Bahrain: Independent members key to new Prisoners’ Rights Commission

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Kingdom of Bahrain has created a Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission that will monitor places of detention and prevent torture and ill-treatment, by the promulgation of a Royal Decree (in Arabic here) on 3 September 2013. 

The APT welcomes the establishment of this commission, but stresses that the new commission will only be able to fulfill its mandate if it is trusted by detainees, their families and authorities alike. We therefore call on the authorities (statment also available in Arabic) to ensure that the Prisoners’ Rights Commission be composed of impartial and truly independent persons.

The APT recommends the authorities to consult a wide range of actors, including from independent civil society and opposition political groups, in order to identify sufficiently independent members for the commission. Independence is important for national bodies tasked with monitoring places of detention in all national contexts. In deeply polarized Bahrain it is even more essential.

New institutions fail to gain trust

In recent months, Bahrain has created several new institutions tasked with improving the human rights situation in the country. An office of the Police Ombudsman was created in August 2012 and officially launched in July 2013. The Public Prosecution includes since February 2012 a Special Investigations Unit. However, the institutions have not been able so far to gain the trust of international and national human rights NGOs who say that they want to see concrete results on the ground. In August 2013, a BBC documentary entitled “Bahrain Policing Protest” casted doubt about the ability of these institutions to gain the trust of victims of human rights violations.

The creation of these new institutions comes in the context of continuous international concern about the human rights situation in Bahrain, including through a joint statement signed by 47 States at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 9 September and a resolution of the European Parliament calling for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Bahrain on 12 September 2013. These statements welcomed the creation of the new bodies, while calling on Bahrain to uphold its commitment to the independence of these institutions.