UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Wednesday said that the Bahrain government should release prisoners detained during peaceful protests [news release] and focus on rebuilding national trust in the government. Pillay's statement follows a visit by a team of human rights officials to Bahrain last week at the invitation of the Bahrain government. Pillay expressed concern that members of her team observed that the people of Bahrain harbored a "deepening mistrust" of their government. She stated that the harsh crackdown on protesters combined with the continued impunity of officials suspected in the abuse and death of protesters has contributed greatly to the environment of mistrust. She called on the government to work to improve human rights conditions in order to rebuild national trust:
The Bahraini authorities need to urgently take confidence-building measures including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals or are still awaiting trial for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Thousands of individuals have lost their jobs for participating in demonstrations, many students have had their education derailedthese serious violations of their economic and social rights must be immediately addressed. Those who have been unfairly dismissed should be reinstated to their original functions. ... My team has come back with the message that there is a profound lack of trust in the Government, and this mistrust has deepened as a result of the violent crackdown on protestors, destruction of mosques, the lack of fair trials and the lack of progress in providing redress for violations.Pillay said it was important that the government take positive measures to regain the nation's trust, including consulting with the public. She urged that any protesters in the country remain nonviolent.
Last Month Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] ordered a special commission [JURIST report] to look into government recommendations made in a report by an independent Bahraini government commission. The report stated that Bahrain authorities used excessive force [JURIST report] and tortured detainees involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations earlier this year. Also last month the Bahrain government admitted the use of excessive force [JURIST report] in anticipation of the independent report. This was a reversal of the government's previous defense of its actions [CNN report]. In June Khalifa announced that an independent commission would investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] related to the country's pro-democracy protests. Earlier that month UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] announced that Bahrain agreed to permit a UN commission [JURIST report] to investigate human rights violations related to protests. In April, human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) [advocacy websites] criticized Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses [JURIST report] related to anti-government protests.