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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Bahrain

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Pillay: Bahrain Government must take immediate confidence-building measures, release political prisoners

GENEVA (21 December 2011) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday called on authorities in Bahrain to take immediate steps to address the “deepening mistrust” between the Government and civil society, including by promptly releasing those detained for taking part in peaceful demonstrations.

“The Bahraini authorities need to urgently take confidence-building measures including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals or are still awaiting trial for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” Pillay said.

“Thousands of individuals have lost their jobs for participating in demonstrations, many students have had their education derailed - these serious violations of their economic and social rights must be immediately addressed. Those who have been unfairly dismissed should be reinstated to their original functions.”

Pillay also urged the Government to address the prevailing impunity at all levels, including for security forces responsible for excessive use of force on peaceful protestors and officers who perpetrated torture, sometimes with fatal consequences, in detention centres.

“We continue to receive reports of the repression of small protests in Bahrain and although some security officers have reportedly been arrested, we have yet to see any prosecution of security forces for civilian injuries and deaths,” she said. “Such impunity – at all levels – is a serious impediment to national reconciliation.”

At the invitation of the Bahraini Government, a senior-level delegation from the UN Human Rights office visited the country from 13 to 17 December and met with a number of high-level Government officials, including the Deputy Prime Minister and the Ministers of Justice, the Interior, Human Rights and Social Affairs, Labour, the Public Prosecutor and the President of the Consultative Assembly. The delegation also met a broad range of civil society members, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, trade union members, human rights defenders, opposition political parties, as well as victims of violations and their families. The UN Human Rights delegation also visited a number of detainees in the central Jaw prison in Manama.

“My team has come back with the message that there is a profound lack of trust in the Government, and this mistrust has deepened as a result of the violent crackdown on protestors, destruction of mosques, the lack of fair trials and the lack of progress in providing redress for violations,” Pillay said.

There are also obvious, and very dangerous, examples of hate speech, including at the level of official media, painting entire communities with the same broad brush. This needs to stop and a process of dialogue, including with leaders from different religious and migrant communities, needs to begin.”

She said the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry was an important first step in the right direction and welcomed the subsequent acknowledgement by the King of Bahrain that serious human rights violations did occur and need to be addressed. Pillay emphasized that it was time for concrete steps to be taken towards redress, reparation and reconciliation.

These steps must be taken in a participatory spirit, in consultation with civil society, including the victims of violations, she added. Protestors on their part should avoid resorting to any kind of violence.

Pillay thanked the Government for providing unfettered access to her delegation to conduct visits in the country and reiterated her office’s commitment to supporting Bahrain in strengthening its human rights protection system.

The UN Human Rights office is prepared to support the national leadership in meeting its international human rights obligations, including implementing relevant recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

“Bahrain has an important opportunity now to strengthen its legal and institutional infrastructure, including an impartial judiciary, for the protection of human rights. We stand ready to accompany comprehensive national efforts towards the establishment of an open and democratic society, provided that the first critical confidence-building measures are taken,” the High Commissioner said.

UN Human Rights Country Page – Bahrain:

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / or Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 /

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