Bahrain Rightfully Challenges U.N. Report

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The Kingdom of Bahrain has been rightly outraged with the United Nations report on its human rights record. For instance while the report was quite critical of Bahrain’s judiciary and legislation, it made no mention of a number reforms adopted by the government in the last six years [i.e. after the troubles in February 2011], nor of rising terror threats, attacks on policemen by opposition thugs and a general rise in extremist violence.

What added insult to injury was the fact that while the original report was released in February it took the UN two months to issue a rectified version since the original, it turned out, was full of inaccurate information and claims attributed to UN agencies.

It was as if the UN was reluctant to accept it had erred in accepting the biased human rights and NGO reports on their face value. And even this was done last week – in a report backdated to early April – after a local daily questioned the information presented in the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

At a UN session in Geneva last week Assistant Foreign Minister Abdullah Al Doseri rued that the UN report “failed to reflect or even acknowledge Bahrain’s achievements and strides … The parties who issued this inaccurate information consider themselves (self-proclaimed judges) who have no evidence.”

Mr Doseri’s outrage is justified. For starters, the report makes no reference to the results of the National Dialogue such as key constitutional amendments that gave additional powers to the legislature. And it goes along with the insinuations obviously passed on by the malignant informants embedded in rights groups and NGOs which falsely claimed that Bahrain authorities had applied the anti-terrorism law to detain and prosecute journalists and rights activists.

There is no evidence to corroborate such claims.

The allegations levelled in the same report about attacks on the rights of religious groups stand demolished considering this tiny Islamic country has 110 churches, Hindu and Sikh temples and synagogues apart from 608 Shi’ite mosques, 618 Shi’ite community centres, 440 Sunni mosques and 80 Islamic centres.

There is an Ombudsman’s office, a cell to receive complaints against the security forces, a police code of conduct in place, and 17 senior policemen have been taken to court for alleged wrongful actions.

Even if, at the UN session, praise from the diplomats from Qatar or the United Arab Emirates could be called a case of Gulf Cooperation Council pals patting a member’s back, how about praise from First World nations such as Germany, Australia and Canada?

Canada praised the setting up of the Ombudsman’s Office, the National Institution of Human rights and the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission. Australia agreed Bahrain had made strides in the field of women’s rights while Germany praised the amendments to the Law on Political Societies separating religion and politics.

But the UN failed to take notice. One wonders why and at whose behest?

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.