NGO’s: Bahrain election must not cover rights abuses

SHAFAQNA – At least 25 international and local NGO’s have signed a joint statement, on the eve of Bahrain’s elections, calling for them not to be used as a cover for abuses.

The statement, initiated by the Brussels based “No Peace Without Justice”, accuses the government of Bahrain of following a “smoke-screen strategy” and describes the election as “mock” with non-participation by the opposition as a “fundamental political right”.

NGO’s deny the presence of any serious reform program in Bahrain and say the government of Bahrain is not serious about this “election serving as a turning point for the country”. They argue that a serious dialogue process should have taken place first to reach a national consensus on reform, which could then allow elections to take place.

The statement highlights ongoing examples of human rights abuses in Bahrain, with little implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), describing this process as “only partial and sluggish.” On a political level, Bahrain’s parliament is described as “a mere talking shop with little tangible power to either legislate or hold the government to account.”

Furthermore the role of the international community is addressed, referring to a recent statement of the European Union Ambassadors in Bahrain that called on the opposition to reconsider boycotting the election. “Such statements from Bahrain’s allies only serve to entrench tyranny and embolden anti-democratic voices,” the statement adds.

The international community is called upon to “use their influence to end violations of human rights, starting with the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders and all those arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” Instead of “being satisfied by an exclusive electoral process” the international community should “push for a real and inclusive dialogue with the opposition to reach a national consensus on a serious reform program.”

Al Wefaq National Islamic Society notes with gratitude the support of its NGO partners and calls on international governments to follow what is clearly the dominant view amongst rights activists, groups and experts.

Read the full statement here:

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