Bahrain informed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on Wednesday that it would seek to address its controversial human rights record. Bahrain stated that it would consider several measures [AP report], including ceasing to torture prisoners, releasing political prisoners and joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. In total, Bahrain stated that it would consider 176 recommendations submitted by other countries. Bahrain agreed to consider the recommendations as part of its periodic review [materials] as a member of the UNHRC. One of the political prisoners Bahrain has agreed to consider releasing is Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who was convicted [JURIST report] of terrorism-related charges in June 2011 and sentenced to life in prison. Al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike [JURIST report] for over three months.
Bahrain's human rights record has been heavily criticized. Earlier this month human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) [advocacy website], was arrested [JURIST report] for messages he posted on Twitter [website] criticizing Bahrain's Interior Ministry [official website, in Arabic]. The BCHR has been critical of the Bahraini regime's response to protests and demonstrations in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] which have been ongoing since February 2011 [JURIST report]. Also this month Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Bahrain to immediately release [JURIST report] the leaders of last year's anti-government protests, including Al-Khawaja. In April four independent UN human rights experts called for the immediate release [JURIST report] of Al-Khawaja over concerns that his conviction was related to his work promoting human rights.