Evaluation report of the Bahraini National Institution for Human Rights
In 2015, the NIHR was granted B status to mark the Bahraini NIHR’s partial compliance with the Paris Principles. In 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed its concern that “the Institution lacks the independence to perform its functions and regrets the lack of information on the complaints it has received and the investigations it has carried out in response to those complaints.”
In October 2023, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) will decide on the re-accreditation of the Bahraini Institution based on the evaluation of the progress made since 2016.
In 2016, the SCA identified six main areas in which the NIHR could improve to be in line with the Paris Principles: establishing a clear and transparent appointment process for members; ensuring members of the Council of Commissioners are not affiliated with the government; including full-time members; supporting all complaints and human rights defenders fully; monitoring places of deprivation of liberty; and, cooperating with other human rights bodies.
Ahead of this examination, MENA Rights Group, Salam for Democracy, Human Rights Foundation, and the Bahrain Human Rights Society submitted an alternative report to provide information that may serve to assist in the evaluation of the compliance of the Bahraini NIHR with the Paris Principles in both legal and practical terms. The report examines the progress or lack thereof in the areas of concerns identified by the SCA.
In particular, it recognized that the independence of the members is undermined by the fact that they are directly appointed by the King. The appointment process is not sufficiently provided for in the law and there is no review mechanism by an independent body. Rather, the King has a full discretionary power to review candidates and appoint them.
Moreover, we have found that the NIHR has consistently failed to address several human rights abuses including some important legislations that enables the government to commit violations. We have also brought to the attention of the SCA that the complaint mechanism of the NIHR is not as effective in practice as is claimed in some of the NIHR’s Annual Reports because it is being over-selective in addressing such complaints with a view to avoid holding the government accountable for violations of fundamental rights.
Importantly, we have also pointed out that the visits organized to the three biggest prisons in Bahrain were insufficiently documented, lack transparency and clearly failed to identify issues that have been brought to our attention by civil society and international actors. Finally, we have provided the SCA with information regarding each current member and found that their independence may be compromised considering the fact that they have previously held positions in parliament and in government. In fact, there are sufficient information showing that current members lack the necessary expertise and their appointment is merely a step for higher government positions.