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Monday Recommendations to the Government of Bahrain on the occasion of the 1st Universal Periodic Review Session, April 20087 April 2008

Recommendations to the Government of Bahrain on the occasion of the 1st Universal Periodic Review Session, April 2008

Issued by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS)

1.Equality and non-discrimination

Women’s rights Bahrain has entered reservations to key provisions of CEDAW that reflect discriminatory and restrictive legislative frameworks and undermine the object and the purpose of the Convention, in many cases emptying ratification of meaning. The Bahraini legislation remains discriminatory in several areas affecting women in large aspects of life. The absence of Personal Status and Family Laws in Bahrain is the source of much suffering for women. Therefore, our organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to implement Treaty bodies’, Special rapporteurs’ and UNDP’s recommendations in the field of gender discrimination, and in particular to: Remove all reservations to CEDAW and ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW; Harmonize Bahrain’s domestic legislation according to CEDAW; Adopt a family code, including fair standards of proof and other measures to prevent and punish violence against women, especially domestic violence.

Migrants rights Labour Migration has witnessed its most profound and remarkable impact in the Middle East regions, including Bahrain. Problems faced include trafficking and forced labour, mandatory health testing related to sexual and reproductive health without consent or counseling, long working hours, low salaries and late payment of salaries, poor and repressive living conditions and psychological, physical and sexual abuse, restrictions on the right to organize and join trade unions. Therefore, our organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to implement the recommendations adressed by the CERD and in particular, to: Ratify the ICRMW Take necessary measures to extend full protection from racial discrimination to migrant workers. Sectarian discrimination Despite the persistent demands by civil society organizations and some MPs to legislate against all types of discrimination, Parliament has failed in such attempts. The Government continues to follow a de facto policy of discrimination on sectarian and political grounds and there is discrimination against Shia’a in the Government administration. Shi’a Bahrainis, traditionally not allowed in the Defense and Security Ministries are now further disadvantaged in virtually all other ministries and functions of the state.

Election constituencies are State-controlled and are drawn on sectarian as well as tribal bases to ensure the ruling family’s primacy, maximize state allegiance and create an environment of sectarian tension. The Government is reportedly pursuing policies to alter the island’s demographic balance through granting citizenship to non-Bahrainis – mainly Sunni Arabs from around the region – to mitigate Shiite dominance; and through manipulating and controlling the output of any suffrage process, ensuring a winning majority by the ruling Authorities,

To implement the recommendations issued by CERD in 2005 in this respect and create new laws that criminalize all form of discrimination. To remove gerrymandering and politically motivated voting constituencies and enforcing equal representation, by one-man one- vote concept.

2. Right to life and security of person

Use of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment Our organisations remain concerned about the lack of a comprehensive definition of torture in domestic law. We express our concerns also at Decree 56/2002 which contains a blanket amnesty for alleged perpetrators of torture. Furthermore, security forces continue to practice torture as a part of law enforcement. Despite classifying torture as a penal offence, instances of torture have been noted. Security forces also indulge in unrestrained and indiscriminate use of force than is usually necessary to maintain law and order.

Therefore, our organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to implement all recommendations adopted by United Nations CAT in 2005 and in particular, to :

Amend its legislation to explicitly prohibit the use of torture and ill-treatment, and adopt a definition of torture consistent with article 1 of CAT; Allow impartial organisations and NGOs to visit prisons and places of detention; Amend Decree 56/2002 to ensure that there is no impunity for officials who have perpetrated or acquiesed in torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Right to compensation for victims and request for Transitional Justice Mechanism In 2006, eleven NGOs et political associaitons formed a « Coalition for Truth, Equity and Reconciliation » and therefore, call upon the authorities to establish a national committee for truth and reconciliation that the Bahraini government considers as non-necessary as the issue of the victims of the past have been addressed.

Our organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to:

take necessary measures to provide victims of past acts torture with redress and an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, i.e. through the establishment of a transitional justice process which results from dialogue between the authorities and civil society organizations.

3. Freedom of association and peaceful assembly

Our organisations remain concerned regarding limits on human rights NGOS to conduct their work and repressions against human rights defenders, such as arbitrary arrest, threats, physical assaults, ill-treatment, torture and numerous other acts of harassment by the authorities and government security forces. In May 2007, a number of non-registered human rights organizations received official letters from the Ministry of Social Development asking that they cease their activities or face legal persecution. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights remain closed despite CERD and CAT recommendations. Our organisations remind that in its pledges to the Human rights Council, Bahrain reaffirmed its commitment to continue to work to promote its NOGs, especially those dealing with human rights.

Therefore, our organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to:

as stated by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, to review its Law on societies and other relevant regulations to ensure that Bahrain’s legislation adequately protects the right of persons to freely organize to defend human rights; fully comply with its international obligations and take effective measures to ensure that human rights defenders are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, including carrying out their peaceful activities, and be protected from harassment by law enforcement authorities. To remove restrictions on the work of The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and other human rights groups.

Bahraini law prohibits unauthorized public gatherings of more than five persons and public gatherings need to be notified to the Ministry of Interior twenty four hours in advance. The Law on Public Meetings, Processions and Gatherings (Law 32/2006), further increased the number of legislative constraints.

Our organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to:

Amend Law 32/2006 to bring its provisions into compliance with Article 21 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

Lastly, our organisations urge the Bahraini authorities to implement an awareness campaign on the ICCPR and ICESCR, ratified in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Contact Délégation de la FIDH auprès des Nations unies à Genève 15, rue des savoises, CH 1205 Genève tel +41 (0) 22 700 12 88 fax +41 (0) 22 321 54 88