the editors of the local newspapers and a number of NGOs working in this field, pointing to the promotion of press freedom and media to achieve a rehabilitate the overall sector.
In the same context, Bufarsen highlighted the great leap that took place in Bahrain in the field of journalism and media, affirming the Kingdom’s keenness to guarantee press and media freedom, pointing to the large increase in the number of daily newspapers and electronic magazines and satellite channels and radio stations.
He noted the importance of Decree Law 47/2002 on the regulation of the press Printing and publishing, which represents the legislative framework of newspapers to exercise their role without prior censorship of the content and guarantees equal opportunities for them and for dissemination and access to information and news from different sources.
“This ought to be done without being dragged by rumors or promoting them while it is prohibited to impose any restrictions on the flow of information or forcing journalists to disclose their sources of information and criminalizing slander, defamation and inciting for perpetration of crimes,” saying that no journalist has been imprisoned since the issuance of the Law Decree in 2002 “.
Bufarsen highlighted the progress in the field of media which enables journalists to perform their duty to the fullest without harassment, and that laws in Bahrain protect journalists and media and are considered a guarantee for press stability in addition to preserving journalists’ moral and material rights.
Women advancement in Bahrain is exemplary
On the situation of women in Bahrain, the Supreme Council for Women’s administrative and media policies director and member of the official delegation, Ezzedine Khalil Al Moayyed, addressed the Human Rights Council, saying that the experience of advancement of women in Bahrain is exemplary in terms of their attainment of political, civil, social and economic rights and application of the principle of equal opportunity “.
Al Moayyed reviewed a number of achievements, highlighting that the Kingdom of Bahrain, through the efforts of the Supreme Council for Women is exemplary in its adoption of the national model to integrate the needs of women in development programs and include the national plan for the advancement of women in the government’s work program.
He spoke about the need for setting up equal opportunity committees in ministries and official institutions, as well as adopting budget responsive to women’s needs, pointing out that the percentage of working women reached 53% in the government sector and 33% in the private sector.
The Director of Administrative and Information Affairs at the Supreme Council for Women confirmed that Bahrain women have achieved the highest percentage of in senior managerial positions, 59% in medium positions and 8%, the second highest in the Middle East and North Africa.
“The number of women ministers and those holding similar positions is 4 according to the OECD report while they hold 9% of the judiciary post with 10 women judges), 15% in the legislative power and 10% in the municipal councils.”
The participation rate of women in the parliamentary elections was 46% in the 2014 elections; he said pointing out that Bahrain is working to strengthen the presence of women in regional and international forums through the international posts it is holding.
He pointed out that most recently the Bahrain has won the membership of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and the UN-Women Executive Board and was the first country in the Arab which had a female president of the United Nations General Assembly in 2006.
Al Moayyed highlighted the national achievements in empowering Bahraini women economically, stating that Bahrain has ranked first in the world in recording the fastest rate of growth of women’s participation in economic activity, according to the World Economic Forum’s report on gender gap in 2015.
At the end of his statement, Al Moayyed answered all the raised issues in the domestic field through the decisions issued by the government and through the facts, evidence, and statistics that confirm the great leaps that have been achieved for the Bahraini family, the legislations that have been issued and the Kingdom’s great interest in protecting families and preserving their rights
Independent Preventive Measures in Law Enforcement
For his part, the Ombudsman Secretary General Mr. Nawaf Al-Maawda referred to the inauguration of the Ombudsman in July 2013, saying that the General Secretariat has received more than 3,200 transactions since July 2013, which is a clear indication of the continuous public trust in its job.
He added that about 70% of the requests have been made by individuals or groups to ask for assistance to inquire about specific information, which highlights the Ombudsman’s human rights role in the service of the public, the inmates, detainees and their relatives.
“The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was established in the Public Prosecution in order to determine criminal responsibility against government officials who have committed unlawful acts that have resulted in murder, torture, abuse or ill-treatment and consequently it has referred 101 suspected police officers for trial.
“As for the Commission on the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees, it was established by Royal Decree No. 61 of 2013. The Government has adopted the criteria for the formation of the Commission, its terms of reference and powers under the “OPCAT” principle.
The commission is comprised of 13 members, 3 from civil society organizations in addition to a medical doctor.
“At its first session, the OHCHR made 12 surprise visits to prison facilities, pre-trial detentions and wrote detailed reports of which are available on the UNHCR website.”
Bahrain is advanced in terms of labor protection legislation and regulations.
For his part, Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Affairs and member of the participating official delegation Dr. Mohammed Al Ansari, delivered a statement at the 27th Session in which he stressed that “the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the advanced countries in terms of legislations and regulations aimed at protecting workers and is a leading player in local domestic laws and procedures development to ensure the rights and freedoms including the freedom to form unions and trade unions.
