On 28 February 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Status of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, released commentary on joint communications between United Nations Special Procedures and countries of concern. In her report, Rapporteur Sekaggya devoted 13 paragraphs to addressing concerns regarding human rights defenders in Bahrain, placing Bahrain in the top ten countries in terms of attention received in the report. Relative to its population, Bahrain received the most attention from the Special Rapporteur, which highlights the dire situation human rights defenders face in the small island country.
Rapporteur Sekaggya’s report adds to the ever-increasing evidence showing human rights abuses in Bahrain. Earlier this month, the United Nations Special Procedures released their joint communications report. Bahrain again received significant attention, not only from the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders but also the Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Freedom of Assembly, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In all, the Special Procedures of the United Nations have submitted well over 500 individual communications to the Government of Bahrain regarding hundreds of individuals who have submitted complaints against the Bahrain government since the crackdown on the February 2011 protests.
Faced with such overwhelming evidence of human rights abuses in Bahrain, the international community must take action to prevent future derogations of Bahrain’s human rights commitments. At the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council, Bahrain committed to a mid-term review of its implementation of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations. The international community must hold Bahrain accountable to this commitment, and should call for Bahrain to engage the mid-term review through an interactive dialogue in which United Nations stakeholders such as the U.N. Special Procedures can weigh in on the process. As was demonstrated by its follow-up to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the Government of Bahrain cannot be trusted to measure its own progress; with the support and monitoring of the Special Procedures, however, the UPR mid-term report could signal a turning point towards better achievement and realization of Bahrain’s human rights commitments.
R. James Suzano is Legal Officer at ADHRB.