Human Rights and Democracy Report 2016 - CHAPTER VI: Human Rights Priority Countries - Bahrain

There was a mixed picture on human rights in Bahrain in 2016. Compared with the region, Bahrain remains progressive in women’s rights, political representation, labour rights, religious tolerance and institutional accountability. In the bicameral Parliament, the Council of Representatives is multi-faith. Across the two chambers, 15% of parliamentarians are women. Women in Bahrain are also present at all levels in business and government, including ministerial, judicial and ambassadorial positions. In 2012, the government established independent human rights and oversight institutions such as the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Ombudsman, the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission (PDRC), and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which work to safeguard human rights and provide independent oversight of police behaviour and detention standards. These were the first of their kind in the region and remain unique in the Gulf.

However, the UK voiced its concern over measures taken by the government in 2016 which further restricted some civil liberties, including freedom of expression and assembly. These include the dissolution of the main Shia opposition political society in Bahrain, Al Wefaq; the arrest of prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab in relation to tweets issued in 2015; and the announced revocation of citizenship of Bahraini Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim. We are concerned over the alleged prevention of some Bahraini activists from travelling to the UN Human Rights Council in June and September 2016. We also have concerns over the deprivation of citizenship where this renders individuals stateless.

The UK Government has discussed its human rights concerns with the Government of Bahrain both in public and in private. In 2016, the UK continued to work with the Government of Bahrain to encourage the development of effective and accountable institutions, strengthening the rule of law and justice reform. The UK continued to provide technical assistance to the National Institute of Human Rights (NIHR), the Ombudsman, the PDRC, and the SIU, amongst other institutions. To give one example of progress: in May 2016, the PDRC released a report on its independent inspection of Jau Rehabilitation and Reformation Centre, and highlighted a number of key concerns in respect to prison conditions, which the Ministry of Interior has committed to implementing.

In 2017, the UK will continue to work with the Government of Bahrain to support the Bahraini-led reform agenda. We welcome the Government of Bahrain’s commitment to continue, into 2017 and beyond, with implementing its own series of socio-economic reform programmes which are designed to improve opportunities for all Bahrainis and which include developing new ways that all citizens can hold government institutions to account.

We continue to oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and countries. The Foreign Secretary made a statement on 15 January 2017 following the execution of three men convicted of carrying out an IED attack against members of the Police Force. The Bahraini authorities are fully aware of our position and the Foreign Secretary has raised the issue with the Bahraini Government.