2016: Bahrain-UN Dispute (Timeline)

2017-01-06 - 5:50 am

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Bahrain Mirror: The year 2016 witnessed an unprecedented escalation of tensions caused by Bahrain against United Nations institutions concerned with human rights issues, including insults directed at UN officials such as Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who was described by the Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs as "powerless". This came as a result of the continuous criticism against the Bahraini regime regarding human rights violations.

On March 14, 2016, the three UN Special Rapporteurs in the field of cultural rights, on extreme poverty and human rights and on freedom of religion or belief sent a letter to the Bahraini authorities in which they spoke about receiving information highlighting claims regarding continuous discrimination practiced against Shiite citizens in Bahrain. "This discrimination has reached the extent of demolishing places of worship and other sites that show the presence of Shiite citizens in the country. The authorities deliberately publish misleading information about the religious and cultural Shiite identity via the education and media systems and also use violence," read the statement.

For his part, UN High Commissioner Zeid bin Ra'ad Al-Hussein announced on March 10, 2016 that Bahrain is in dire need of "deep reforms," describing the government's measures revoking the citizenships of dissidents as "worrying practices". He said that Bahrain had only implemented little in terms of holding accountable those involved in human rights violations.

The UN High Commissioner's comments were met with the objection of the Government of Bahrain. They deemed his statements "unacceptable interference in Bahrain's internal affairs". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which it considered some of what was mentioned in Ra'ad's statement as completely unacceptable, stressing that it constitutes an interference in the island kingdom's internal affairs.

In May 2016, the special procedures team of the UNHCR issued a "Joint Communications" report that mentioned there are indictments about the discrimination patterns practiced against Shia citizens through the governmental, cultural, economic, educational and social policies in Bahrain since 2011.

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kay condemned the sentence issued against Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq.

The Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa responded to these critical statements by saying that the "UN is passing through a critical stage that requires concrete efforts in order to reform it."

Nonetheless, the UN continued to strongly criticize Bahrain. The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng issued a statement on June 22, 2016 highlighting that "Bahrain and the region are facing critical moments" and warned of "the repercussions of the latest political developments in the country after the decision revoking the nationality of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim in June 2016 and its consequences that might increase tensions in Bahrain."

Bahrain, for its part, continued to turn a deaf ear to these appeals. The Bahraini FM mocked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra'ad Al-Hussein, after delivering a speech in which he criticized the suppression practiced by the Government of Bahrain against its citizens.  Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said that the high commissioner "has no power", adding that his country will not waste its time listening to Al-Hussein's words.

The Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa attacked the UN Human Rights Council on Monday August 29, 2016, during a joint press conference held with the head of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit in the Bahraini capital Manama. Al Khalifa said that Bahrain "will not for one moment heed any voices from outside trying to blackmail it, especially the Human Rights Council."

He stressed that the "office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should deal with Bahrain in a serious manner and to distance itself from political stances that do not serve any situation in any way."

The FM further stated that "the human rights council has lately been politicizing issues. We do not care about that and it will not affect us at all. What concerns us primarily is commitment to the international conventions and treaties and moving forward with them."

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