Bahrain to set up independent human rights body

June 17th, 2008 - 6:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, June 17 (IANS) Bahrain is going to set up a human rights body, which will be an independent entity overseeing human rights practices in that Gulf nation. The new body, to be called the National Human Rights Authority, will have representatives from the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and human rights groups, according to Bahrain’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nazar Al Baharna.

“The authority will independently deal with and investigate complaints, if any, on human rights violations brought to its attention by both Bahrainis and expatriates,” Al Baharna told the Gulf Daily News.

There are around 275,000 expatriate Indians in Bahrain.

The minister had recently been to Geneva where he presented an action plan on the proposed human rights body to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Bahrain was among the first group of 16 countries selected to submit national reports on human rights to the UNHRC under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The group includes India.

Under the UPR, launched last year, the human rights records of all the UN member states, regardless of their size, wealth, military or political importance will be regularly examined through a common mechanism.

In establishing the review, the UN General Assembly had acknowledged that all states have human rights problems, and there was room for improving their human rights record.

The UNHRC formally endorsed the report on Bahrain’s performance in the area of human rights.

“This was the final seal of approval on the significant achievement made by Bahrain in the area of human rights,” Al Baharna said, adding that the report helped Bahrain get elected to the 47-member Human Rights Council.

He said that nine recommendations presented by a group of three countries at the Geneva meeting were accepted by Bahrain.

“Some of them were already implemented by Bahrain. These include the passing of the press law in Bahrain, another step in the direction of ensuring rights and freedom for all,” he was quoted as saying.

“Another recommendation was against forced marriages, which do not prevail in Bahrain. We made it clear that no marriage is valid according to Islamic Law if it is not accepted by the woman,” he told the newspaper.

Al Baharna said that talks were under way and all laws in Bahrain would be implemented with people’s full participation.

He said the action plan would be implemented over four years with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), NGOs and other relevant bodies.

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