On 23 November 2021, on the tenth anniversary of the publication of the recommendations set out in The Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry; and in advance of both Bahrain’s national day and Human Rights Day on 10 December, six Bahrain-focused non-governmental organisations appealed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres to tap into the current climate of political reform, however fleeting or intangible this may be, to renew engagement with the Government of Bahrain.
The organisations, Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, Rights Realization Center, Media Association for Peace, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, Sentinel for Human Rights and the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR) urged the Secretary-General to use his position and role to urge the authorities to create and protect the socio-legal climate of inclusion and reconciliation by calling on the Bahraini authorities to:
- Restore, by 31 January 2022, the citizenship of all those stripped of it by way of administrative measure not subject to a legal process recognisable in international law;
- Release, exonerate and recompense, within two years, all those identified by OHCHR Special Procedures themselves, all those determined as having faced unfair trial, or termed prisoners of conscience, including by ending conditions imposed upon those released under the ‘alternative sentencing’ programme;
- Issue immediately a standing invitation to all Special Procedures with a view to enabling them to conduct independent and unfettered missions whose aim is to improve Bahrain’s human rights situation;
- Overturn or amend provisions and practices that restrict freedom of expression, including online; and
- Overturning or amending, in advance of the 2022 elections, laws such as the 2018 Exercise of Political Rights Law that violate international human rights principles and which needlessly create socio-political division.
The organisations’ letter set out concerns and measures that have set back the cause of human rights and democratisation in Bahrain since 2011, but highlighted that elections scheduled for 2022 provide an opportunity to act on our shared goal of making Bahrain a more rule-of-law and rights-respecting society, where freedom of expression, association and assembly are guaranteed and inclusive; and where participative and consultative governance is the norm.