Bahrain: NGOs call on the National Institution for Human Rights to improve its independence, effectiveness and to engage with independent civil society to better fulfill its mandate

June 11, 2024

MENA Rights Group, Salam for Democracy and Human Rightsand the Bahrain Human Rights Society call on the Government of Bahrain and Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights (NIHRB) to increase the effectiveness of the NIHRB’s mandate and its independence from other branches (of government) and to improve the character of the NIHRB’s leadership for its accreditation level to be increased.

Abdullah Abdullatif Abdulla, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain during of the 28th Session at the Human Rights Council. 3 March 2015. © UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

London / Geneva / Beirut / Manama

10 June 2024

In advance of an October 2024 institutional accreditation assessment, three independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs), MENA Rights Group, Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) and the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) call on the Government of Bahrain (GoB) and Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights (NIHRB) to increase the effectiveness of the NIHRB’s mandate and its independence from other branches (of government) and to improve the character of the NIHRB’s leadership for its accreditation level to be increased. 

In October 2024 the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions’ (GANHRI) Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) will assess the accreditation of  the NIHRB. GANHRI’s SCA’s assessment is guided by the NIHRB’s adherence to the United Nations 1993 Paris Principles.  The NIHRB’s current ‘B’ ranking is defined as its overall operation being partially compliant with the Paris Principles, rather than ‘A’, which is fully compliant with them.

The NGOs, which seek an overall improvement in the NIHRB’s operations, urge the SCA to maintain the ‘B’ ranking on account of the NIHRB’s failure to implement key parts of the Paris Principles including those set out in the organizations’ June 2023 report.

In their submission to GANHRI’s SCA, the three NGOs emphasized that the operation of Bahrain’s NIHR had not substantively changed since the June 2023 report and for that reason its accreditation should remain ‘B’.

MENA Rights Group’ Human Rights Officer, Falah Sayed stated that “[T]he Bahraini human rights institution has clearly failed to implement SCA recommendations over the past year and has not responded to major developments such as the Jaw (or: Jau) prison's hunger strike. There are no grounds that would justify upgrading the status of the Bahraini NHRI.”

SALAM DHR Director, Jawad Fairooz urged the NIHRB to “ensure that the key pillars of the Paris Principles be fulfilled, namely that the NIHRB embody the pluralism of Bahrain; act  independently and effectively.” Echoing GANHRI’s own statements, he urged the NIHRB “to implement a broad mandate, so that it promotes and protects all human rights; conducts broad functions to deliver on its mandate; and to act independently from government but rather, cooperatively with independent NGOs.”

Ahmed Hujairi, Chairperson for the BHRS, emphasized that “An independent and effective NIHR can benefit all those in Bahrain and take concrete steps to resolve long standing issues of contention, such as in relation to prison conditions. By engaging with the BHRS, it can contribute to widening a culture of respect towards international human rights standards and independent voices in our society that have long called for such standards to be normalized.”


The 1993 Paris Principles established the framework by which every state could establish a National Institution for Human Rights. In 2009, the ruler of Bahrain  established the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) on 10 November 2009, by Royal Order No. 46 of 2009. The government enacted Law No. 26 of 2014 establishing the National Institution for Human Rights,  and it was further  amended in 2016, in order to grant it a greater degree of still limited financial  and administrative autonomy. 

The organizations’ June 2023 report set out structural, procedural and operational flaws in the operation of the NIHRB. In the 1 June 2024 letter to GANHRI’s SCA, the organizations noted that although the NIHRB was scheduled for re-accreditation in October 2023, the SCA decided to defer the re-accreditation of the NIHRB to its October 2024 session. The SCA cited the manner in which the NIHRB addressed human rights violations and poor levels of cooperation with independent civil society as the principal reasons for the deferral. GANHRI’s concerns over the selection and appointment of the NIHRB’s leadership remained untouched. 

The June 2024 joint letter reprises pre-existing flaws, noting that while the NIHRB has not adequately addressed these, concerns in relation to the NIHRB’s engagement with prison conditions and political prisoners constitute further news over the operation of the NIHRB. 

The the three NGOs likewise called on the GoB and the NIHRB to ensure that the NIHRB’s leadership and operation

  1. attain effective independence that includes a “pluralist representation of the social forces” in Bahrain;  
  2. “promote and ensure the harmonization of national legislation, regulations and practices with the international human rights instruments” as well as promote ratification or accession and adherence to further international human rights instruments; and 
  3. “develop relations with [...] non-governmental organizations devoted to promoting and protecting human rights…”

Specifically, the organization concluded that “As no notable changes have been identified since our June 2023 report, we maintain the same conclusions as in our previous report.” The organizations called on the GoB and NIHRB to: (a) [in respect to ] Effectiveness of the mandate and independence from other branches

1. Allow any individual to run for candidacy for the Council of Commissioners, including individuals who are considered to be in opposition with the government.

2. Ensure that changes in the law that restrict fundamental freedoms, be addressed by the NIHR.

3. Review and propose amendments with regards to the criminal code, the Press Law

and any other framework that may result in a violation of fundamental rights by the Bahraini government.

4. Ensure that complaints are dealt with fairly, transparently, efficiently, expeditiously and with consistency.

5. Refrain from being overly selective in addressing complaints.

6. Encourage the NIHR to conduct more unannounced visits to places of detention and to monitor, investigate and report on the human rights situation in such places.

7. Encourage the NIHR to make their full reports on monitoring detention facilities public instead of issuing public statements.

8. Encourage the NIHR to investigate individual cases and bring them to the attention of international human rights bodies in its reporting activities.

And, with respect to (b) Membership, the organizations called on the authorities to:

9. Put in place a merit-based selection process.

10. Remove the obligation to hold a higher academic qualification to reflect the demographic makeup of Bahraini society and the wide range of professionals in civil society organizations who do not hold a university degree.

11. Ensure that the nomination process includes requirements for broad consultation and participation of civil society representatives in the screening and selection process.

12. Establish an independent and credible body responsible of the appointment process.

13. Restrict the participation of individuals who are simultaneously sitting parliamentarians, by at least ensuring that they do not participate in important discussions.

The three NGOs want the NIHRB to better fulfill the role set out in the Paris Principles, so that the GoB may more effectively  uphold and improve adherence to international human rights standards for the benefit of everyone in Bahrain.

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