2013 saw some positive developments for human rights in Bahrain, but a number of concerns still remain. The government of Bahrain’s work to implement its reform programme, particularly in the judicial and security sectors, continue to suggest that the overall trajectory on human rights will be positive, even if a number of the mechanisms and legal frameworks being put in place will take time to have an impact on the ground. The government of Bahrain continues to implement the recommendations set out in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011, and those set out in the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). But some areas of reform have been slower than we would have hoped. To help support the government of Bahrain, the UK is providing a comprehensive package of reform assistance, with a focus on strengthening human rights and the rule of law. During 2013, the UK funded Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons to share best practice with the Bahrain Ministries of Interior and Justice on a National Preventative Mechanism against torture and monitoring places of detention. The Bahraini government has since implemented new legislation, including a Royal Decree to establish an Independent Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Commission.
Since becoming operational in 2013, the independent Ministry of Interior Ombudsman’s Office has investigated a number of complaints of mistreatment and torture. Following its first inspection at Jau prison, the Ombudsman’s Office published a report in September in which it made a number of recommendations. We welcome the government’s implementation of the Ombudsman’s recommendations regarding the separation of juvenile detainees and examination of rehabilitation programmes.
We welcome the planned technical visit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Bahrain in 2014. We continue to encourage the government of Bahrain to reinstate the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, which was postponed for the second time in April 2013.
Following a toughening of security laws in August, we remain concerned by limits on freedom of expression and assembly, along with large numbers of convictions of individuals on the grounds of inciting illegal activity. We continue to encourage the Bahraini government to ensure that due legal process is followed in all cases.
In October, the Supreme Criminal Appeals Court reduced the jail sentences of the two policemen found guilty of causing the death of Ali Ebrahim Saqer from ten years to two years. This was one of the five cases which the BICI attributed to torture. We remain concerned by this case and others regarding the accountability of police personnel, and the investigation and sentencing of those alleged to have committed torture and mistreatment.
We welcomed the National Consensus Dialogue initiative. Along with reform, inclusive and constructive political dialogue is the only way to promote peace and stability in Bahrain, and we actively continue to encourage all sides to remain engaged in the process.