He also added that “it is crucial to modify labor recruitment systems to bring them in line with international standards in order to ensure the rights of expatriates, particularly domestic workers and exerting great efforts against human trafficking and discriminatory measures regarding recruitment and promotion, which put Bahrain at the forefront of states in regard to labor. ”
Al-Ansari pointed out that according to the Global Gender Gap Report 0f the World Economic Forum (Davos in 2016), Bahrain ranked 12th out of 144 countries in the world.
“The Kingdom of Bahrain has ratified ILO Convention No. 111 on combating discrimination, which provides clear legislation that protects women, expatriate labour, religions and different sects and protects them from all forms of discrimination in employment, wages and promotion.
“This Convention is considered to be the basis of national legislation after it has been constitutionally ratified.”
At the end of his statement, Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Affairs, Dr. Mohammed Al Ansari, answered all the questions posed to the Ministry of Labor and on the situation of the Laborers in Bahrain with the legal evidence and tangible facts, highlighting the efforts made by the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain represented by the Ministry of Labor.
The health system in Bahrain is one of the best systems regionally and internationally
Assistant Undersecretary for Hospitals and member of the official delegation, Dr. Waleed Khalifa Al Manea who participated in the 27th session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, said: “The health system in Bahrain which provides enough government and private health centers offering adequate healthcare to the citizens and resident is one of the best systems at regional and international levels and the health indices for citizens and residents stand for a proof on the progress of medical and nursing services. ”
“The Ministry of Health is working in accordance with a health strategy compatible with the right to health in terms of availability of services, accessibility, quality and progress without discrimination along with the provision of modern preventive treatment and rehabilitation services for all.”
To further achieve development goals, Al-Manea confirmed that the Ministry of Health has managed to reduce the mortality rate for the age group under-five by more than two thirds, reaching 8.6 per 1,000 live births last year and improved maternal health reaching a yearly maternity mortality rate of 2-3 deaths per one million.
“The control of epidemic diseases is considered one of the bests in the world. The cases of pulmonary and non-pulmonary tuberculosis per a 100,000 population have been decreased from 12 in 2010 to 7.5 in 2015 and Bahrain has been free of malaria since 1981.”
He pointed out that the government health services represented in the primary health care are being offered through 28 health centers evenly distributed geographically in order to cater for more than 4 million annual visits.
“Secondary care is provided through 7 health facilities including hospitals and specialized public health centers and according to statistics, the number of beneficiaries of these services testifies to the extent of accessibility to public services, with public hospitals occupancy rate of more than 85%, including 35% of non-Bahrainis of whom about 57% are women.”
The right to education without discrimination among the citizens
Director Private Education at the Ministry of Education who was among the members of the official delegation, Ms. Ahlam Ahmed Al Amer, participated in the work of the 27th session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review and in her address before the President of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and spoke about the efforts of the Ministry of Education to ensure the right to education.
The Kingdom of Bahrain’s constitution ensured that all citizens have the right to enjoy educational services without discrimination on the basis of gender, origin, language, religion or creed and Education is compulsory and free of charge at the first stages, in line with a law that has sets up a plan to eradicate illiteracy.
Al Amer stated that education Law 27/ 2005 affirms the right to education without discriminating between citizens and that all students enjoy free education and have access to free books, free transportation.
She noted that the establishment of public schools for all levels of study in all governorates has provided the opportunity to integrate students with special needs into public schools for different groups and to provide individual learning as appropriate.
“The ministry provides scholarships to all without discrimination, 2500 scholarships are provided annually.
“Scholarships for students with special needs and gifted ones are provided as well regardless of their cumulative rates and the ministry’s interest in education in the field of human rights and the values of citizenship is manifested through an introduction of a curriculum on citizenship in 2004.
“This interest has been extended to be included in most of the courses in order to instill these values directly or indirectly.”
In her statement before the Human Rights Council, the Director of Private Education at the Ministry of Education noted the great gains made in Bahrain in the field of education, stressing that the ministry is exerting great efforts in consolidating the educational process, which enabled it to occupy global, regional and Arab positions.
International Praise for UPR Report
Following the review of the report, many participating countries commended the Kingdom of Bahrain’s efforts, praising its content and the country’s interest in promoting and protecting human rights on its territory.
They also praised the approach it adopted in preparing this report, which included all the achievements of the Kingdom of Bahrain over the past four years that followed the 2012 report.
The Assistant Foreign Minister concluded the Working group discussion, thanking the delegations for their appreciation of the Kingdom’s efforts in the field of human rights and affirmed that the Kingdom would continuously build on the past achievements it had made in the field.
He remarked that achieving comprehensive developments in their different dimensions, including supporting and instilling the culture of human rights, education and media, with the aim of strengthening community building and establishing the foundations of a civilized society in which everyone enjoys their rights according to the principle of the rule of law.
He stressed, in particular, the values of co-existence, tolerance, acceptance of all and equality which have characterized the Bahraini society since the antiquity and made of it a home for different cultures and civilizations.