11 September 2017, Geneva – This morning, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein presented his oral update to the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC 36) titled “Darker and more Dangerous.” In his report to the Council, the High Commissioner again raised concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. While raising concerns over rising abuses, HC Zeid also has pointed criticism for the government’s efforts to “paper over” human rights violations perpetuated by government agents. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain praises the High Commissioner for highlighting these crucial issues at the opening of HRC 36, and echo his insistence that all Bahrainis “deserve real respect for their human rights.”
The High Commissioner’s statement began by with his reflections on a number of thematic concerns around the world. The High Commissioner reflected on “Governments who engage in intimidation and bullying, and commit reprisals against human rights defenders and NGOs which work with the UN human rights mechanisms.” He further asked the Council, “do they not realise that this only confirms to us, and to the world, how much oppression and injustice they exercise in their own countries?” In Bahrain, the government has continued its long campaign of civil society restrictions and reprisals ahead of the 36th Session of the Council by targeting women human rights defenders, and renewing its practice of travel bans.
As HC Zeid continued to raise concerns over specific countries of concern, the High Commissioner brought his focus to Bahrain. “Since June 2016, the government of Bahrain has imposed severe restrictions on civil society and political activism through arrests, intimidation, travel bans and closure orders, with increasing reports of torture by the security authorities,” remarked the High Commissioner, while insisting that, “the democratic space in the country has essentially been shut down.”
“The High Commissioner’s remarks today clearly reflect the worsening human rights crisis in Bahrain. The government only repression is becoming increasingly violent against all voices of criticism or dissent,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director for ADHRB. “Despite the government’s best efforts to whitewash its abuses and feign interest in cooperation with UN mechanisms, the High Commissioner has clearly called out Bahrain for its hollow words.”
The High Commissioner concluded his remarks on Bahrain with critical words for the government: “I have also repeatedly offered the support of my Office to assist with practical improvements. These efforts have been met with point-blank denials, unfounded accusations and unreasonable last-minute conditions to technical missions. But no public relations campaign can paper over the violations being inflicted on the people of Bahrain.” The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will continue to stand ready to offer assistance in support of “any genuine effort to address the situation.” ADHRB agrees with High Commissioner Zeid and his assessment, and calls on States in the Human Rights Council to further contribute to addressing Bahrain’s human rights crisis.