Truth & Reconciliation!

22 Apr, '06

The best news to come out of Bahrain for a very very long time… this could be the very thing we need to turn a new page for the whole community, after 30 very dark years:

Justice and reconciliation in the Bahrain reform process will come under the spotlight at a five-day conference organised by MPs and civil societies, which opens at Elite Suites Hotel in Sanabis tomorrow.

Bahraini MPs, members of human rights and political societies will join international human rights delegates from all over the world for the conference on Transitional Justice.

Parliament vice-chairman Abdulhadi Marhoun and Bahrain Society for Freedoms and Democracy (BSFD) president Ali Orrayedh will give the opening address at the conference.

Three papers on transitional justice in Bahrain will be presented by members of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), the Committee for Former Exiles (Returnees) and the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture.

New York-based International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) director Hani Magali, Washington-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) office director and Middle East and North Africa division director Joe Stork and Morocco-based International Federation for Human Rights president and Moroccan Truth and Reconciliation Committee member Idrees Al Yazmi will open a second session, on aspects of transitional justice.
GDN :: 22 Apr ’06

I have been calling for a truth and reconciliation commission in Bahrain for some time now to start the dialogue and repair some of the damage meted out to a large portion of the society in the 90s and at other times. I am extremely happy and really encouraged that we finally have something like this happening in Bahrain now.

This is really excellent news.

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Comments (17)

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  1. Chanad says:

    I think we have to see whether the government is willing to participate and engage in dialogue in this for it be hailed as good news (there are no indications of this in the news article). The one good sign though is that the govt, it seems, is not going to prevent Joe Stork and others from coming to Bahrain and speaking about it publicly.

    I am more interested in the statement made by the Foreign Ministry a couple months ago about setting up a human rights panel that will look into past torture allegations. I believe they said that this will happen some time near the end of this year.

    The government needs to be a party in order for any reconcilation to take place.

  2. mahmood says:

    I think this time the government is in. I’ve received this by email and refrained from posting it because the Gulf News site just gives me “server error” everytime I put the URL to get this article from the source:

    Bahrain to set up national panel on human rights

    By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief GN 14.02.06

    Manama: Bahrain is to establish a human rights body that will determine past human rights abuses and pursue accountability for alleged torture cases, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs official has said.

    “The Human Rights National Committee will be set up before the end of the year and will be made up of competent and independent figures as well as civil society organisations,” the Undersecretary for Coordination and Follow-up Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, was yesterday quoted as saying by Al Ayam newspaper.

    He added that an ad-hoc committee would be set up to monitor the issue in case the human rights panel was not formed in time.

    “The government is keen on providing assistance to people who claim that they had been abused, but I must stress that I cannot talk about financial compensation.”

    The committee is part of a drive to implement transitional justice and close a sad chapter in Bahrain’s history.

    “The transitional justice concept is a series of measures that will address rights cases, including human rights abuses. Official bodies are being encouraged to contribute to resolving such cases. The Ministry of Interior is being urged to investigate abuse claims against officers while the Ministry of Health will provide information about people who say that they had been physically abused,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz said.

    The committee could be an independent body or affiliated to the Bahrain Institute for Political Development in order to avoid task duplication.

    Bahrain was shaken by four years of anti-government unrest in the 1990s and many people claimed that they had been either physically abused and tortured under the State Security Law or damagingly targeted by rioters.

  3. Chanad says:

    Yeah, this is the statement I was referring to at the end of my previous comment.

    But I don’t think the govt will be participating in tomorrow’s conference though (unless I’m missing something).

  4. mahmood says:

    Good start though, evidenced by them allowing such a conference to take place.

    We live in hope that they will not squander this opportunity and make proper reparations with a large section of the community which has been affected by these unfortunate events, and I hope too that half-brained MPs won’t make a political issue out of this to aid their re-election prospects.

  5. mahmood says:

    that too should be immediately rescinded of course as it is the greatest impediment to social justice and reconciliation.

  6. Chanad says:

    i do hope against hope that the govt will take this issue seriously, but it’s hard not be a sceptic. i can’t imagine any genuine reconciliation taking place without the PM being held accountable. at this point, it seems like this would be nothing short of a miracle.

    but this planned committee is a start (a tiny step albeit) in the process if they actually go ahead with it, so my fingers are still crossed.

  7. so, if the government is serious about opening a new page in the history of Bahrain, ‘they’ should start by that, decree 56, as there is no point on going in any road if it is a dead end.
    I’ve always said that the biggest problem in Bahrain is ‘TRUST’. The king started establishing that when he took over with a step and the whole wold saw that the people of bahrain jumbed in steps to close the gap further. But it all suddenly ended and we were thrown back into the circle of no trust, not by the people. Currently, the government is doing every thing it can to destroy any hope in building the trust.
    ps. Thank you for the preview feature, it rocks. how di you get that?

  8. mahmood says:

    Regarding the preview function Salman, it’s by installing a single WordPress plugin called Live Comment Preview of all things! Works quite nicely doesn’t it?

  9. mahmood says:

    Chan’ad, Salman, I understand and share your concerns.

    The question – as far as those directly affected AS WELL AS the general public – is what are we looking for in reconciliation? Are we looking for retribution and revenge? Or are we honestly looking for ways to address wrongs by recognising what has happened and then getting something as simple as an apology and then getting on with our lives?

    Are we looking for financial redress, return to a job which we have been forced to give up, get compensation for being evicted from the island? All those, to me at least, are secondary to the main issue which is a recognition by the state that it did do wrong to the person and get an apology for that wrong. Once that is given and accepted, all others things will solve themselves.

  10. MoClippa says:

    Agreed Mahmood, I have always been akin to the idea of a ‘truth and reconcilliation’ commision in Bahrain to address the 90’s, the governments role and its appologies for such. The best way to move forward, is to discuss redress, and make amends of the past!

  11. Chanad says:

    Yes, agreed Mahmood. Compensation is secondary to a public apology.

    Though it’s hard not to make this a political issue. Anyone who headed a government that oversaw and approved of torture should not be allowed to continue to run any country. I don’t think it’s asking for too much. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s necessary for them all to be put behind bars (even though it is fair)… but just that people with such past records should not be allowed to sit in positions of power. To not demand this would be irresponsible of us, in my opinion.

    I know you have a different take on this than me Mahmood, so I’ll agree to disagree right now!

  12. MoClippa says:

    Let the panel first point out their crimes before we start fingerpointing, I understand many of you were affected by what occured then but patience is the key to the whole processes success… patience, dialogue, and hopefully forgivness.

  13. Ingrid says:

    As Mahmoud said, it is quite something that the conference was/is allowed. It can still be a slow process but who knows if, by some people behind the scenes this was orchestrated to allow those unamenable elements in the government to get used to this approach to addressing certain issues and get to the point of trust and reconciliation.
    As MoClippa said, patience will be the key because for those who have been waiting and waiting for changes and all the above issues mentioned, it can never come quickly enough. Hopefully this will be an acceptable pace for all involved. Yes, one needs to keep up hope and I will hope for you too.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I remember someone saying the PM wouldn’t DARE step foot in the UK well……………….………..

    smiling right back at you in that pretty suit!!!!!!! haha

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wednesday 12th April 2006

    if the link above comment doesn’t work check this date in the archives

  16. mahmood says:

    I know, so what happened? Deal brokered? Money paid? Contract about to be signed?

    I would love to have been a fly on the wall!

    What gives?

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