Gulf Daily News | 27 March 2008
UN to review rights report
By MOHAMMED AL A’ALI
BAHRAIN human rights activists will raise issues related to "unconstitutional" constituency boundaries at a key meeting with the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. They are joining another group of activists from GCC states, who will meet officials from the European Union (EU) Commission and European Parliament in Brussels.
The GCC group will highlight their reservations on their governments’ approach to various human rights issues ahead of the signing of a Gulf-EU Free trade agreement.
In Geneva, three Bahraini activists will attend UN Human Rights Council discussions of the government’s rights report as observers early next month.
A group of local non-governmental organisations have already submitted their shadow report on the condition of human rights in Bahrain.
The activists will meet officials on the sidelines of the event with the hope that the council’s member countries would pressure Bahrain to further improve its human rights record.
The move aims to highlight a number of issues before the council’s elections in May in New York after the Bahrain government submitted its candidacy.
The three Bahrainis leaving for Geneva are Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) president Dr Abdulla Al Durazi, society member Abdulnabi Al Akri and the now dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights vice-president Nabeel Rajab.
"We will not be there to criticise, but we hope that our input will help Bahrain to develop in the human rights field," said Dr Al Durazi.
"Even after the meeting, we will meet other UN officials to discuss Bahrain adhering to the human rights conventions it has signed.
"Bahrain is nominating itself for the council’s membership again in May, but other countries should be pushing Bahrain to improve, before considering giving it a seat."
He said that the main focus would be calling for Bahrainis to have real representation in parliament.
"Bahrain’s elections are unfair, as constituencies are being drawn in favour of particular MPs.
"Parliament should represent the people. We have big ambitions, which we hope generations will benefit from.
"We have no right to speak at the meeting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t lobby outside, as we try to improve human rights in our country and ensure it develops."
A High Civil Administration is currently hearing a case, where a voter claims unfair constituency boundaries robbed his candidate of a parliamentary seat.
In his case filed against the government, 31-year-old Matar Ibrahim Al Matar seeks the abolition of all or part of a 2002 Royal decree, mapping out constituency boundaries and setting up sub-committees to run the elections.
In the Brussels meeting, which will be from April 1 to 4, the group will highlight human rights issues in the GCC.
Mr Al Ekri said that the GCC delegation would urge the EU not to sign the FTA agreements unless Gulf countries further improve their human rights record.
"For the past 10 years, the GCC has been trying to get an FTA agreement with the EU and they are set to get it," he said.
"However, before the EU gives it to them, human rights standards should improve.
"We will be accompanied by representatives from two Asian human rights groups, who are concerned with migrant workers’ status in the GCC."
He said that the main concerns were with the absence of proper constitutions, since in some countries they are ineffective.
"For example, the independence of the judiciary is not guaranteed."